Life feels chaotic for me in the beginning stages of a move 1,000 miles southward, but for two blissful hours, the dogs enabled me to step outside that and simply be content in their nearness and enthusiasm. And, oh, were they enthusiastic! More even than usual, the dogs greeted us with bouncing, romping and wagging on an epic scale.
After a few minutes of haphazard greeting, Rache and Nick corralled Ava, Uma, Gideon and Rikki while I went back to spend some time with Rocket. At first we spent some time on the floor just outside "her" room. She'd sit on my lap but then move a little way, listening to the commotion in the main room before returning to my lap.
Rikki, Rocket and Gideon walked first. Because I was so captivated by the abundant shades of non-sentient life, I ended up snapping far more photos of moss, leaves and mushrooms, than I did of the dogs. I could bore you with those photos, but instead I'll say the dogs were cute...
... and ever so tragic when we traded them in for the "Uma" and "Ava" models of dog:
Because Ava's been aching lately, she has to stay on-leash for the time being. This limits the amount of time she spends running along - and, more to the point, sliding down - muddy trails.
Uma, who had no such restriction, demonstrated some of her limitless enthusiasm racing back and forth along the trails.
Uma would be walking quietly alongside us, then suddenly dig her feet into the mud and pounce into a run, working furiously to race toward some invisible destination, only to then turn tail and come flying back to us. She did this repeatedly, occasionally trying to engage Ava for play. I'd stomp into a squat to catch her attention, redirecting her from Ava to me, which led to even further cuteness:
At one point, I raced down the trail to try and "beat" Uma and Ava so I could get a picture of them walking with Rache. Uma, of course, just took the opportunity to race past me, returning at the prospect of treats. And though it's sappy to say, the sight of these two faces turned simultaneously upward was my own treat:
As our second walk neared its conclusion, Uma continued her explorations, while the rest of us just did our best to keep up.
Back at the shelter, Nick took on the task of bathing a very stinking Rikki. After toweling Uma and Ava, Rache and I set Uma in the back room and returned to the main room with the intention of playing with Ava, Giddy and Rocket. The pups must have spent themselves on their walks, because their play was very subdued, especially compared with their exuberant greetings.
Ava and Giddy, who had earlier in the week earned a little green forehead heart for his friendly pestering, climbed quietly onto the window couch next to me.
Rocket was similarly quiet, separating herself for a rare solo rest.
When it was time to say goodbye for the week, Nick gathered up Rocket for a sweet farewell. I loved how it looked like she was hugging him back:
When the visit was truly over, Rocket and Rikki returned to their room. Nick grabbed some treats to help coax Ava into the upstairs space; the treats, of course, had an impact on all the dogs. What dog doesn't love a good chicken treat?
Uma and Gideon stood in the window and watched as we drove away. Knowing the number of weekends they'll watch me arrive and depart is dwindling, this week the farewell serenade felt a little more bitter than sweet. Still, it has been a gift to grow to know these dogs over the last four months, and as often as I am in Eugene, I will be back to see them... or whichever among them remain! Much as I love seeing each of them, my hope, as always, is that I might next return to discover that they've found their forever homes, where every day is full of human warmth, love, and the bustle of day-to-day life.