Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black and tan reality

It wasn’t that I hated dogs. I just wasn’t fond of them. When I was growing up, my dad would acquire a dog--a collie, a mutt, a shar-pei, a boxer, a lab--and we’d keep the dog for a few months, then give it away. Over and over. I’d get attached, then the dog would be gone. After a while I lost the ability to bond with dogs.

A few years ago, Greg began hinting that he wanted a dog. He hinted in a subtle way. "I want a dog," he told me.

“I’m not a dog person,” I replied. “Dogs are dumb animals. Their only talents are leg-humping and slobbering, and they have terrible pee-aim.”

Six or eight months after Greg’s biological doggie clock kicked in, we were asked by friends to dog-sit. We agreed--it’s what friends do, right?--and John brought Murphy, a black and tan mini-Dachshund, to our apartment. He also brought a bag stuffed with toys, dog food, treats and a blanket. John gave us the basics in Murphy-care, thanked us, kissed Murph’s head, and left.

After a few moments whining at the closed door, Murph turned to stare at G and me. He sat down. He cocked his head to one side. Licked his nose. Stared. Snorted. Licked his nose again.

“Cute,” I said.

“Murph!” Greg squealed, and threw himself onto the floor. Murphy launched himself into the air, front paws splayed, and landed on Greg’s face. The two immediately started playing together.

“Don’t break him, Greg,” I advised. “Greg, don’t be so rough. Greg, be careful.”

Greg and Murph ignored me.

To get to the point: it’s because of Murphy that I agreed to take in Waffles. During that dog-sitting session, I was left alone with Murph for a while--Greg went to work, and it was just me and the dog. We were both suspicious of one another. I sat on the futon, typing, and Murph would nudge my ankle, snort, run into the bedroom and wait for my reaction. I’d offer him a squeak toy, hold it out for him, then place it down just as he ran forward to retrieve it. We spent a lot of time staring at one another, trying to work out what the other was thinking. What I was thinking was, “Jesus, dogs really are cute when they want to be.” And what Murphy was thinking, probably, was, “Why is this asshole just staring at me. PLAY, dammit.”

We played, eventually. Blankets, toys, mindless running, giggling, barking, slobbering play. By the time John returned to take Murphy home, I’d bonded. Greg and I began working out how to afford a dog, and a year later we had Waffles. Below is video evidence that I've played with a dog that wasn't Waf:

Murph was wary of Waffles. Waffles adored Murphy.

On the 9th of December, John’s wife Kristen had a terrible thing happen to her. And the terrible thing spread, and then it happened to John. And it happened to Murphy, too. And the terrible thing happened the way terrible things usually happen: very quickly and very finally.

After the finally, Greg and I stood in John and Kristen’s charred apartment realizing how lucky Kristen had been to escape. Soggy piles of charred ceiling and walls were on the charred, soggy floor. The DVD collection, the TV, the furniture were all gone, and it hadn’t been removed by humans, these things, but by fire. Obliterated.

Kristen, when the terrible thing happened, was pulled from the apartment by neighbors. She was pulled from the apartment as she tried to go back into it. Against all sense and safety, Kristen tried to save Murphy, a terrified dog that wriggled from her hands and dashed down the burning hallway to the safety of the bedroom.

There are two types of terrible things. One has a finally, and one keeps going. The fire ended, thanks to FDNY. But the loss continues, and is also terrible, a sustained terrible which hits you over and over again as if you’re a bell. Just as you forget about it, it hits you again: Loss. Loss. Loss.

Greg and I spent some time standing in the remains of Kristen and John’s apartment, then we came home and stood in our own apartment. We evaluated all the things we’d managed to accumulate over the course of our own shared lives. We hugged one another. We stopped thinking about the things in our apartment.

Waffles danced at our feet. With a lot of mixed feelings, both Greg and I bent down, patted his head, competed with one another for scruffing rights, causing Waf to dance even faster.

Here's as good a time as any to work in a Vonnegut quote, which is, "I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.

When a child, and not watching comedians on film or listening to comedians on the radio, I used to spend a lot of time rolling around on rugs with uncritically affectionate dogs we had.

And I still do a lot of that. The dogs become tired and confused and embarrassed long before I do. I could go on forever.

Hi ho."

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