Love unleashed: As plain as the nose on her face

What did we learn from 2001? The most important lesson, of course, was that in a few short hours on a September morning, we rediscovered what matters and what doesn't. Not a bad thing to remember as we begin a new year.

There have been thousands of stories written since Sept. 11 about the importance of hearth and home, the need for friends and family, the simple joys of a sugar doughnut and a faithful dog.

We knew those pleasures before, of course. It's just that many of us had lost our way, putting more stock in the dough we could earn than the doughnut we should savor.

A couple of years ago, I mentioned how it would be a better world if everyone made a New Year's resolution to get a dog. I believe that even more this year. After the trauma of last year, we all need some unconditional love right about now.

Not that unconditional love from a dog doesn't come with a certain price. It does. Any dog owner will tell you so.

I, for one, am owned by a dog who does not believe she's a dog. Other than the occasional sniff here and there, she really has no interest in other dogs or their world. When I stop in the park to chat with the dog people, she has no desire to play with their dogs. She jumps up on me as if to say it's time for us to move on. So we do.

And there isn't a chair or a bed or a human's ankle she doesn't call her own. She reclines wherever she likes, whenever she likes. Often it's where I've been sitting. If I make the mistake of getting up and going to the kitchen for something to eat, within seconds she has claimed my seat, leaving me to find a new perch where I can finish the Sunday New York Times. Only dog people understand that I never make her move.

There are many things only dog people understand. Like those leaves on the floor in the front hallway, brought in on all fours, or the stray piece of dried dog food on the kitchen floor, a little nugget left over from breakfast. To us, it's what makes a house a home.

I often thumb through design magazines, look at the photos of picture-perfect rooms filled with Clorox-white sofas and camel-colored chairs, and I wonder who lives there. Certainly no dogs. Maybe not even humans.

Where are the paw prints on the back kitchen door? Where are the hairs on the stairway landing? Where is that small brown stain on the arm of the living room chair, our dog's favorite spot for resting her chin?

We bought new slipcovers a couple of weeks ago. At the moment, they look pristine, a little too perfect for our world. But the year is young. By spring, they will have taken on a certain patina, that small brown spot will have returned to the chair's arm, and all will be right with the world again.

I got an engagement calendar for Christmas. It's devoted to interior design and filled with quotes about what makes a house a home. One jumped out at me: "For people who love dogs as much as they love fine fabrics and furniture, there seems to be little debate: The dogs come first."

And as it should be. After all, didn't we learn what really matters on Sept. 11?


Lisa Marie
Staff: Animal In Print
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