This time last year an event occurred which only now am I able to see how transformational it was to my life. That event's name was Cleo. I first heard about Cleo via a voicemail message from my husband that I retrieved during the intermission of a play reading I was attending. HE: "Um...honey, if you have a second could you give me a call, I have a quick question." It was an odd sounding message from my husband, especially on a Friday night when by this time he would have been already asleep having endured another brutal week at work. I immediately call him. ME: "What's up? Every thing all right?" HE: "Do you know anyone in the neighborhood who has a basset hound?" "No. Why?" "Because there's one in our living room and she has no collar and she looks like she's had a litter of pups." "How did she end up in our living room?" "The doorbell rang, and there were these people there -- they heard our dogs barking -- and they thought maybe she was ours or we'd know who she belonged to. They found her wandering on our street." "Where are Fanny and Lucy?" "Locked in the bathroom. I tried to give her some food, but she wouldn't take it. She's a pretty cool dog, though. Are you coming home?" "It's only intermission... do you need me to come home right now...?" "Well.....no...how long will you be...?" And so, after the play reading was finished I came home. And we fed her. And got our dogs to calm down. We figured she'd been dumped; or perhaps, she'd had enough and escaped from wherever it was she'd been living. We took her to the vet the next day and there was no microchip. We put up signs and posted on craigslist. HE named her Cleo (something about a regal profile, something about a barge). She seemed to like it. She seemed to like us. We were falling hard and fast. And no one came forward to claim her. But I was out of a job, and while I had some free time to spend supervising our brood, the idea of Cleo as a permanent member of our family was not a possibility. So I began the process of finding someone to take her. After a few missteps, I found a fantastic rescue organization who agreed to help us place this beautiful, big girl. We offered to foster her until they found the right family for her, but they already had a couple in mind. Cleo sounded like the perfect fit for them. Our holiday gift for 2010 turned out to be that the family was travelling during the holidays and so we would have her until New Year's.
I was not surprised by how emotional I was at having to let Cleo go. She defined the first several weeks of my unemployment. She was a project I could focus on while going through all the emotions that come with looking for work. During the time I spent with her, she revealed herself to be smart, stubborn, possessing a sense of humor, charmingly aggressive, beautiful, aloof and yet loving. Having her in my space was a grounding force.
What surprised me was how part of her never left, though the crate and bed we bought for her are gone. Our rescued, pint-sized terrier Fanny, the one who bonded immediately with her, now eats out of her basset-sized bowl. And I've got my spot on the couch back. HE and I talk about her often. Sometimes we reminisce about funny things we experienced with her. Sometimes we imagine what it would be like if she was living with us today. Always, we laugh. When I turned the calendar in the kitchen (where we also have Cleo's "wanted poster" that we posted around our neighborhood hanging like a souvenir) from October to November, I realized that a year had gone by. And that so many things had changed. And that I was as happy as I had ever been. I am the luckiest girl on the planet in the love department. The job situation was looking up. I committed to that rescue organization that had been so supportive of me, becoming a volunteer interacting with owners who need to surrender their hounds. And I, who am obsessed with other people's stories and the ways in which they tell them, discovered during this month when I realized that it had been one year since Cleo came into my life, that I, too, have a story. A story that is meaningful and worth telling.
I had been wandering. Looking for someone to take me in. And I did. And here I am.