A few months ago, a new puppy came wandering into my life. She came slinking and crawling, refusing to be touched, covered in ticks and open bite wounds, belly bulging from starvation, every vertebra visible, barely able to lift her head from the ground. I made her a soft bed, put out water and food and sat near her quietly, with no expectations.
By the second day she was crawling into my lap to be held. I should tell you, this was no tiny newborn pup. She was in the awkward teenage stage of puppyhood, all gangly deer limbs and huge paws. Cuddling her involved draping her front legs around my neck, dodging sharp toenails and foul puppy breath. Her bites and sores bled on me. I didn’t care.
She looked to be part pit bull, and I speculated that she might have been a bait dog for the illegal fights that go on here, bred only for a brutal death. I’ll never know for sure. What I do know is that this terrified dog who had clearly never known any kindness from humans blossomed before my eyes into a trusting and loving member of our pack.
My other outside dogs took her in, showing her the woods, teaching her to stay away from the road. You may think I’m anthropomorphizing here, but no. I could literally watch them teaching her, guiding her with little nips or a paw on the head with a certain growl when she got too close to places she shouldn’t be.
Her honey-colored fur was short and velvety soft. Her eyes were so perfectly rimmed and outlined with black that it looked like someone had applied kohl beneath them. Her eyes themselves were huge glimmering pools of amber.
We named her Matilda Jane.
She was still a little insecure, needing constant reminders of my love. She would gaze up at me with those eyes and seem to be saying “Do you see me?” Even while I was petting her “Does she see me yet? I’m not sure. Hi!” Still frantically trying to get my attention. “I can’t tell. Maybe if I crawl on top of her head she will see me?” And I would tell her to calm down. I see you. I’ve got you.
This morning I woke up to the jarring news that a truck had pulled into my driveway and run her over. Her skull was crushed, she was dead instantly. There was no way to help her, to try to save her.
I don’t understand. I do not want consolation. I want for life to not be so random and cruel.
The outside dogs are grieving. The Thunderpaw is inside howling low and mournful, a sound he has never made before.
I don’t know what else to say. I see you, Matilda. I still see you.