October 22, 2018
(Revisiting a favorite post four years later.)
Bella, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, teacher, guardian, and foot warmer.
I’m looking at Bella today, almost three years after this post was written. Not much has changed. She’s twelve years old, still very furry, a little more squarely built now, not quite as active, but still healthy, funny and loyal. People still stop us on the street to smile and talk to her. She is a working dog, and if that work is to bring a smile to someone’s face, it is work of value.
On any given day, it can take me 15 minutes to walk my dog the short distance from our house to the corner. This is what a typical morning looks like:
“Hey, lady, I like your dog,” the twelve year old boy yells at me from across the street. “Can I pet her?”
Bella, our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, stands patiently while he strokes her back.
“Wow,” she is so soft. She has so much hair. My dogs are big, they. . .”
and he spends five minutes telling me about his dogs, which tells me about his character and the good man he will grow up to be.
Bella and I walk on half a block. A house painter, sitting on the grass, taking a break, smiles.
“Is your dog friendly?”
“Can I pet her?”
A truck rattles by, the driver slows, leans out his window, shouts, “Hey, how’d your dog get such short legs?” and drives on, smiling.
A young woman slams her car to a halt, leans out her opened door.
"Oh, my god, a Cardigan. Mine just died.
Can I pet her? I need to touch a Corgi."
We named her Bella because she is so beautiful with her pure black and white markings, like a cousin to a panda bear.
Her nick-name is the Smile Machine because she makes so many people smile when we walk through the neighborhood. People stop to ask, “Is that a Border Collie with no legs?” She has a long, feathered, black tail that curls over her back and is tipped with a spot of white, a lantern when we walk at night.
The lessons that Bella has taught me.
Bella has taught me that in this complicated world in which we live, when we are all, at any given moment, tired or sad or pained or anxious;
when we may have had a bad day in school;
or a sick child at home;
when we are not sure if we have a job for the next day;
or that our truck will start;
or we have lost something that we love,
having something warm to touch, something to look at that makes us smile just for one moment, can lighten the day for us.
Bella has taught me about the ways we love or don’t love people. How we might think or say,
“Well, I would love you better if you lost weight”;
“I can only love people who are tall”;
“I can’t love you because your ears are too big.”
“I don’t love you because you mess up the house.”
I look at Bella, whose body is the shape of a well-stuffed foot stool;
whose legs are so short that when she walks, her long chest hairs graze the ground, magnets for dirt and leaves;
whose ears are longer than her legs;
whose long, fine, black and white hairs float above the floor like clouds of spiderwebs and clog the vacuum cleaner;
and all I know is how much I love her and the happiness she brings to people.
I like to think of Bella as a teacher for why we should
take time to talk to a child,
or check in on a sick friend,
or smile at a stranger,
why we need write or make music or art.
Bella has taught me that no matter what limitations we may think we have,
—not smart enough,
—not rich enough,
—not long-legged enough,
we all have the potential to make another person happy for a brief moment.
When we act on that potential, we are better people. Our lives are richer when we make someone smile.
If we have a tail, it should wag.
*Corgi, in Welsh, means “dwarf dog". Corgis' legs are very short relative to the size of their bodies and heads . Most people are familiar with Pembroke Welsh Corgis, short-legged, big-earred, brown or black and tan, usually born without a tail. Queen Elizabeth is often seen surrounded by a pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, a rollicking group of oversized hedgehogs. Their only relationship to Bella is that both Pembrokes and Cardigans are dwarf breeds of dogs, natural drovers and herders of cattle, sheep, and people. Cardigans are the older of the two breeds. They are heavier-boned, larger-bodied than the Pembrokes, and have long tails. Cardigans are said to be distant relatives to Dashunds. They are smart, non-agressive, and very loyal.