I have lived without my dog, Tucker, by my side more than I have lived with seeing him every day. I know just how much to miss him without overwhelming myself with fondness and the same sort of aching usually reserved for when I go too long without my mom’s warmth and my dad’s laughter and my little sister’s boundless energy.
And maybe that’s dramatic. After all, Tucker is the barely one-year-old bichon frise my family adopted one semester after I left for college. (Ostensibly, I’m told, so that my parents could raise another kid without having another kid.) I lived with him for two weeks before I flew back to New York. Honestly, though, I’m a sucker. Those two weeks were enough. Since then, I have only been home a handful of times — spring break, Fourth of July weekend and for two weeks at the end of the summer.
Every time I sit on the plane, bound for SFO, I wonder if he remembers me. After all, I come and go faster than a cold. When my family and I FaceTime, he doesn’t understand where my voice is coming from. (I mean, he’s a dog. So.) But without fail, every time I walk in through the garage door, exhausted and dragging my luggage along, he’s there, tail wagging and paws up, scratching at the air and at my legs like he knows who I am.
It’s gratifying, certainly. But I never know if he’s happy to see me because he remembers me and knows me as family, or if he’s forgotten and is excited to make a new friend. Maybe I’m rebuilding some sort of lost kinship every time I go home. But maybe, and I’m going to hold onto this, he does know me as the person who took care of him in his first two weeks in a new home.
Missing Tucker is easy. My sister sends me Snapchat photos peppered throughout the day of Tucker on my bed, snuggling in my blankets, tucked next to her as she watches TV. My dad turns the camera when we FaceTime, laughing as he shows me what antics Tucker is up to that day: chewing up slippers, begging for the human food he knows he can’t have, chasing down tennis balls and not knowing what to do when he drops them. Missing Tucker is easy, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Email Kaitlyn Wang at [email protected]