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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

life dogs ~

I bought Mayuree as a puppy from a woman in Bangkok. She was a South African-bred Afghan hound, as sweet-tempered as honey. Her name meant ‘female peacock’ in Thai. But she was never much of a preener. Always more of a curl-her-long-legs-in-your-lap-and-nest kind of girl.

Each year, books are published about life dogs: dogs you remember forever, dogs who change your life. Summer’s a great time to curl up with a writer’s stories of such a dog. Stories of a dog that becomes the internal image for ‘dog’ in your head. The picture your brain (& heart) call up when you think ‘dog.’ Some of us are lucky enough to have more than one such dog. And some of  us share a life dog w/ the others in our family. My family’s life dog was Mayuree.

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When I first bought her, I was visiting my family in Bangkok, taking a break from college and a life that had no real goals. Mayuree became my passion. I bought books on Afghans. Checked them out of the library. Read up on Afghans and their history (they hunted in pairs & packs — hare, wolf, jackal, even snow leopards!). Brushed Mayuree and walked her and generally loved her. She had been raised in a one-story house, so our open stairway literally made her shake. Since my bedroom was on the 2nd floor, I had to carry her upstairs & downstairs to feed her, walk her, take her outside. Everything.  All 40 leggy pounds of her.

Then I went back to Oklahoma to go to school, and left her w/ my mother & sisters. She became my mother’s dog, but was always a family dog at heart. I missed her as only a homesick kid — even one of 20 — can miss her dog. But I had a tiny shotgun apartment in my great-grandmother’s house, too poor to even own a phone, and I couldn’t take her with me. From then on, she lived w/ my mother, father, & sisters.

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My mother even managed to graduate Mayuree from obedience class.  A word here to Afghan novices: Afghans are more like large cats than dogs. They don’t care about pleasing you. Rumour from people who don’t know is that they’re stupid. Nope. Just absolutely secure. They can be bribed, or made curious enough to do something. Or competitive enough. But they know you love them, and most aren’t people pleasers. For my mother to get Mayuree through obedience school was no small thing for either of them. :)

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Mayuree taught me so many things. She was the first dog I met who loved everyone in her family. She wasn’t a one-person dog, but that never made any of us feel ‘lesser.’ She had a heart big enough for everyone. She was good with children, and only ran off when bored. A 6′ fence was a gentle leap to her, and she could run like coursing hounds are famous for: fast and faster. Which meant we’d hear from folks miles away who became one of her rest spots. Two miles was nothing. The people at the clinic where we took her — the vet number on her tag — soon knew us by name. ‘Mayuree’s family.’ Even the people at Animal Aid — another popular phone call for lost animals — knew her, at one point. She loved to run almost as much as she loved us.

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Love isn’t a non-renewable resource. If anything, we should be studying it as totally self-generated energy. Mayuree could love anything that loved her back. You didn’t even have to start the cycle ~ she assumed you loved her until proved otherwise. Or until she figured out you were a cat… (at which point you became prey…)

I know it’s a hokey pop culture meme, but I want to be as good as Mayuree. I want to love first, not wait for folks to like me. I want them to feel as welcome as a dog dead for many years once made me feel: important, special, necessary. Because intellectually, I believe this. I do think we’re all important, special, & necessary. But when it comes to living it? That life dog of ours could teach me a few things. Maybe now I’m ready to learn…

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