I had a dog once. His name was Tuffy. I didn’t name him. His name is one of a few things my children can’t blame me for.
Tuffy was a Sheltie, a miniature collie. He looked, I thought, like Lassie’s little cousin, only not as well groomed or smart.
He was a good dog, patient and longsuffering. He put up with a lot. He kept fit running figure-eights, carving a 3-inch deep race track in the yard.
He loved meat, but didn’t get to eat it often. At our house, there was never much left but bones. But Tuffy wasn’t picky. He loved bones as much as meat.
I wish you could’ve seen him.
If you gave that dog a bone, there was no getting it back. He simply would not let it go. I know this because my oldest delighted in trying to pry steak bones from Tuffy’s jaws.
The boy would huff and puff and pull his hardest. The dog would growl and snarl and dig his paws into the dirt. But the bone would never budge.
That’s how I came up with the term “bone love.” When you love something or someone “to the bone,” nothing — not years or miles or life or death — can take that love away from you.
I usually reserve “bone love” for people I hold dear, family and friends, or readers who write to tell me to keep writing.
But I also apply it to certain places: The Blue Ridge Mountains of the Carolinas, where I grew up. The Mojave Desert outside Las Vegas, where my husband and I spent the past 12 years. And the coast of California, where I’ve lived for most of my adult life.
Last week, we said goodbye to Vegas, and moved back to California, to the house where my children grew up and the yard where Tuffy buried bones.
My first husband and I bought the place as newlyweds. I wanted to live in it forever. But after our kids grew up and their dad died, living here alone wasn’t nearly as much fun.
Years later, when I remarried, my new husband and I planned to make it our home. But his job changed, as jobs often do, and we moved to Las Vegas.
Fortunately, we kept the old place and rented it to people who took good care of it. When he retired, we decided to move back “home” to be closer to the people and the places that we love “to the bone.”
So here we are with sore backs and achy knees, surrounded by mountains of boxes. Still, we know it was the right decision.
This house sits on a street-to-street lot with neighbors on all sides. Most of them have lived on this block almost as long as I have. All week, they’ve been welcoming us home. Myra, who lives behind us, brought snickerdoodles. Myra and I raised our kids together, my three and her four. She knows I love snickerdoodles to the bone.
When I go to the market or post office, I get unsolicited hugs from people whose names I can’t recall. It’s like a family reunion without the fist fights.
My husband played music twice this week with old friends, and plans to play again soon. When he isn’t playing music or unpacking, he’s blowing bubbles in the yard with our grandkids.
He makes me stop unpacking to drive a mile (we could walk, but I’d need to be airlifted home) to the beach for sunset. We watch waves crash on rocks, while tourists snap photos and the sun sinks into the sea. Then we go unpack more boxes. I’ve never seen him happier. He might say the same of me.
It’s such a gift to be with people you cherish, in a place where you feel at home, doing things you love to the bone.
Today, in the yard, I recalled a memory: My kids playing hoops. Birds singing in the trees. Fog rolling in off the bay. Tuffy running figure-eights.
The memory made me laugh. Tuffy and his race track, like so many loves I’ve treasured, are gone from this world. But I still love that dog to the bone. And nothing can take that from me.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website: www.SharonRandall.com.