Three years ago today a little creature came into my life. I called her Milly, knowing she needed a bouncy name, one that had life in it. When I brought her to the vet she asked, ‘Is she a rescue dog’, and I said, ‘No, but she is the one that rescues’. You see, if anything I’ve learned from Milly it is this: that love is an infinite, non-divisible, generative act which is best applied universally, liberally and non-discriminatory. In other words: love everyone, in equal abundant measure. In other words: just because I love you it doesn’t mean I can’t love anyone else with the same loyal aplomb.
Like all of us, she has her idiosyncrasies. She jumps on people with unflappable enthusiasm, but not all people are equally enthusiastic. She carries her old toys around and leaves them hidden under pillows in the guest bedroom. She covets the best part of the sofa. She’ll knock the phone out my hand mid-sentence if I haven’t honoured the belly rub quota for the day. And still, I find her hard to resist.
There is an elderly couple who live behind me. Milly visits them most days. They buy her special treats, allow her on their bed, and they tell me, frequently, that they love her too. There is another couple who I think purposely walk by my house so they have a chance to see her. When that happens, Milly’s tail goes into overdrive and it looks like they are all melting into something close to bliss. Milly has served customers in the post office, is a frequent library visitor and a regular hit in our favourite in cafes all the way from Dublin to West Cork.
And so, I call Milly, my little love factory. And I can tell you this: walking around with your very own love factory on a lead for three years changes things. It slows you down for one (‘yes, her name is Milly, yes she is very friendly, oh, I am really sorry about the jumping’). Sometimes this leads to bigger conversations, like the man who began to cry and when I asked him what’s wrong and he told me that it is his wife’s anniversary, that she died a year ago, and how much he misses her. Milly sat by his feet as he sobbed. Then there was the elderly woman on the bench who Milly insisted on befriending, licking her hands, the tail going ninety, until the woman turned to me and said, ‘thank you, that is the best thing that has happened to me all week’.
So, yes, she is scruffy, she’s a bit demanding at times, she never cleans up after herself, and she is a terrible cook, but by God, does this creature know how to love. Three years of a love factory on a lead has changing the shape of my heart too. So thank you Milly for the life lessons. Thank you for slowing me down. Thank you for the gift of your scruffy, imperfect, loveable ways. And yes, you can sleep on my bed, and yes, it is time for walkies.