Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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For Petra and Joy
Anna, our central character, is not one who can trust easily. She never really opens up to her fiancé Terrence and is not one to confide in her mother. Her infatuation with Joshua, even as it blossoms to love, does not really open a dialogue. There is much, she reflects later, that she did not ask about him, that she did not know -- things that his wife Leah would have known and carried in her heart.
When she encounters the Husky Petra on the trail, however, Anna immediately pours out her inner grief to this being. As Petra's guardian observes:
"... You been like a shadow here, always ready for school, always doing things right, but never smile, never part of things. Politically correct, but like you’re scared not to be.
“I come along, and here you are, talking all out to the dog. Like she’s your therapist or something. And her listening all out. I think she’s your dog.”
I have often said that I do not choose my dogs; they find me when it is time. Thus it is with Anna and Petra. Petra is her mentor, her companion, and her secret keeper. Those who have been chosen by a dog will understand.
Yet Petra maintains her independence. She never loses her yearning to roam free in the Bush, hunting as in her youth. When she senses that Anna is about to leave her, she feels the loss, but survival dictates that she must find new connections, as she does with Natasha. I do not agree with Anna's choice, but I think it is in keeping with her character.
Joy is a much different dog. We are not told how Joy comes into Anna's life, but we sense that this is a dog who is simply amazed by the world and embraces every good moment. She loves Anna, but she loves all life, and will be Joy wherever she is. Petra is perhaps an "old soul"; Joy is childlike innocence.
Anna needs both dogs really: one to guide her, one to lift her from her inner intensity. Together, Petra and Joy bring balance to her life.
Both are modelled on the dogs of my own life.
Ten months ago, I had my farewell walk with my personal Petra. Each day, I remember her; each day I give thanks for the memories we made and for this time to remember. To me, dogs are a special gift from the Creator, sent to teach us how to be better people. They are sent to bind up our breaking hearts, and to lift us to joy.
Two years ago we waited while a family member had an emergency MRI. It had been a long day of sudden changes and fears for us, and the waiting room was crowded and grim. I turned to my friend and commented, "No matter how this turns out, think what it would have been like if we'd brought the dogs." A woman across the room put down her phone. "What kind of dogs do you have?" the former stranger asked. Within moments, the room was ringing with laughter and many dog stories were exchanged. We were offered rides back to the hotel; everyone hoped each other had a good Christmas. All because, by accident, the word "dog" was spoken.
That really happened. If you have a story about a dog who made a difference, even just by being there, I would love to hear about it.
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