matt pond PA

November 1, 2019

Willa Is One.

Every morning we wake up in our respective rooms when the collar starts jingling. With a toad in my throat, I repeat, “Sit-to-say-hello, sit-to-say-hello.” Willa sits and we go downstairs. I feed her a pound of food: raw, bone-in, skinless chicken thigh along with variations of pumpkin, spinach, carrot, organs, egg and white rice. We walk a couple miles through uptown, by the new roof on the Old Dutch Church, the leafy yard of Senate House, jumping up to strut down the wall that lines Green Street, crossing back over Maiden Lane and then home. We spend from nine to ten on the couch. I have a book and Willa has her bone. When she dozes, her eyes and paws twitch: dog dreams of everything she’s seen and the wide-open wilderness in everything yet-to-be.

Last January, I adopted a rescue dog in Poughkeepsie. She was approximately ten weeks old. I assigned her a birthday I wouldn’t forget. Willa is one today.

She’s named after Willa Cather and the everlasting brilliance in The Song of the Lark. She hasn’t read it yet — she’s only one.

Willa was calm when we first made eye contact, huddled behind her brothers in the back of a cage. When I held her, she shook. She smelled like a goat and I wondered if she’d always be a barnyard beast. Would my small brick castle and I be enough for her?

The calmness was a facade. We spent our first winter together rolling around on the kitchen floor. I had an Infrared Dr. Heater blasting beside us, blankets and towels for a nest. I took Willa outside every twenty minutes, trying to convince her to pee and poop. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t go anywhere.

I quickly saw that my salty moods had an effect on her little life. I couldn’t be sarcastic or ignore her for endless hours. Willa didn’t care about my catalog of songs. She didn’t care about the critics, either. Willa wanted food, and then she wanted to wrestle in the basement. Then sleep, eat, wrestle. Again and again.

Spring came and we left the yard to walk the sidewalk seas and soft earth. Through the rise and fall of the slippery sun, we had simple adventures on the same, repeating square route. We’d visit the dog park at Kingston Point. The dogs were incredible, the human beings were animals.

In the summer, we went to New Brunswick to see my mom. Willa would sprint to the Passamaquoddy Bay and return to a desperate whistle and these flailing arms. Back home, we swam at Awosting Lake, her small head chasing ducks, my big head bobbing as the caboose. She could eventually beat the current in the Esopus Creek and fetch sticks that would rightfully be defined as logs.

It’s been amazing and it’s been insanely frustrating. I’ve had to consider another existence above and beyond mine. I’ve had to relearn how to concentrate. I’ve had to understand a way of thinking based on unconditional trust. (These weren’t the rusty tools I had used to survive thus far.)

I love her so fiercely, I start to worry when she’s not barking or bothering me. If you drive too close to us, I will pick up your immaculate fucking truck and throw it across the Hudson River. She’s my Goof, she’s my Little Girl. She makes me nuts, yet somehow, every pee and poop she releases into the world is a multi-platinum hit.

Passing through autumn, she lunges at falling leaves. We run through the woods, at least thirty miles a week. She ignores the sounds of shotguns in the overgrown brush along the rail trail. She keeps pulling me forward, pressing against her collar, leading me on.