Moxa and I met four years ago on President's Day weekend. I wanted a dog desperately, so much so that I could taste it, so much so that I developed an unfortunate habit of staring intently at other peoples' dogs, imagining what it must be like to walk them. It made people uncomfortable, I think. To me, a wagging tail is as beautiful as a Titian. I could watch a dog wag its tail for hours and find beauty in it.
Moxa wagged his tail at me. At the SPCA, he was called Alexander (funnily, the name of my husband). I loved him wholly at first sight. I loved him so much that my heart hurt. It actually HURT, and when I visited him after the adoption papers and the neutering, and I saw him whimpering from the pain but still crawling towards me because he knew love when he saw it, my heart grew tenfold. All in one moment.
I named him Moxa for an herb (also known as Mugwort) used in acupuncture to promote warmth and healing. One day during a session, rendered completely useless, I said dreamily to my acupuncturist, "I will have a dog one day and I will name him Moxa." And then a few weeks later, it happened. And he does promote warmth and healing. Moxa is the heartbeat that follows me from room to room, stuffed toy in his mouth, always with an expression of complete and utter devotion. Moxa curls up close when I am sick, with his trademark furrowed brow and a wet nose. He knows when my feet are cold and he huddles closer. He knows when I have a fever and sits vigil, staring at me with his big bovine eyes. He murmurs contentment when I scratch his belly, and he cries when I leave. Whenever I am searching for a true definition of love, there he is.
This is Mia:
Mia was a birthday present for Alex. Mia is la principessa - the lady of the house, a status that Moxa seems to accept with equal parts patience and love, except when it comes to his stuffed toys. She will lick you senseless if you let her, and she pounces and prances about, nipping at Moxa's ankles, dancing in the snow, burrowing under covers, settling in your lap. She stands outside the bathroom while you shower, ready to lick your legs when you emerge. Mia loves a good fireplace. She worships Moxa, and follows him everywhere. She loves the cat. She loves YOU with all of the overt affection of a giggling schoolgirl. I fall in love with Mia again and again. It's easy. Alex (her very favorite person) is her raison d'etre. She whimpers when he leaves, and sits staring at the door, waiting for him to return. She loves with abandon.
I was always a cat person. I loved my cats, and adore my current cat, Squatter (I am convinced she is part owl). I love a cat's purr and I love the way a cat can look into you, as enigmatic as a sudden storm. Cats have a way of putting you in your place. Their indifference and their affection remind one that control isn't something we should be seeking. Because it just won't happen. Cats leave. They come back. They purr and then they swipe at you if you make too many intimations in their direction. Few follow you through the house, but if you happen to be in the same room, they'll chill with you for a time. I like the ebb and flow of a cat, and I always have.
But dogs - all of a sudden I find myself a "dog person". I live for the moment that I walk through the door in the evening, and there's this wild, honest, unabashed exchange of love. I am permitted to let loose, squeal with excitement, and jump around with a pair of wagging tails, and IT FEELS GOOD. Whereas cats have taught me the value of irreverence and the fleeting nature of emotions both good and bad, dogs have reminded me of the patent HONESTY of love. This is truth here now - to be bookended by two beating hearts nestled on either side of me, who offer love with no rules, expectations, or conditions. It is both effortless and difficult to love someone who has perfected this art.
My dogs have. I have not.
This is Piper:
A heart can never stop growing. Piper joins us next week - a puppy deserving of a home where there will be no shortage of love. She loves children, she loves to snuggle, she loves other dogs. She loves. There is always more room here for another soul. There is always enough love to go around.
We didn't learn this on our own.