My life has many chapters, but until now, they were contained in four volumes, one for each of my four dogs: Suzy, Odin, Rama, and Angus. All lived 14 years and I have spent a couple of dogless years between the passing of one and the entry of another into my life. Suzy arrived when I was 6, Odin when I was 22, Rama when I was 38, and Angus when I was 52; corresponding to different stages of life. Their lives were shaped by my level of maturity (and immaturity), and my life was shaped by them.
When I chose this puppy, I did so because I met his parents. Both were friendly and inquisitive and didn’t hold back. When I picked him up yesterday, I pointed his mom out to my brother by saying, “The one whose tail is wagging faster and harder than all the others.” I would like to think that’s the way people portray me…but I know that I can also be the curmudgeon. Perhaps this guy will soften my edges and I, too, will be wagging faster and harder than those around me, bringing a modicum of joy to the world.
Naming a dog is not something to be taken lightly. I have been drawn to the dog as god or dog as hero motif. Odin was named after the leader of the Norse pantheon who sacrificed an eye to drink from Mimir’s Well to gain knowledge and wisdom. Several times, my Odin came back with cuts near his eye from fights with wild animals. There is power in names.
My original idea was to name him “Fionn mac Cumhail” (Fin mac Cool in English), a hero from the Irish tradition. Driving down to collect him, I listened again to the story of Fionn’s life and the complicated. sometimes tragic events of it, and decided he didn’t need to be saddled with that kind of complexity. Instead, I chose “Bran,” the name of one of his hunting dogs. Bran’s life wasn’t without challenges, but they were simple acts of courage and devotion. I hope that my Bran’s challenges are as simple, but less risky, like stealing bread off the counter when I’m in the same room, and figuring out how to blame the cat (that I don’t have).
And so today, at 68, my new teacher, has arrived, and the next volume begins. Already, my life is changing…and not just because I got up six times in the night to let him out to pee. Since Angus’ passing, there are so many times I’ve reflexively looked to see where he was or planned my day to park in the shade. These are my default behaviors, and I look forward to exercising them again to a purpose.
As Bran barks softly in his sleep, I wonder what he is dreaming. Whatever his dreams, I hope I can make some of them come true.
Top row: Bran’s mother, Pepper; father, Mason; great-grandmother, Shoney.
Bottom row: 4 weeks, 7 weeks (when I picked him up 4/7/23) with my brother, Gord, and with me.
For more photos, click here.
Thanks to Wayne and Lynn Schapp at Eastlake Labradors for their patience with my questions, their warm hospitality whenever I’ve dropped by, and for providing me with this beautiful puppy.