I am walking through the lobby of a fancy-ish South Florida hotel, a small white and brown chihuahua on a leash, pulling me towards the front door and into the humid heat of the morning.
I look like a tourist, a woman vacationing in the sun for a while, wearing flowing dark purple pants and a bright top, her fashionable pup along for the ride.
We step outside and I try to guide him to a patch of tropical grass. He lifts his leg and I am surprised at how small he is. I guess I have not seen a tiny male dog pee before. I stare.
We walk around a bit more. We look like we belong together. We look like we have done this hundreds of time before.
A closer look would show that I have slept in my clothes - for the second night in a row. After crossing the country in a plane for the second time in three days.
A keen observer may also guess that Taco and I have never been on a walk together before.
Actually, Taco has bit me three times since I have known him, the last bite occurring just a few days ago as I was getting too close to his mom. Who happened to be my mom. Who happened to be dying. I was furious and I almost made my way to the airport that very night. Instead I stayed and remained terrified.
The day before our hotel lobby crossing, in the thick moments after we both lost our mom, as my sister, nephew and I sang her to her new Home while Taco remained curled up in the small of her back, I told him that he and I had to be friends. There was no way around it.
His grief breaks what’s left of my heart.
So I walk him. I feed him chicken breast from under the table of the fancy-ish hotel’s restaurant, the refuge my sister found for us that first day, that last day, as we drove around in a daze. I sleep next to him in the big white bed.
We don’t know.
We don’t know whose heart is cracked, whose dog belongs to whom and we don’t know when it’s time to look someone in the eye and declare that the biting time is over, no matter how terrified we might be.
I believe many Gifts will show up in the days and years to come, as I learn to walk the world without the careful, complicated and paramount contract of being my mom’s daughter.
I intend to be a good steward to all of them.