While making the bed, the photo of Sophie on the wall caught my eye, and I looked, really looked, and then I was sitting down on the corner of the bed sobbing reflexively, the sort of crying like a sneeze, it comes upon me unexpectedly, almost violently. I lift up my hands though tears don’t quite fully emerge, I shake for a few seconds, and then it passes. I catch my breath, my face relaxes, and I’m fine. I haven’t had one of those about her in awhile, maybe a couple months, it made me nervous at first, but then I let myself just have it. There is no special occasion anniversary nearby to trigger it, but grief is rarely a two-dimensional narrative. Maybe the occasion is acknowledging that I’ve become one of those people who sighs wistfully at the memory and the mention of my fallen companion. It is probably the easiest way to get me to tear up, to talk about my dog, but it is also easiest for me to tell dozens silly stories and memories that no one else could really possibly care about though they make me so happy. You are either a pet owner, or not, though even among those that are, there are different schools and approaches to how people attach themselves to animals. I grew up with a cat, Max, who was a dream come true to my 12 year old self, I have great fondness for cats and enjoy interacting with them, but it is just different, a dog is different. A dog is always there, always there. She was one of the first things I thought of in the morning and the last things at night. My afternoon schedules were always coordinated around letting her out during the day. There is an intimacy with dog’s company that is not usually the same as cats, from being at our feet, literally and metaphorically, lying in wait and springing forth to action the moment we move, watching us so intently and relying on us. Though I have met and heard of a couple cats who are very dog-like in their attachment and relationship to people, and there are certainly dogs who couldn’t care less about people, so I’m not saying anything is absolute, but there is a reality to the companionship that can form between the primary owner and the dog. It is a love, and all love is familiar to each other, but they are also all different and now I’m learning how this one is different from others, so I’m acknowledging how that for me it feels different. And I get it now, I get why people stare off longingly at portraits of their beloved dogs that have passed on and get lost in the reverie of remembering for a moment. It is silly, but it is happening despite myself.
So I was reminded recently of an old post I’d written about her on a previous blog and decided to add a new photo, make minor edits, and bring it over here as a permanent homage to the love that turned me into That Guy when I talk about my dog.
June 13, 2008
For those who have never seen my dog, or don’t remember past photos, this is Sophie:
She’s about 40 pounds and as tall as your knee (if you can’t tell since there’s no reference people in the pictures) and when she’s out in the world, her tail is always up and waving and she prances, and then when you talk to her, her ears go back and she wags and jumps on you in this slow way that makes most people reach out and grab her paws as if to dance (even though I always knee her in the ribs and encourage others to do the same, it’s bad manners to jump no matter how cute you think you are). In other words, she’s a really fierce, menacing creature.
One thing that constantly surprises me about my dog is how much Dudes loves her. And by “Dudes”, I mean butch men. And I mean ALL version of butch. Motorcycle bike dudes. Teenage corner dudes. Shirtless muscled lifeguard dudes. Old dudes on the porch smoking a pipe. Military tattooed VFW bar-in-the-middle-of-the-day dudes. They don’t just look at her — they will smooch their lips, click their tongues, talk to her and tell me she’s a “nice dog”, though sometimes they will actually say she’s “so pretty”.
Today I took her out in the backyard before I left for work. My next door neighbors – two dudes renovating the first and second floor apartment units – were outside as well. They said hi to me briefly, then immediately went to the fence when they saw Sophie. “Are you looking for biscuits?!?!” They have a habit of slipping her a biscuit through the chain-link fence most every time she’s out, so now she expects treats but loves the attention more. She’s wagging and wagging and licking their fingers. One of them goes upstairs into the house to get her treats. The other one stays behind and talks to her in lilting sing-song way. I am throwing away garbage while this happening, going in and out of the alley, listening around the corner. The dudes give her the biscuit, compliment her sweetness, watch her run over to the grass to chew it…….then turn their shirtless, camoflage pants-wearing selves around and go back to slap-boxing the isht out of each other.