His name is Nae-nae. Dark gray fur covers his emaciated body. Scabs on the tips of his ears fall off in my fingers as I touch them.
We arrived at the Kauai Humane Society on the third day of our vacation there, not knowing which of the shelter’s dogs we would be taking for a daylong field trip.
Fate, via the woman at the front desk, delivers us Nae-nae.
“As soon as they can understand conditional sentences, I’m alright with kids,” I tell Jane when we are only recently married.
We are in San Francisco on a trip to visit Danny and Pam, friends of hers from Brown. Sam, who is now 20, was only a few months old.
After giving the suggested donation of $40 to the shelter, we leave with Nae-nae and a backpack of supplies.
Emmett, playing according to the family rule that all members have to be able to see the car, is the first to shout “shotgun” and scores the passenger seat next to Jane.
Annie, Nae-nae, and I climb into the back.
Moments after sitting between us, Nae-nae collapses his malnourished body onto my lap, allowing me to hold his sweet head in my arms.
The loft in the apartment Danny and Pam are renting from Danny’s boss is furnished by one couch and festooned with houseplants.
Pam explains, “Houseplants make a room feel less empty.”
I don’t remember the circumstances that led to me lying on the couch and Sam being placed on my chest.
But I know we both napped. My hands clasped over Sam’s tiny, helpless, onesie-clad, four-month-old body.
I am forever changed.
Kate Wolf sings a song with a chorus, “So, give yourself to love. Love is what you’re after.”
Rumi tells us: “We need not seek love, but rather we need to seek out and dismantle the barriers we have set up in our lives that keep us from it.”
As the family and I drive to Poipu beach for a four-biped-and-one-quadruped hike, I gently stroke Nae-nae and allow myself to dive into my feelings. I look out the window at the natural and human-made landscape and cry.