Moune, my dog, was 3 when our destinies merged a few years ago. Adopting her was a significant decision, since pre-Moune, my “responsible, nurturing human” slate had become tarnished. Yes, I had successfully cared for a couple of cats off and on, but Sam, my high school boa constrictor, had disappeared into the gables, never to be seen again. (After we moved, I got a twisted adolescent thrill out of imagining that Sam had survived by devouring roving rodents until she became so massive that she crashed through the attic floor into a bedroom of that old Main Line house.) And as a child, the very first time I was fully responsible for the lives of other beings, I ignored my two gerbils to death. Their shriveled, rigid little bodies still manage to haunt me after all these years.
I wanted a dog for all the reasons one wants a dog: companionship, a compelling reason to walk, security, easy contact with strangers. A warm presence to inspirit my quiet stone farmhouse in central France. Someone to communicate with in a life where I could spend days working at my computer without speaking to any visible beings.
Someone to love who will always, always love you back. It doesn’t matter what you look or smell or sound like. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharp as a tack or thick as two short planks. Your dog thinks you’re awesome.
I found her via the Internet, where her breeder had posted Urgent, Émone, 3 ans, adoption à cause de divorce. I’d been looking without looking, the way friends have—sometimes remarkably successfully—surfed the dating sites. My peripatetic lifestyle didn’t really lend itself to a steady commitment, but as soon as I saw the photos I was done for. Just before I went to pick her up, I spent too much of a ten-day retreat wondering what I would call her, since the name Émone had apparently been derived from Pokémon, and I couldn’t live with that. I settled on Philémone: the Greek name Philemon signifies affectionate and loving. Nickname Moune, or Ma Moune: my Moune.
When I first met her at her home in the French Alps, she was a sorry sight: matted dreadlocks, open sores. Neglected though she was, she was full of bounce and silliness, and we took a shine to each other straightaway. Moune’s previous main human had had an acute psychotic episode, her husband needed to focus on their kids while she was interned, then she was too unstable to care for a dog, and the husband never really wanted Moune anyway. He told me that his wife always needed just this one more thing to make her happy, but she was never happy. Moune is a Berger Picard, a rare French herding breed that was one of her human’s just this one more things.
I can relate. She was one of my just this one more things too, but it works. I delight in her goofiness, stubbornness, shagginess, dogginess. Ours may not be the deepest relationship I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly one of the easiest. She wants to please me; I want her to be happy. Our honeymoon began as soon as she forgot I’d dognapped her, and we’ve been contentedly codependent ever since.
I’m perfectly aware that there can be no “happily ever after” in this codependency, this coming together of lives. I well know that what comes together will one day separate, and that it will be painful. If I’m honest, the constant of aging and the anticipation of separation are already painful, whatever the loss may be, well before that loss has poked holes in our reality or ripped the fabric of our lives asunder. It’s the price we pay for attachment, I tell myself. Suck it up. For now, Ma Moune and I are a team.
Pamela Gayle White will be writing about her life with Moune, her Berger Picard, for the next three months on the Tricycle blog.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.