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On Homecoming…

September 25, 2018

In the last months, we’ve been experimenting with leaving the dog loose in the house when we’re gone. The puppy days are over, and she’s proved that we can trust her not to nibble furniture or mistake the dining room carpet for grass (and pee on it). She’s also calm enough that she doesn’t freak out when the Amazon delivery person looms at the door with a big brown box and tromps away through the yard (something that still startles me now and then, to be honest). 

Leaving her free was a relief for me. I had a little trouble feeling good about being away for any length of time knowing another creature was patiently (or not) waiting in a cage for me to come home and release her. (Maybe some people are better at that. I simply didn’t have enough dog experience to be cavalier about it.)

But the real unanticipated benefit of having a dog loose in the house while you’re away is the greeting when you return. Arriving home to an eager face and a demonstration of exuberant delight that you’ve done something so simple as come back to the place you started from is a new experience for me and not one I intend to take for granted. Most dog owners will tell you they love homecoming. A rush of endorphins floods though you when someone meets you at the door absolutely ecstatic to see you. My sense of homecoming begins the minute I pull in the driveway and see the little face in the dining room window watching for me. I cannot help smiling when I see her peering through the glass expectantly. By the time I exit the car and open the door to the house, she has run to meet me. An absence of five minutes or two hours is met with the same joyful welcome back.

It makes me wonder how often I provide that sense of “homecoming” joy for the people in my life. How often do we take for granted the simple gift of greeting and welcoming? How often as a family over the years did we remain engaged with whatever we were doing when someone came back from an errand or home from school/work, forgetting to acknowledge one another’s comings and goings? While we humans would feel silly racing to the door with yips of joy and face licking for our family and friends, surely we can do at least a little better and try to live up to the example of these pets of ours. A bright smile and happy greeting. A sincerely delighted “I’m so glad to see you!” or “Welcome home!” A bright “good-morning” as we see each other at work. These are easy things to do for one another. And…as I have seen with this puppy of mine…simple, powerful acts of love.

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