Stories & Lit
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Taking Care of Me
Soul support comes on four paws and wearing a wedding veil


I did it again.

I know that I shouldn’t have. I promised my husband that I wouldn’t. But I couldn’t help myself. I have no excuses, really. I understand that to some, my crime is tantamount to animal cruelty. But it couldn’t be helped.

And yes, it involved a novelty wedding veil. I know I should be ashamed of myself.

Eleven months into my husband’s deployment to Iraq, I was counting the days until his return. The Day of the Veil started like any other. My dog, Mabel, and I were on our way out for a walk when the phone rang. It was my husband, and as I chattered about how excited I was that he’d be coming home soon, he broke the news that his unit had been extended indefinitely. He didn’t know when he might be coming home, but it wouldn’t be at the end of the month as we had planned.

Mabel, sensing that something was amiss, dropped her leash and immediately took up residence on the couch. As I sat down, wrapped in a cloud of grief and anger, she rearranged herself, put her head on my lap and remained there through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food, a couple of glasses of wine and more Kleenex than I cared to count. She even stayed put as, still crying, I pored over my wedding album. As I fiercely sobbed, making sounds only a dog could tolerate, I explained that her daddy wouldn’t be home for a while. She looked up at my mascara-stained face with big, understanding eyes that said, “Please tell me what I can do to make you feel better.” And it was then that the idea of the veil came to me.

It was a novelty wedding veil that had been purchased for my bridal shower, an inexpensive headband with some cheap muslin stapled to it, tackily adorned with sequins in a crown formation. Why, oh why, I decided that my dog needed to don this veil was beyond me.

In the first few months my husband was gone, I had attempted, without much luck, to photograph Mabel in a variety of outfits. With each phone call, my goofy, loving husband seemed further and further away from me, so sad and matter-of-fact. I thought photos of Mabel dressed up like a ballerina or a baseball player would make him laugh. But she was less than compliant, and the photographs weren’t as funny as I hoped (mostly because she kept running away), so when my husband received the first batch of pictures, he made me promise never to do it again.

But on this night, she accepted my torture with grace. She stood quietly as I slipped the veil on her head and maneuvered it into position. After standing back to study my handiwork, I laughed and hugged her muscular body close to mine, grateful that I had such a good friend to help me face the unknown of the coming days. I snapped a photo, not to send to my husband this time, but to keep for myself.

The truth of the matter is, when we first adopted Mabel, I never thought she’d be so accommodating. Previous dress-up attempts aside, the puppy whom we had rescued two years earlier was a timid little thing, terrified of everything and anything. Back then, just the sight of that veil would have unglued her.

My husband and I had been dating for only a few months when we stumbled across Mabel at his apartment complex. We had walked together to the main building to accomplish two pressing tasks—our laundry and his lease renewal. I started the laundry and he went on his own to the leasing office. A few minutes later, he returned and motioned for me to come outside.

“Come look,” he said quietly, and curious, I followed.

There on the steps of the complex office was a small white puppy with brown and black spots. Her head was mostly brindle-colored, bisected by a sleek white racing stripe leading down to her wet, black nose. Her ears, also brindle, flopped adorably on either side of her face. She was dirty, smelled of a mixture of rotten eggs and swamp water, and was lying next to a bowl of kibble that looked entirely too large for her little mouth. But she was absolutely charming. As we approached, she cocked her head to one side as she took measure of us, her brown eyes opening wide and her tail slowly thumping against the porch. We must have passed her test, because, after taking a few steps backward, she allowed us to touch her.

“She is too cute!” I said, as she tentatively nuzzled my hand.

“The leasing agent told me she was abandoned here a few weeks back. Can you believe it?”



Kayt Sukel has contributed articles, essays and book reviews to the Washington Post, USAToday, the Christian Science Monitor; JIVE magazine, and National Geographic Magazine. kaytsukel.typepad.com

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