I've still got it.
A charm best appreciated by dogs, small children, and the beings I like to call Other People's Husbands.
When I was a kid, I used to say (and know, really) that I absolutely preferred canine companionship to the human flavor. I suspect I was addicted to unconditional love, and silence.
The most surprising thing about my adult life is not that I live in Spain, not that I never married, and not that I never had children. The truly shocking thing is that I've never had a dog (as an adult). The travel - for work when I lived in the States, and for travel's sake now - has always stopped me. An apartment rented from a landlady who doesn't accept pets is also an issue at the moment.
So where do I wind up? In dog withdrawal. I've found myself battling an acute bout of that debilitating illness now that my life has slowed. And I swear to you, the furry darlings are picking up on it. The Salmantino dogs who cross my path are extra careful to eye me, I tell you. And they grin as only dogs can. Many even dance across the plaza to greet me, despite the persistent whistles and calls of their owners.
I went to my first Salamanca yard party and soon found myelf hanging out at cocker spaniel and toddler level. Til the Husbands wandered over to check on the new business, that is. Were there single men at the party, you ask? Why, I don't know. I didn't talk to any. (Note to self: don't let your mother read this.)
I had a wonderful dose of canine affection in Ireland. Big, shaggy, slobbering farm dogs, outdoor dogs, thrilled to find a B&B client happy to sit in the field and talk to them. Or stand perfectly still on her one good foot and let them collapse, leaning all of their weight on mine, eyes closed in chin scratch ecstasy. Or in the case of my favorite Irish dog, just collapse, spontaneously and land on top of me.
Why dogs and kids and Other People's Husbands, you ask? I don't know. I feel no particular addiction to kids and happily married men. I suspect the 9 year old in me is mildly familar to children, and as for the husbands, well, I don't whine, I drink Guiness, I know my baseball and music, and have an uncanny ability to see both sides of the spats I inevitably hear about.
My mother wrote me an e-mail the other day to send me a message from a long lost friend. Seems the ex-husband of one of my closest friends, with whom I spent years double dating then tagging along as a more than welcome wheel number three, walked unexpectedly into the office where my mother works. He asked her to send a warm hello to his favorite "friend of a wife" - either of his wives, it seems.
Dogs, kids and Other People's Husbands.
Not a bad tribe, really.