(Editor's note: This is the first part in a two-part series. The second part will be published tomorrow morning.)
Things changed, but then again things are always changing.
There is no normal to which I could hope to return. The once regular morning hikes are lost to late nights in front of the TV. I no longer use my bed in the kitchen; I fall asleep on the couch with Ben. When it gets late, Ben wakes me and we go upstairs and sleep on the bed in his bedroom.
I find I spend a lot of my time sleeping on that bed, though usually with Buckley, my cat. Buckley spends all her nights outside by herself. In the morning when Ben gets up to let me outside, I hear leaves rustling then “tip, tap, tip, tap, tip, tap” and there she is.
Buckley appears out of nowhere.
Buck and I spend our days together looking out the bedroom window, and enjoying each others’ company. I lick her face and she licks mine. Sometimes I wake up from my nap and she isn’t there, so I go and look for her. I usually find her downstairs, lying in a sunbeam on the couch.
When it begins to get dark outside and Buck and I hear Ben pull his car into the driveway, we race to the back door to greet Ben. Buckley jumps on top of our stuffed chair, and I bark my bark. It’s my way of saying “You’re home! You’re home! Welcome home, my boy!”
Ben comes through the door, and I am so happy that he’s back. Nothing can go wrong now that he’s home. He sits on the floor and lets Buckley and me walk all over him as he pets us. He rubs my fur and says, “Soooooo, Little Annnnnnn, how was your day today?”
Then, in this funny high pitched voice that I guess is supposed to be me, he says, “Ohhhhh, good, good, good. Me and Buck took a nice long nap. I barked at the Fed Ex lady and at a squirrel I saw. Oh yeah, oh yeah. Sure, sure, sure. Later, I went downstairs and ate the rest of Buckley’s food, and, oh yeah, I found a stick in the fireplace and chewed it on your bed.”
Then Ben laughs and laughs, and pets us some more. It is my favorite part of the day because we are all together again.
I have gotten to know Ben better, too. I know that if he gets up in the morning and takes a shower, he is out all day. If he wakes up and brushes his teeth and splashes water on his face, he isn’t going anywhere.
What’s different now though is that Ben sometimes takes me with him when he goes out all day. I lay there and watch him towel off and get dressed. I think to myself: “Oh please, oh please, oh please take me with you today.”
I’ll sit on the bed so he sees me in the reflection of the mirror over his dresser as he looks at himself and tightens the tie around his neck. He knows I want to hear those magic words and all I need is for him to hold the door for me and I’m ready to go. He sees me looking at him in the mirror and he smiles and asks, “Hey Little, wanna go for a ride?”
I enjoy staying at home with Buckley, but there is nothing better than being out and about with my boy, Ben. On days like this I don’t get out of the car much. We stop for coffee then drive really fast on the highway; too fast for me to hang my head out the window.
We always begin the ride in silence. We ride along, and I see Ben looking ahead, watching the road, but I know his mind is elsewhere. It’s almost like he’s fighting something inside of him. Then he shakes his head and sometimes rubs his face and the back of his neck with his hand.
After he does this he clicks on the radio and starts to sing. At first I thought it was kind of funny, but then I realized that Ben sings to make himself feel happy. I have come to know this because when Ben sings I can tell he is smiling inside and when he smiles inside, so do I.
Me, I’m not that complicated. I just like to look out the window, enjoy these moments with my Ben and watch it all go by.
Ben keeps a blanket in the backset so when he parks the car I can curl up and take a nap. Sometimes he’s gone for a long time; but I don’t worry. He always comes back for me.
On the way home Ben stops somewhere and we go for a walk. I say a walk and not a hike because where we go isn’t the woods at all, but rather it’s the beach. The beach is easy and friendly. There are no hills or meandering dirt trails. There is no mud or rocks or tree roots to stub my toe. It’s usually bright and sunny and the sunshine always feels so good on my coat. We park the car, take a few steps and we’re there. My toes press into the cool, white sand, the breeze is on my face, and the sunlight dances on the water before us.
Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich
Beach passes are not required at Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich from November 1st to April 31st and leashed dogs are allowed from December 1st to March 31st. Just south of Exit 5 off I-95, the point, with its 147 acres, is a beautiful place to go for a walk. It’s almost completely surrounded by water and has a beach, trails, and offers wonderful views of the Sound.
The Siwanoy Indians used this area as a fishing camp and called it Monakwego, which means Shining Sands. They sold it to the European settlers in 1640. J. Kennedy Tod, a wealthy banker, bought the land in 1884 and built a resort called Innis Arden and carved many of the carriage trails that remain today. Ben told me that his great grandfather was one of the immigrants that helped landscape the grounds. The land was eventually purchased by the town of Greenwich in 1944 for $550,000.
We walk along the shore and then cross a bridge. I go for a brief swim and Ben says “hello” to the people we pass. I felt like Ben was reaching out, but all anyone had for him were just a few quick words. He asked, and one nice person took our photo as we stood on top of a rock. Unfortunately, the photo they took was of their thumb, rather than me and my boy.
At one point Ben looked out at the western horizon and said “See Little Ann? That’s Manhattan.” It meant nothing to me, and it was difficult for me to understand why something so distant and so far away was important to Ben.
I went and climbed up on a big rock, and when I saw Ben look at me, I jumped off in an effort to impress upon Ben that while the horizon may be cool to look at, it’s what’s in front of him that matters most. Ben saw me getting ready to jump and took out his camera and took a photo of me as I jumped to the ground.
He’s back I thought. My Ben is back.