Floyd, Sara, Meadow, and Adriana are sleeping. They are arranged on the bed like points of a compass, together but separate. It’s dawn, still black outside the windows. They know this is the time when I work in my office, even on leaving day, so they’ll nap until sunrise.
Sometimes, they’ll hear the coyotes’ howls or deer crunching on dead leaves, and they race outside to investigate or warn. They spend three minutes in the yard, then return to bed and situate themselves in similar positions.
Some mornings they cuddle all together or in pairs, but not today. They aren’t as relaxed as usual because they know I’m leaving. They know before I even pull my suitcase out of the closet. I must emit a scent on leaving day, the scent of excitement mixed with sadness. I’m excited because I love my job, but I’m sad because doing it means I have to leave my pack.
I work on the TV crew for the NHRA drag racing series on FS 1, which means I’m gone for over a hundred days per year because we race all over the country, all over except for Nashville. I try to fly out late and fly home early. But, airline travel is never dependable.
The dogs are a room away, but I hear their body language as clearly as any dialogue.
“She’s leaving,” Sara says.
“No walks or car rides for three days,” Meadow responds.
“At least Lino gives us a shitload of treats,” Floyd answers.
“I don’t want her to leave,” Ade says.
And I don’t want to go, but it is a necessary part of my job. Tomorrow, once I get to the racetrack, once I’m sitting inside the cool dark studio watching nitro cars going 300 mph, I’ll stop thinking about all the time I’m losing with my dogs. I’ll forget that their lives are too short.
On leaving day, I remind myself that there are women in my industry who have to leave their children. And I wonder if it’s as hard for them as it is for me.