At the intersection of Route 125 and Route 100 in Hancock, VT sits the Old Hancock Hotel, a charming old establishment and an excellent place to share a breakfast buffet with a group of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Yesterday, my friends Joan and Jane and I did just that in celebration of Jane’s birthday. The weather was snowy, the ground icy, but the atmosphere inside was warm and friendly. We sat and chatted long after the buffet was cleared and the doors closed. For Jane and I, it was the first time we had seen each other since Christmas, so we exchanged presents – a red, bedazzled handmade purse for me, a chili cookbook for her. We lingered over our plates, ordering cups of coffee for Joan and Jane and tea for me followed by another round.
We are not a group that typically dawdles. Usually we have pugs in tow that need to be fed or walked or we are on our way to a dog show or headed back from one. We may stop at a diner for a quick bite, but meals for the sake of socializing are not our usual fair. Perhaps that’s what made this afternoon so much fun. When at Joan’s house, where we usually gather, Joan is typically so busy cooking dog food or cleaning that we seldom sit and talk for long. Yesterday was the exception. Joan even brought photos recently mailed to her from one of our new pug families.
Remember the litter of puppies born this summer? Batman’s siblings? Remember the puppy Joan cried to see go? Well, our little Argo Kensington now renamed Bunja, is not so little anymore. Like his brother Gryffindor, whom Joan kept, he is growing large and strong. Kensington went to live with a man named Bob in New Jersey, not far from our friend Bonnie, who took his sister Margot, now Sassy Margot, to live with her. The picture Bob sent shows the siblings together, although Sassy is significantly smaller than Bunja now.
Bob apologized for the pictures he sent explaining that neither he nor Bonnie knew what they were doing. The picture might be blurry, but the image was enough to warm our hearts. These are family portraits of little ones we brought into the world and sent off in faith that their lives would be good. You keep your fingers crossed and wait for cards and photos such as these for assurance that you made the right decision. Sometimes you never hear anything and you are left only with hope.
We sit three women – one single, one divorced, one widowed, happily sipping tea and coffee and oohing and ahhing over our stash of poor photos the way aunts and mothers and grandmothers ogle baby pictures. Such scenes have become the fodder for jokes – crazy cat ladies, women who find fulfillment with pets because their lives are empty elsewhere. As with all joke, there may be some truth in this, but our lives are not pathetic or empty. We may be lonely on occasion, missing children and spouses, but we have carved a place with each other and with lives so busy that we seldom sit to talk.
Although we may sometimes feel lonely, our lives are not empty. We attend dog shows and catch up with old friends about their wins. We dress our dogs up in funny costumes and reunite with other pug owners at pug socials, we gather together on Sunday afternoons to read letters from the owners of puppies we have raised, and we smile and we eat and we chat and we carve out lives for ourselves. Like everyone else we take our joy where we can find it and consider ourselves lucky that dogs figure into the equation.