Bennie, my old, wrinkled, beloved basset hound, lays on the floor of my dining room, facing the corner like he’s being given a time out. I watch him and realize he has found the only shards of light let in by the semi-closed vertical blinds of the big picture window on the opposite wall. They are shining in their fragmented pieces on part of his head and back.
“Bennie, are you trying to find the sun? Mama will help you,” I talk to him and my other hound, Huey, in this way always. Third person, with “Mama” being me. A more reasonable person might find this embarrassing but I am typically unreasonable when it comes to my affection for my dogs.
I walk over to the window and push the blinds to the side, and the corner of the room floods. Bennie lifts his head up, letting the rays absorb into the back of it, sniffing the air as if sunlight had a scent. Maybe it does.
Bennie lost one eye to a congenital eye condition a couple years ago. The other one is quickly on its way out. It is a milky blue and black. Sometimes he runs into our closet door when leaving our bedroom in the middle of the night. He can no longer catch in his mouth the stuffed toys I throw at him. When I drop food while cooking, it is usually found by Huey first, who still has both eyes in working order. But Bennie always finds the sun. No matter the season or temperature outside, he finds his way to the patch of sunlight on the linoleum or carpet, and that’s where he rests his head.
The sun moves eventually. Bennie moves with it, into the kitchen, up onto the couch, draped over the arm, halfway under the glass coffee table, onto the area rug. He moves his way around the first floor like a hound sun dial. I watch him and think about how his bones creak when he first gets up from sleeping, arthritis that set in too early. I think about how he didn’t entirely trust us when he first came to us as a rescue, and now he rolls over on his back for a tummy rub and lets us touch his paws…usually. When I rub my face against his, angling to kiss his great wet nose, he is quiet and still, and this is love.
What would it mean to live this way, to seek out the sun every day, to move with it, to be flexible to its whims and thankful for such a small thing as warmth? What would it mean to make the best of where I am and linger in the small graces I find each day? I am not the first person to note that dogs can show us our humanity if only we watch them carefully enough.
When I sit back down at the dining room table from adjusting the blinds, I find that my seat is now warmed, too, a streak of sunlight bearing down where it once was dark.