There’s some dog guests today at the house, which makes my dog children crazy and wild with excitement. New dog butts to sniff, unfamiliar tails to chase and everyone’s precious little hackles go up, making all the hair on their backs look like they’ve gelled them into tiny Mohawks. The thing about dogs is that if you really look, they are all kind of the same colors, but the variations of these hues and the ways that they manifest themselves are infinite and unpredictable yet at the same time contained. These dogs are all different but there’s something ancient about them that makes them seem like they are from the same dog stock, that somewhere in history they came from the same dog place. It’s all the same dog family and dog genes and dog tree.
When my big dog ralph was alive, he would growl frightfully at canine social callers. He had no patience for puppies, and would turn any or all onto their backs at the most minor offense. It seemed like there was a thread in his jowls running up his snout, and when it was pulled it would lift his face up into a werewolf grimace, which would disappear as fast as I could say his name.
The littlest dog guest, Emily, also has this thread, right on her nose, a teensy stitch to display her displeasure at being sniffed by my Chihuahua Gudrun, who looks positively giant next to her toy breed runt body. I speak in a high nasal tone which makes this sweet visitor feel safe and she wraps her entire being around my neck like a muffler and I can feel her bones vibrate with my breath.
What a gift it is to be around animals who love people and I think that dogs are the most loving of all. I can’t speak about cats, as I am allergic and haven’t ever gotten to know one because of the sneezing and swelling that inevitably commences whenever I am close to one, but dogs I can attest have an affection that is unparalleled. No person has loved me like my dogs have, and I cannot be sure if I have loved anyone as purely and selflessly as they do seemingly without effort. I love how dogs don’t fear intimacy. They are daringly close and unashamed of their dog emotions and don’t hold back a thing ever.
This is why it is exciting to meet new ones and have dog visits and small canine events. The presence of pets is life affirming in the warmest and furriest way. I thrill at their elegant spines and how their dog legs move fast under their dog chassis. I can understand why people hoard animals and collect more and more to the point they cannot function and must have their beloved pets removed by the authorities and their houses razed to the ground to rid the floorboards of the ammoniated smell of a hundred animals or more peeing on the same spot.
It gets to me when these people have to let go of their important creatures, and I cry right along with them on the tv, as I couldn’t even imagine this. I could never. I remember the diehard folks during hurricane Katrina, standing on their rooftops with rifles, refusing to leave their animals behind and threatening to kill anyone who tried to make them. I get it. that is me right down to the ground. I could never let one of mine go. You would have to kill me first. Even in death, I can never let them go. They are mine and remain mine forever and ever. It’s my responsibility and my great pleasure. It is an honor to care for animals and this I never take for granted.
When I was adopting Ralph, he was just a baby black dot of fur on a desk. I filled out a form and scratched him under his chin where I would learn that he loved it best. There was a sudden commotion, as an older graying muzzle poodle was brought into the animal shelter by his owner, and the volunteer tried to calm him, as the owner, who I never saw, left the dog there without so much as a good bye. The poodle let out the most blood curdling scream, a howl that hurt my heart and ears, just one long note, held out and sustained in isolation and abandonment and fear.
the volunteer shook her head. “People have no respect for life. That dog is perfectly good. Perfectly healthy. She just doesn’t want him. No respect for life. None at all.” She looked at me with tired eyes that had seen much dog tragedy. She pet Ralph on his puppy fluffed chest, and she didn’t know his name was Ralph as he hadn’t even been named yet. “You take care of this dog. He’s a good boy. He will be a good dog for you.” I nodded solemnly and looked away not sure what else to do.
“I can tell you will do a good job.”
I knew that I would too.
The volunteer picked up the poodle, who would not be consoled. The dog flipped and squirmed and wrenched himself out of the volunteer’s arms and ran full force back to the entrance, pushing on the heavy wood and glass door with all his dog might as if it was the only thing keeping him from his owner’s side.