Lately I’ve noticed a change in Cassie.

She doesn’t coming running up the stairs as soon as she hears the bedroom door open. She’s too busy keeping guard at the bottom of the stair while chomping on a bone or making a chorus of animal noises with all the squeaky toys. She stays awake longer in the evenings, playing with her egg babies, chasing them all over the house. She doesn’t sleep in her crate as much as she used to, preferring instead to sprawl in front of one of the patio windows and keep an eye on the outside activities. She asks for attention when she wants it, nuzzling a nose under my hand at the computer and of course following anyone into the kitchen in the hopes that food will fall from the sky. She doesn’t just run outside to take care of business and race back into the house. She takes her time and meanders around the yard, checking out the fence line, resting on the patio while she surveys her kingdom.

What’s changed?

She’s a much more confident dog now than she was a year ago. It’s like she’s shaken off a lot of the old ghosts that were hanging around in her head and realized  that where she was, here and now, was where she was supposed to be. And that thought made her happy. A dog that is happy doing what she is meant to do, being a part of the family.

What did we do to bring about this change?

We loved her. We loved her even when she was making us crazy. We loved her through and in spite of all the expensive medical proceedures and the expensive medicine she’ll be on for life. We loved her when she chewed on a few things she wasn’t supposed to and when she barked nonstop in the car, no matter where we went. We. Loved. Her. Free from whatever her life had been before we rescued her she has blossomed into what she was supposed to be.

At the end of this month it will be one year since I was laid off from my day job. My non-writing job. My job that was so left-brained that for days, weeks, months even, I forgot I had ever been a writer.

I’ve spent the past year saying yes to just about any writing job that came my way and I’ve been lucky that there have been a lot of them. On top of all the freelancing I’ve taken some writing classes and kept up with my part time work doing web editing for the Children’s Literature Network.

In other words, I’ve been immersed in the world I love. The world of words.

My neighbor came over the other night to visit Cassie. Before she left she looked at me and smiled and said, “You look different. Whatever you’re doing, you look really good.”

She had told me that a couple of times lately and each time I thanked her but I excused it away saying I had done my hair, put on make-up, some excuse. But this time I went back inside and told my husband what she had said. Then I asked him, this man who has lived with me for almost a dozen years, if I looked different to him.

He smiled at me in that way that someone who knows something you don’t know does. And then he said, “You look happy. You’re not used to it, but you look happy. And happy looks good on you.”

My initial thought was to push his words away too, like I did with my neighbor. To deny the truth of them. But then I heard the squeak squeak squeak of the egg baby as Cassie chased it around the house. She brought it over and dropped it at my feet, this dog who just a year ago had no idea how to play, and looked up me with her half-open, tongue hanging out happy mouth. And of course when I bent down to pick it up she pounced on it and took off playing on her own, playing like the confident and happy puppy she is now, now that she is able to live the life she is meant to live.

I smiled back at my wonderful husband, the man who has given me this gift of being able to write full time, and said you’re right. I AM happy. I intend to get used to it.”

Lucky Cassie. Lucky me.