I was sitting in the backseat as our friend Mike wove his truck through the orange-and-red-hued mountains of Utah. John was riding in the front passenger seat. In my lap was my newest canine friend, Rusty, a Jack Russell terrier of a certain age.
Because of his color and size, Rusty is a poignant reminder of Archie, our much-loved dachshund piebald who recently passed, leaving a canine-sized hole in our hearts. Being with this lively little canine proved to be good medicine for us.
During our time in the mountains, Rusty became an almost constant companion— starting early in the morning. He somehow knew when we would be making the bed. Everyday, he would arrive as sheets and blankets were smoothed, only to leap up on the bed and quickly turn the bedding into a pile. John would politely put our canine friend on the floor, and the scenario would be repeated until Rusty was banished so the bed-making could proceed.
One thing Rusty loved were the plentiful deer that lived around the mountain cabin. Jumping up at the door like he had springs on his rear legs, he would try to get the dimwitted humans to let him out so he could check out these interesting creatures. One day, there were several deer running down the hill away from the cabin. We all wondered what had spooked them. Then we saw a small white body with auburn spots following closely: Rusty, who had patiently waited for an opportunity, had escaped.
When we went out, he rode on my lap, mostly curled up with his head propped up to look out the window. When something caught his eye, he would stand up to get a better view. On a trip to Bryce Canyon, Rusty was again my traveling buddy, getting out at every stop as we humans marveled and photographed the truly awesome beauty of the canyon. As we hiked to Cascade Falls, he led the way, and he rode with John when we traveled in the ATV.
John and I agreed that holding Rusty was a lot like holding Archie. They shared the same coarse white fur and auburn markings, the white eyelashes and black-rubber-ball nose. I could easily imagine that Archie was once again in my arms. But it was the warmth of Rusty’s body that made us realize it is time to open our home, our hearts, and our arms to another creature. As to the age, size, and heritage of our next animal companion(s) … well, that is a beautiful conundrum.