Trader Joes

Pushing what was now my full cart down the quietly untouched bodily hygiene and animal food aisle, I looked to my right and saw the bag of dog treats that had so often been the meeting point of Lucy’s whiskers and my hand.

I stopped for a moment and just stood there looking over at them and the picture on the front of the Portuguese Water Dog. I recalled Lucy’s thick black fur and youthful energy, her realist sensibility and sassy resilience, her unconditional wagging of the tail regardless of how late I came home at night.

I remembered the habitual twinkling of her collar tags as she would follow the sound of my guitar to find me playing alone in the living room. And I remember staying by her side after she came home from surgery and nursing her with those same treats. Then, with that old familiar ache, I remembered with piercing accuracy how it felt to see her bed without her in it, to play my guitar and hear still the echo of those tags now imagined.

You can carry a wound for a child, a parent, a dear friend, even someone you’ve admired but never met. But I’m finding just as well that your heart can break wide open for an animal—indeed, for a dog; and it turns out that you can cry even in that cold, dormant aisle of Trader Joes.