We are pack animals. Authors and dogs. Dogs and authors. It doesn’t begin or end with memoirs like My Dog Skip or Marley and Me. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with photos of the dogs owned by my fellow writers, mostly historians because they’re my tribe, and I regularly post photos of my dog companion, Phoebe.
Phoebe. Pheebs. Pb. Sweet Pheebs. My gray girl. My boo who I often greet with “Hey, woo.” This is what happens to dog people. They invent language and terms of endearment to communicate with their four-legged companions.
Phoebe is pushing fourteen. She’s been with me since June 2003. I mentally prepared for her arrival for weeks, knowing that it was a great responsibility. I met her at the county animal shelter where they had given her the name “Ash,” because of her coloring. It really is gray and not black. They had also listed her as a chow mix, maybe because she was a chunky and fluffy ball of fur. But as she grew, and grew, it became clear that she is more of a lab mix than anything else.
I brought her home and thought about her name. She was a gassy puppy. I teasingly referred to her as “fart blossom.” That became FB for short. And in trying to pronounce “FB” it became Phoebe. Despite this slightly embarassing beginning to her name, Phoebe, more than anything else, connotes sweetness.
She grew fast and her legs got long and she has always been able to make wonky shapes with them. In her youth, she greeted people by jumping on them–not the best manners–and now that she’s an older lady, she can’t jump, so she makes a high-pitched yelp when guests come to our house as a way of saying “pay attention to me first.”
My career would not have been the same without her. She has given me a work/life balance. And as much as I’ve invested in her wellness over time, she has matched it with unconditional love, companionship, and contributed to my own well-being. More recently, she has been the only being that has made the monasticism of writing my most recent book bearable. Whether it was a sigh, a yawn, or a nudge to stop the tap, tap, tapping on my computer–she reminded me that I was not alone and breaks for fresh air and a walk are healthy.
So, it may come as no surprise to many of my fellow authors who often dedicate their books to their human companions that I decided, this time around, to dedicate my book to the companion most tried and true, Phoebe. This will not make a difference in her life, because hers is one of routine–feeding, walking, and the search for the next good scratching of her hind end.
But it means the world to me. It’s an acknowledgement of her steadfastness and the unbounded joy she’s given. It’s also been an honor to have her by my side for so many years. We should all be so lucky.