A Little Happier: We’ve Had Our Dog Barnaby Always.

A few years ago, on the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast, I debated whether or not my family should get a dog. Spoiler alert! We did get a dog — our beloved Barnaby. (If you’d like to hear that discussion, listen to episode 24 and episode 27.)

We’ve already passed Barnaby’s second anniversary, and it’s hard to remember what life was like without him. It seems like he’s been part of our family forever.

This thought reminded me of the final paragraph of the brilliant book The Animal Family, the 1965 children’s story by poet and critic Randall Jarrell with breathtaking illustrations by Maurice Sendak. A beautiful, timeless, quiet book.

I’ll quote from the opening because it will give you a sense of the book — and also because I simply can’t resist:

Once upon a time, long, long ago, where the forest runs down to the ocean, a hunter lived all alone in a house made of logs he had chopped for himself and shingles he had split for himself. The house had one room, and at the end closest to the ocean there was a fireplace of pink and gray and green boulders—the hunter had carried them home in his arms from the cliff where the forest ended.

Over time, as the years pass, the hunter is joined by a mermaid, a bear, a lynx, and finally, a boy. Times passes.

On the final page, the hunter, the mermaid, and the boy play a game and talk about how the boy came to live with the family.

The hunter said, “The very first day your mother and I came to the house, there you were in the corner, fast asleep.”

“That’s right, fast asleep with him,” said the boy, giving the bear a push.

“Oh no,” said the mermaid, “that was years before the bear came. We’ve had you always.”

And that’s how we feel about Barnaby.

Here’s the thing about love – it’s easy to see how it stretches into the future, but the funny thing is, it also changes the past. We’ve had Barnaby always.




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