(Adriana La Cerva)
When the Magic 8, eight homeless three-week-old puppies rescued from a Tennessee ghetto, came into my life, I had no idea that I would need them as much as they needed me. But a week after they arrived, my dog died, and in those days immediately following Miss Annie’s death, I felt like the entire universe was f-king with me. Like I did something to deserve such a harsh judgment. I stopped eating real food, instead living on honey cough drops and green tea, and slept approximately four hours a night. I looked and felt terrible.
At first, I swear I tried to ease my grief by observing the M8 in action, but frankly, they seemed more like a burden than anything else; all I really wanted to do was crawl into bed, surround myself with my remaining pack members, and watch The Sopranos.
My mind was in no place to write about the M8’s devious and silly antics, let alone care about them, but unbeknownst to me they had already started to knit their magical healing powers into my vulnerable heart.
With EIGHT four-week-old puppies crying, eating, peeing, chewing, running, and playing, I was forced to take an active role in life, whether I wanted to or not; like mopping when several wormy poop piles greeted me every morning, or sitting outside in the blaring southern sun, herding the M8 away from the road, or even just the act of bathing, feeding and medicating them kept me from crawling into my own “den” and obsessing about my best friend being dead.
After about two weeks of moving through the motions, feeling nothing but numbness, the M8’s magical healing powers began penetrating my haze, and I started to notice small things that didn’t exactly make me laugh, but they sure caused a smile.
How could I not smile when Junior, a six-pound beast, squatted over his food bowl, all four legs spread wide for optimum balance, protecting his grub from his seven siblings? Or when Jeannie bowled over poor Charmaine while she was taking a poop or when Gloria got into a determined tug-of-war with a spruce tree a million times her size?
As they grew bigger, as their energy increased, their magic grew exponentially until one afternoon their antics caused me to burst out in laughter. I hadn’t laughed for two weeks, and I forgot how good it felt.
It was a game of chase that did it. I had thrown a bunch of wilting sunflowers into the yard for compost earlier in the day, and Livia, the ferocious, intelligent one, had found one and dashed over the grass, around the magnolia tree, leading the scrambling pack with that sunflower – the stem twice as long as her body – gripped in her tiny maw.
A few times she flipped ass over teakettle, but she always hopped back up and bolted forward, flower in mouth, while her litter mates chased in mad pursuit, ears bouncing, tails wagging, wearing stubborn, excited expressions. Nothing about what they were doing was complicated. It was a game of chase with a sunflower, but that’s exactly what made it so special.
Later that night, after eating my first real meal in fourteen days, a pound of strawberries and a Swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on sourdough, I crawled into bed with Adriana, the beauty of the M8, who curled up like an elbow noodle in the crook of my neck, her stinky sweet puppy breath washing over my face, and the idea struck me that their magic was so powerful because it involved finding joy in the simplest, cheapest things that the world has to offer, like playing tag with a sunflower, tug-of-war with a spruce, tearing apart a magnolia leaf, chasing a frog, or leaping into a cardboard box.
The M8 were feverishly alive, and it was contagious.