Our house smells like dogs, their fur and breathing.
It surprises me how comfortable I am with this, although I just lit a candle to take the edge off. I am oddly comforted by the dog life around me, even this part of it. There is no pretending dogs don’t live here, no exiling them to the basement or having them sit in the yard when guests come. Their presence is embedded in the wood floors, their earthiness surrounds us like the green soft moss at the base of old trees in the forest.
A few days ago, walking downtown, my husband and I came upon a condo with a door and windows that opened to the Milwaukee River. There was a terraced patio with potted plants and cushioned chairs. In seconds, I could see us sitting there on the patio watching kayaks and power boats float by, waving to the tourists on the local sightseeing boat, soaking in the envy of passers-by who wished they could sit where we were sitting.
The next day we went back to get the address and start the investigation. How does one acquire such a perfect place to live, we wondered. Our current abode, a six-bedroom three story home built in 1911, is beloved beyond words but could house a family with ten children. There ought to be a lot of racket in a house this size, soccer equipment strewn in the dining room, loud arguments about whose turn it is to shower, but it is quiet, calm. After all these years and four children, we’ve earned this quiet, calm, but part of me thinks we aren’t allowing our beloved house to live its fullest life.
In the parking lot of the condo building, my husband met two people who lived in the building. They told him the river side was quieter than the street side. Good. They mentioned the condo fees, which made sense if it meant that someone else did all the maintenance. They wondered whether the parking lot could accommodate our truck, our beloved truck, and we looked at each other because our truck is our ticket to freedom, our vehicle, our way to ride the rails. Maybe we could park somewhere else. But there was more.
“No dogs, though. Cats are okay. But no dogs.”
We went home. The dogs stood at the back door waiting for us to turn the key to open the door and let them out. We loved them then in our own separate ways. We didn’t speak of it except to say, “I can’t live in a place without a dog.”