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Home is Where the Dog Is
By Eileen Mitchell
It's not that I was unhappy in my youth, but I was restless. When I was in my 20s, my brain was like a heat-seeking missile constantly searching for some elusive target that would allow me to realize that "Ding ding ding, this is it! "
But just what was "it"? A glamorous job that pulled down big bucks with a trendy loft in the city? Or was it a husband, kids and a home in the 'burbs? Maybe "it" was a career as a globe-trotting journalist or a Peace Corps volunteer in the Congo. Maybe I was meant to be an entrepreneur with my own bakery or bookstore. I wasn't quite sure. And so I kept looking, anxious and unsettled. Meanwhile I moseyed through my 30s, sometimes satisfied and other times convinced that Madonna was living the life I was meant to have.
Then a couple of years ago I bought a new home. A townhouse, actually, the modest type of place where not Madonna but Madonna's maid might reside. For me it was perfect. Bursting with old-time charm, it had hardwood floors and multipaned windows with a spectacular view of Mount Diablo. It looked more like a country cottage than the cookie-cutter condo it really was.
An added bonus was that the homeowners association didn't have unreasonable pet restrictions like those imposed at my previous residence. This meant I could finally get a dog. And that's just what I did, bringing Elvis, a rescued ex-racer greyhound, into my world. And with my new home and new dog, slowly life started changing.
Instead of planning weekend trips to Tahoe or dining at ritzy restaurants in the city, I now spend weekends repotting plants in my patio garden while Elvis basks in the sun alongside me. I spend more time at Home Depot than at Nordstrom, more concerned about fertilizer than fashion, molly bolts than makeup. Some days, after walking Elvis on the Iron Horse Trail and stopping for a latte at Peet's, I'm happy to just come home and crash on the sofa, too lazy to do anything else.
My most strenuous activity might consist of scratching my dog's belly with one hand while reading the latest book by Nick Hornby with the other. Maybe I'll watch the Audrey Hepburn movie marathon on the AMC channel or simply nap in a pool of sunshine. Most likely, either scenario will include the wafting aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. No longer do I feel the pressure that youth once imposed upon me to keep busy having fun fun fun all the time.
I now take pleasure in the simplest of activities: planning a Sunday brunch for friends, cutting roses from my garden, grooming my dog.
Cleaning also occupies much of my time. Hardwood floors and dog hair: need I say more? I mop and dust and clean and nest, but gladly, lovingly and without complaint. I am grateful for this little patch of the planet that is my home.
Sometimes friends and I will walk our dogs to the farmers' market, where I buy honey from local vendors and sunflowers that stretch 3 feet high. Other weekends might find me with Elvis at nearby street festivals, helping out at the Golden State Greyhound Adoption (www.goldengreyhounds.com) booth. I love talking to prospective guardians, educating them about greyhounds and sharing the joy that my dog has brought me. Elvis basks in the attention, and I beam like a proud mother.
Not that my social life has come to a complete halt. I still attend concerts with the same level of enthusiasm I did two decades ago. I still enjoy the theater, frequent art house films, dine out and travel, be it business trips to Chicago or visiting family in France.
There's just one difference now. In the back of my mind, no matter how good the company or how great the time, there remains one constant, joyful thought: I can't wait to return home. To my modest little world and the dog who is such an integral part of it. And suddenly a stint in the Congo or life as Madonna doesn't sound quite so appealing anymore.
Because "Ding ding ding, this is it."