Monday, June 3, 2013

The Bond

We held a pet blessing service at my church yesterday. I took my boy Giddy along. During the service I read a piece I'd thrown together a day or two beforehand. So, I'll just cheat and share it here.

What binds us to our non-human companions?   What do we seek in them?  

I live with three dogs – two of my own plus a long-term foster dog.  They are all Boxers. I’ve also lived with cats for most of my life, until the passing of my cat Ella Fitzkitty last year.  

The dogs, my clan of knuckleheads.  What can I say about them?  Well, for starters . . . they eat an awful lot and have expressed an occasional willingness to eat their own vomit. And by “occasional” I mean “every single time the opportunity arises.” They drink too much water and sometimes pee on the floor as a result.  They have floppy jowls and like to shake their heads, flinging tiny bits of food and unidentified goobers onto my walls. They emit waves of gas that bring a tear to the eye. They bark at strangers and friends alike. They jump up on visitors and walk horribly on leash.  The dogs have all passed basic obedience classes, but only by the skin of their teeth. They have denied all knowledge of basic commands since then.  “Sit? What is this ‘sit’ of which you speak?” As far as I can tell, they are planning to spend most of the summer attempting to slay the neighbor’s dog through a one-centimeter space between the fencing slats.  Or, if not to kill the neighbor’s dog, at least to bark relentlessly at her through that opening. I picture them lobbing “your mama’s so fat” jokes and other rude barbs at the little black dog. 

What binds me to these unruly beasts?  It is challenging, indeed, to articulate my devotion to them.  Their devotion to me may be, in part, derived from the fact that I feed them. I feel confident that they’d just as happily accept a meal served to them by Charles Manson. But, I like to think they have some appreciation for me that extends beyond, say, what they’d see in a random stranger.

When I come home from work, they act as though my arrival is the very best thing ever to happen to them. If I walk outside for thirty seconds to get the mail, they act like my return is the stuff of miracles. I appreciate their excitement over the little things in life – dinner, a walk, a car ride. I envy their ability to be free of worry. Their hearts are pure, their actions mostly devoid of ulterior motive. Well, except for their less charitable feelings towards the dog next door.  If you accidentally step on a paw, they forgive.  They sense when I’ve had a bad day and stay close in case some emergency tongue-to-the-face action is needed to in order to soothe me.  My dogs hold masters’ degrees in the dual arts of spooning and consoling. 

Gideon, in particular, is my boy.  My heart dog. When he is sleeping, I sometimes say to him, very softly, “Are you my boy, Giddy?” and even in his sleep, he wags his nub. Yes, he tells me, I am your boy. We have quiet moments, just between the two of us.  I get down on the floor and sit cross-legged while he presses the top of his head into my sternum.  I hug him and tell him he’s the bestest dog ever.  I worry that he’s starting to show his age, but have decided to ignore the grey muzzle and stick to the theory that he might just be immortal.  

Spending time with Giddy and the other dogs . . . well, it nourishes my soul in some small but meaningful way.  Their joie de vivre helps me to let go of the little things that often draw my focus.  I suspect that my canine companions do far more for me than I ever do for them.  I love the slobbery galoots and don’t mind admitting that they make my heart all gooey.  If I can forgive the goobers on my walls, I can admit that these goofy little spirits make my life just a little bit sweeter.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Outstanding, outstanding, OUTSTANDING. Don't think I've ever read anything that accurately describes just what it's like to be owned by a Boxer, until this piece.