Leo in the World

This is Leo.

After Wilson and Molly died, it made so much sense not to get another dog. And if you asked me how I felt about it, I would say that I was fine. That’s how I actually felt in my day-to-day experience.  I was fine, really fine.  Super fine.

The only problem was that I didn’t want to go outside.  Because Molly and/or Wilson had been with me in almost every picture I had ever taken.  I mean, you didn’t often see them in the pictures, but they were right there with me, ahead or behind. So after they died, whenever I went out to take pictures, I didn’t walk around for miles the way that we had done. I went to where I knew I could get a picture. I walked a short distance, or took my pictures out the window of the truck. Because if I walked around outside in any of our places, which was all of the places everywhere, that was precisely where they were gone.

Somewhere in this puppy pile is Leo, at 4 weeks old.

Then my friend Diane unexpectedly came up with a crop of golden retriever / poodle mixes, and I immediately told her that it wasn’t the right time. We really couldn't get a puppy now, but maybe we would in the future, after the house was sold. Because I was being mature. Then I changed my mind a bunch of times, and then my husband Bill, God bless him, said, “Of course it isn't practical, but you need a dog.”  So I drove up to Diane’s in northern Massachusetts twice, which as you know, is no small feat when coming from Block Island, and I finally picked one out.  

That is when I began to worry in specific terms. I asked Bill many questions.  “What if he’s a sociopath?” “What if he doesn’t love us?” “What if we can’t love another dog the way that we loved Wilson and Molly?”


Here is Leo at six weeks old.

We bought a crate for him and I set it up in our bedroom, with a little canvas cover that I thought was very nice. And we got some toys and we picked out Leo for his name.  Leo Nicholayevich Tolstoy to me, but something simpler to Bill, just Leo, I would say. That’s when I knew I was completely gone over the chance to have another dog, because I sat on the floor and talked to Leo in the empty crate for about half an hour. And I felt the force of my heart reaching out to tell him, “You’re coming here soon. You are going to be our boy.”


This is Leo at eight weeks on his way to Block Island, in the company of our friend Joe Houlihan, also a dog lover, also a guardian of the parking lot at Interstate Navigation, (the boat we use to come to Block Island), also an inveterate sailor, also a passionate, wonderful wordsmith. (Here is an article the ferry wrote about him:  https://www.blockislandferry.com/blog/employee-spotlight-joseph-houlihan.)

And when I went to get him my sister Amy and my niece Elizabeth came with me, and my friend Lisa met us there, and of course there was Diane to shepherd us through the transition.  And then we had the long ride to Moosup, and an overnight with him cuddled up on my chest, which was wonderful except for the issue of sleeping, and the next night we went to my sister Cathy’s and he met Cathy and Anne and the children, and then we had another long drive and he met more people and then he had the ride on the boat. So that was a lot for a brand new dog.


And now Leo is home and Bill and I are learning what he needs.  At first, he only wanted to stay next to me but now he’s branching out. It must be something to be a new fellow, alive for just a few weeks in the whole big world, in a new house with new people, with his first taste of turkey, his first run through a field, his first visit to the ocean. 

Here he is, not using his crate in our bedroom, and not using his dog condo in the kitchen, but sleeping under a chair instead, and also here he is practicing meditation. 

Some things will take a little time. For example, we went to the beach and the waves were not very big, but they were still surging in with lots of sound and motion. And he did what any of us might do when confronted for the first time with things that are large and incomprehensible. He pretended they weren't there. And then the next day he considered them for just a moment, which immediately gave him the hiccups. 

Will he love us, and will we love him? I would say that we only just met a few days ago but the early signs are good. I’ve already taken him to Ballard’s Beach, Mansion Beach, the Hodge Property, the Coast Guard Station, the Southeast Light, and around and around our yard. I’ve been to more places with him in the last three days than I’ve been in past twelve months. Little by little, as he is old enough, he’ll get a tour of all the places where Wilson and Molly and I used to spend our time. I know it will be both happy and sad but I’m ready to do it. I feel that I've been away for a long, long time. I want to show Leo everything. I feel that everything will be like it was with Wilson and Molly, but also different. I’m living in dog terms, in a whole new era, in a whole new generation.

I was afraid that when we got a new puppy, I would forget about Wilson and Molly. But now I know that I will never do that. I see them in Leo.  I have all my pictures.  I will never forget my beautiful friends. And already, there are new things, things that are just about Leo. He has a tiny yellow duck. He loves to run with it in his mouth, squeaking as he goes. Then he throws it up in the air and he stalks it where it falls. Then he puts it in his dog dish and takes it out. Don’t ask me why he does that. He’s got number of different toys, and he works on each one for about a half a minute, then he puts one aside and he runs to something else. Every time he changes to a new project, he jumps up in the air a little bit. He bounces around from one thing to another. A few minutes ago, and this was my mistake, he got behind the screen in the fireplace. I heard a little whine, and found him stuck in there, completely covered in ashes. Needless to say, a trip to the sink was in order, and he was actually OK with that, he trusted me after a minute of squirming, I think he actually liked the water, and now he’s all fresh and fluffy. He really is a cute little guy and he seems to like our adventures.

Leo and I were out on Ballard’s Beach yesterday morning. We were out there early, ready to catch the first light of the day. I will say that watching the sunrise from inside your house or inside your truck is different than being in it, when you’re part of it, when it’s happening all around.  I don’t think that Leo even noticed. He was busy digging in the sand at my feet. But it was for me, I really felt this, a brand new sunrise. It was new for me, an awesome thing, on Ballard Beach with Leo at sunrise, for the first time in his life.