I make a new friend on a recent trip to the right coast.
His name is Oliver, and he’s my brother’s dog.
This golden lab mix, 5 years old, is about as loving a being as you’ll ever find anywhere on this earth.
As I arrive at my brother’s Maryland home, Oliver waits for me at the front door like I’m a long-delayed special guest. The tip of his tail wags first, as if he wonders if I’m as nice as he’s been told. When I greet him happily, bending down so we can meet eye to eye, his wag travels down the rest of his tail, and then onto his body, which can hardly contain his excitement.
Yes, we bond immediately.
Oliver brings me his special stuffed muskrat.
He tours me around the acreage of his family estate, proudly showing off the peach and apple tees, the vegetable garden, and the strawberry patch.
When I rub him down, he talks to me with a prolonged squeal, similar to the sound of a young boy swallowing helium.
An endearing trait.
When I sink into the hot tub with my brother and sister-in-law on a cool but gorgeous Sunday morning, Oliver splays himself on the pool curb besides me, licking my cheek every so often, just checking up on me.
In other words, we become fast friends.
I take Oliver for a 45-minute walk, and he shows me every colorful hydrant in town, and introduces me to the neighborhood cat, who enjoys playing “chase me up a tree.”
But then it’s time to say goodbye.
With suitcase at my side, I stand by the front door. Oliver approaches quietly, sitting in front of me, ramrod straight, gazing into my eyes and then suddenly, lifts his left lip so high it almost reaches his nose.
I stare back, open-mouthed.
“That’s his smile,” my brother explains.
I curl my lip in response and hug my new-found friend with fierce appreciation.
We find friends sometimes in the most unexpected places…
Covered in the most unexpected body types….
Offering unexpected joy and love.
As I return to the left coast, I find myself seated in the plane, curling my lip often as I think of my new unexpected friend.
The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)