GROWING LOVE

Sunday we were driving through Javilla on our way to the beach when I heard a small yelp behind us. The sound made me realize that I had just felt a slightly unusual bump in the road and I stopped the car to investigate. Completely camouflaged by the dusty road, a scruffy dog the color of oatmeal was breathing its last breath. The only sign of trauma was its eyeball, which had popped right out of its socket and lay dangling on the dog's cheek.

Within moments the dog was dead. I breathed a sigh of relief that it didn't have to suffer and then began to pour tears down my cheeks. The dog was wearing a faded red collar so I knew it belonged to someone. A few people came by and I tearfully asked if they knew whose dog it was. Grace, who's about my age, put her hand on my shoulder and pointed out that it wasn't a child I had run over, and that it was an accident. Everyone was regarding me with wonder. Why was I crying so much? It was an accident. Dogs sleep in the middle of the road all the time around here and I had just happened to run that one over because its color blended so well with the dust.

I asked someone to put the dog in the back of my truck so I could bring it to its owner. With a heavy heart, I drove around the corner and stopped just before the ranch at the house with lots of plantains planted in front of it. I started up the path to the door calling Upe! Upe! (Hello! Is anyone home?). A young woman appeared and looked at me curiously. Still blubbering, I blurted out in my horrible Spanish that there had been an accident and I was told the dead dog in my truck belonged to her. A look of terror came over the girl's face and she raced over to the back of the truck, lifting the trashbag covering the dog before I could say anything more. She sprang back from the truck and started to sob. I tried to hug her and tell her how sorry I was but she made it clear that she didn't want anything to do with me at that moment. Her father came and lifted the dog out of the truck and they disappeared down the path between the plantains.

I felt terrible.

Dogs.

I was born a cat person. I still have a card I made for my mother when I was eight, telling her she was pretty and I really needed a cat. That was the only time I didn't have a cat in my life. I remember sitting in a chair stroking a stuffed animal, trying to make it turn into a real cat. I adore cats.

The first relationship I ever had with a dog began when we moved here. Where we live, it is practically essential to have a dog to notify us of all the uninvited creatures wishing to use our facilities. After much research, I concluded that the Doberman was the dog for us. Knowing absolutely nothing about dogs, Bill and I went to a breeder near San Jose, intending to come home with a Doberman puppy. The puppies were cute, but one look at the adult Dobermans told me it was not the breed on which to practice being a good pack leader. In order to be a good pack leader, one should not be terrified of the pack members.

We came home with a miniature pinscher puppy the size of a Beanie Baby on which to practice being dog owners. Everyone had a good chuckle over our selection, but little Diggity Dog turned out to be a very competent warning system with her gigantic radar ears and her bright, ever-alert eyes.

The following month Chan came home with a Doberman puppy, and Ramona and Diggity became fast friends.

We got Diggity a kitten for her first birthday so she'd have someone her own size to play with.

Now this diehard cat person has more dogs (3) than cats (2). Where we live there is no better security system. With three dogs of my own, it is as though I've discovered a whole new realm of love I'd never known before. I'd never hugged a dog until I got my own and now I could spend all day with my nose buried deep in the thick fluffy fur around Edna's neck. What a gift to be shown that the possibilities for opening up new avenues for loving are limitless! Who knows? Next I may be snuggling up with iguanas!

We've had our share of doggy adventures, with snake bites, gashes from wrestling with anteaters and pizotes, and a broken leg requiring surgery, followed by a three-week stay in San Jose heading up the roster. Through all of this my love for dogs has grown stronger. How ironic that only after dogs have carved out such a huge part of my heart, I have now run one over, watched it die, and handed it over to the person who loved it.

Along with true love we must expect some sorrow. I worked through my sorrow on Sunday and now look on it as a reminder of how much my capacity to love has grown.