I walked in the door Saturday after two nights away. It's the longest I've been away from Toby since he came to live with us six weeks ago. He did not look like the same dog I ruffled goodbye on Thursday morning. He was longer, taller, sleeker.
And I detected the definite beginnings of feathers. Wispy strings of real dog hair lining the backs of his legs. A cowlick of curl in the center of his chest. Longer thicker hair curling around his tail and finishing in a sweet piggy ringlet at the end.
Golden Retrievers are known for their feathers. The lush growth of fur that flows from their legs, cascades from deep chests and plumes from long tails is a standard of their beauty and breeding.
Since I spent the weekend being reminded how important an impact our ancestors have on the lives we inhabit, I was drawn to look at a picture of Toby's dad, Beckham. I wanted to see the possibility of pup become dog. I wanted to remember the lineage that flows in his veins.
Beckham comes from a long line of champions. Strong. Healthy. Gorgeous. Toby is well on the way to making his dad proud - if dog dads can be proud.
I learned something about my own father this weekend. The father I never met. The father I didn't even know existed until I was in my thirties. The father who killed himself seven years before I was told the man I thought was my father was not.
Through the loving, empathic and compassionate guidance of Ruth King I heard my father tell me he loved me and that I didn't need to give up my own life to be loved by him. I heard him tell me that he is the perfect father for me and that I am the perfect daughter for him. I felt his arms around me. I felt his love. I felt his blessings.
I come from a long line of leavers. The pain gets too much, you leave. Leave by packing bags. Leave by dying - slow or fast, depending on the level of despair. Leave into the heavy blankets of depression and madness. It's my legacy, and without knowing why, I've believed that in order to be loved and accepted in my family- in order to belong - I could never be fully in life, fully a-live, fully not dead.
My father told me to live. My father who could not stay because the pain was too much to bear told me to live for him. My father loves me. I heard him as surely as if he had never left me. Every part of me believes him.
My father gave me feathers this weekend. Mine are of the flying into life kind. Toby's are the regal beauty kind. Maybe that's the same thing.
Photo of Beckham from Brown's Golden Delights website