Cape Charles Sunset / oil on black canvas / 11x14 / $250
MY KOKO is staying with my friend Susan while I'm in Arizona, and Koko's absence has changed the dynamic of this house more that I ever thought it would. And it's changed my view of her, as well.
Every morning, when she is here, she comes into the bedroom and greets me, wagging and curling her body around in a circle, so that her wagging tail is close to her nose. Often, she sniffs my butt with that always wet, always cold nose, then stations herself in front of me begging to be petted, blocking me step by step as I try to walk into the kitchen.
When it's time for breakfast - and she knows the time with remarkable accuracy and certainty - she barks and barks and leaps into the air, spinning around in circles in her excitement. She gets the other dogs all riled up, too. I put down Woody's food first, then I get the Demons into their apartment and put down their food and shut their door, and at this, Koko jumps up, bonks me in the butt with her forepaws, and runs into the kitchen where she barks and spins around in circles before spending all of 8 or 9 seconds devouring her meal.
Koko knows what time I should go to the studio, and if I seem to not be complying, stands in front of me and barks until I either shut her down or give in. When I pick up my phone , and unplug the computer to go to the studio, she barks wildly and leaps around. Then, outside, she finds a toy or a stick and comes charging at me in her play run, front legs stiff, shaking her head and murdering whatever she has between her mouth.
At the end of the studio time, when I turn off the heater and the lights, she often jumps up on me (this is forbidden), begging for kisses, and then she barks and spins, so happy to be going inside.
When I pull out the leashes for our walk, she barks and leaps and spins and stirs everyone up. We often meet Liesl, my walking partner, in the street, and I will drop Koko's leash when I see Liesl coming around the corner, and let Koko run down Bayview to greet Liesl. Koko races down the road, tail wagging, and jumps up on Liesl, kissing her and groaning at her, with funny little throaty groans.
Whenever visitors come to the house, Koko adores them. She greets with barking, jumping delight, and climbs up in their laps, staying as long as they will allow her. In the evenings, Koko snuggles between my legs on the couch, demanding to be petted, often licking me until I have to yell at her to make her stop. And at the end of the day, she jumps up on the bed, snuggling - and then leaves to sleep in a chair in the living room.
Her behavior and how I feel with her gone makes me think of my own self, and how Peter must have felt when I went away on trips. Koko is a lot to handle. I am a lot to handle. Koko is loud, enthusiastic, demanding. I am loud, enthusiastic, demanding. Annoying, even. But I miss her loud, irritating, annoying enthusiasm. The days without her have been less colorful, less fun, less full of life. I am pretty sure this is how Peter felt. On one hand, it was good to get a break from me. On the other hand, life was less interesting without me here.
Until Koko went to stay with Susan, I did not know that Koko was the enthusiasm leader of the pack. I didn't realize how much energy she has, how much delight she pumps into the days. I did not realize that it was her, more than any of the others, who required me to keep living after Peter died. I just didn't know. And while I'm sure I will be irritated with her from time to time when she comes back, I know from now on, I will go far out of my way to adore her, to honor the blessing that she is in my life.
Above, Koko and Lulu, when Lulu was a puppy
Koko waiting to see Liesl
She wanted that cookie so much, I eventually gave it to her.
Every Dog's Story
I have a bed, my very own.
It's just my size.
And sometimes I like to sleep alone
with dreams inside my eyes.
But sometimes dreams are dark and wild and creepy
and I wake and am afraid, though I don't know why.
But I'm no longer sleepy
and too slowly the hours go by.
So I climb on the bed where the light of the moon
is shining on your face
and I know it will be morning soon.
Everybody needs a safe place.
- Mary Oliver