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Lesley Heiser

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Animal Gestures

I’m grateful for my neighbor Julianne. We talk outside at a distance every day. But our first greeting is in the morning via text. We start with emojis, a four-leafed clover, a sun, a hibiscus. We text about various things and then Julianne always tells me if Wally is coming over. If he is, I text back, “okay.”

I send my shaggy, yellow, two-year-old dog, Dudley, next door whenever Wally is with Julianne and I am happy to pay for it. A black, older dog, Wally is Dudley’s best friend. The two guys love each other so much. They hold their heads high when taken out to walk. They awaken from their naps to trade their spots on the floor.

While Julianne is a professional dog-whisperer, I am unemployed. On my tired days I feel I have a blank future. But we three are jubilant anytime Julianne comes over to get Dudley. She gazes at me for a moment as if to make sure I am okay, and I simply release my dear dog down the steps. It is a wonderful thing to make your dog happy.

Julianne and I are friends with additional neighbors. The other day Blythe’s car died and she had an appointment. Julianne was not around. I felt a little panicky. Because Blythe works at the hospital. But I had only brought her 1,000 medical gloves. I had only baked her bread. We had only had some distanced conversations in which she said that things were “manageable” at her job. But, thankfully, the demands of friendship have their own flow and this and only this is what can make a friendship better.

On the drive to take care of Blythe’s errand, we wore masks. Dudley sat in the back, fur flying in the wind. I drove with my right hand gloved. I opened all the windows. I played dated pop music. For a second, I felt like a teen making an escape. But then Blythe said she was going to donate platelets. “Oh, you must have the antibodies,” I said dully. But she just had excellent platelets, she said. She had been donating them to anyone in need for years.

By the time she died last year, Julianne’s dog, Boo, was a mystical presence in our neighborhood. When she lay on the sidewalk, her beautiful black hair matted into dreds, you could watch almost watch her large beautiful eyes fall apart a little more into a far-away dream. She was large, so Julianne’s friend, Jeff, had to hold her up just to get her down the outdoor stairs. The way he did this, they looked like they were dancing.

Boo fell a lot then. Most often, she fell inside, collapsing face-first onto bedding where she could suffocate. But I worked at that time, and Dudley was at Julianne’s a lot. When Boo crashed like a silent tree, Dudley would find Julianne and push his nose against her skin and take her to her dog. And Julianne would scream and scoop Boo up as though she was a featherweight. And it was easy, Julianne said. It was so easy in that moment of Boo’s need to do whatever it took, to completely choose all the tiny gestures that could save her.

How are you, Jacqueline Doyle?

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