I'll never forget the first time I was at a restaurant with my mother and couldn't finish my meal. She told me we would ask the waitress for a doggy bag. I asked her why they called it that and she said that's just what it was called. We didn't have dogs when I was little, and my parents were not pet lovers. It wasn't until I had a dog of my own that I started to understand that phrase. Now I know that the doggy bag was there so we could bring some of that wonderful meal with us and share it with those at home, humans or dogs.
Today I am finding a little more meaning in the idea of a doggy bag. When I walk my dog, Elsa, I use a leather dog leash. (I have never been properly trained on the retractable leashes, and they are far too technically advanced for me!) In the course of nine and half years, we have found an easy, rhythmic way of communicating with each other through that leash.
Most of the time we walk at a similar pace and there is slack in the leash, with just enough pull from her to go faster, and hold back from me, that we can each feel the connection to the other. Every now and then, that leash goes completely slack but she's not out in front of me. My heart lurches and I know a moment of panic. I have to look around to see if she's gotten loose from the collar, just sniffing something extremely important, or if she's found something dead to eat!
She does a funny thing with me, too. If I so much as take my cell phone out of my pocket to look at the time, she stops, sits down, and waits for me to put it away before we continue on. She absolutely will not walk with me, if I am texting, talking, or in any way involved with my phone. This is her time with me and she expects me to pay attention to her!
By now you are thinking, “If she starts talking about picking up after her dog, that's it. I'm quitting this blog!” Well I am a responsible dog owner and I could go there, but that's not what occurred to me today during our walk.
I was thinking about that connection between us. How sometimes it's clear and present, and at other times it just a suggestion of a connection. We may be just out for a leisurely stroll, but we know we are tied to each other and we both want it that way. Other times, we may be tugging to go in separate directions, but again, there is no doubt about being out there together. But let that connection feel like it is gone, and we immediately feel the void.
I am thinking of how I am connected to this world, to the people in my world. Sometimes the connections are clear and present. They are tangible and I am secure in knowing we are connected, though it be through disagreements, shared joys, or any number of strong emotional interactions.
Sometimes the connects are loose and slack. They are in the background between us, but I am secure in the knowledge that the connection is not broken. We feel each other's presence and know that we can take up the slack any time we choose.
If the connection is broken, really broken, through anger, death, divorce, or just plain losing contact through time and distance, I feel the void. I have a sense of loss and a sense that I want to find out what happened to that other person. I want to be assured of their safety.
Asking for a doggy bag at a restaurant seems to imply that I am thinking of my dog and the connection I have to her. So instead of allowing my leftovers to be thrown away, I choose to bring something home to her.
In the same way, with the people in my life, I want to always bring home a doggy bag and share the main meal of this life in the form of a phone call, a text, an email, a smile, an apology, a new idea, a birthday card, a new question, or a thank you. I want the people in my life to know that no matter where I go, no matter what I've been doing, no matter how long I've been away, I am thinking of them, and I bring something of myself to share.