Thomas watches for disturbances to his peace.

I’m getting ready to go out of town in the way I usually do, which is to say, in a haphazard and disorganized way. There’s always much agonizing and gnashing of teeth over departure dates and times, modes of travel, even destinations. And then it somehow comes together and a trip is taken. I much prefer having a long-entrenched plan and sticking to it — which naturally begs the question of why that so rarely happens.

The last-minute coalescing of our plans this afternoon meant that Thomas was taken to the kennel very abruptly, and I find myself strangely bereft. It’s not just me, either. Everyone else in the house is feeling funky. “This isn’t right,” said one kid morosely as we opened the door to a greeting-less hallway. “I miss Thomas already,” said another. The house without Thomas is a vacuum of feeling; the place takes itself way too seriously when he is gone. There is no one monopolizing the couch pillows, no one furtively pulling down the bag of dog treats or scarfing down the fish food. There is no one curled up in an impossibly compact ball on the high-backed chair in the bedroom. There is no one licking my hand and doing a quick bait and switch to replace his head with his butt underneath my scratching fingers.

Psychologist Susan Anderson has written about “background people,” the folks who are so insinuated into the fibers of our lives that our heart rates and other biorhythms sync up, and whose sudden absence is neurologically jarring to us. Living as I have for years with dogs, I can’t help but think that animals and people can develop background relationships as well.

I hope he’s feeling better tonight than we are.


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