Life brings unexpected sweetness. Dawn’s illumination of hanging mists in Hamlin Park. Eclipse of a harvest moon over Lake Washington. Rose petals after rainstorms in North City yards. A thoughtful speaker over lunch at Rotary. Wenatchee tree-ripened peaches. Odd conjunctions of disparate ideas, spilling laughter over beer. A friend’s ear when needed. Great old books. Kim’s snuggle in darkness.
Immense sweetness erupted when Lucy, our miniature pinscher, arrived. I intended to get my wife a dog. I got a child, friend, student, and teacher. We instructed Lucy in humanity. Her knack for personhood makes me laugh out loud every day. I flunked as alpha pack leader. Patiently, Lucy schooled me. I now feed, greet, forage, and sleep properly. I grew canine; Lucy grew human.
One night, a thief invaded. Kim had taken dying friends for a final visit with Manitoba relatives. Lucy dashed out her doggie door for a midnight pee. Raccoon jaws waited. Canine screams ejected me from bed. A blur of snarling fur, dog and raccoon, rolled across our patio. I seized and flung the masked raider. Righting himself, that intruder glared defiantly. I raised my hands. I roared, a flaccid urban gorilla. The raccoon, unimpressed, nevertheless conceded and withdrew. Lucy stained the family bedroom crimson while coagulating. As dawn glimmered, we finished cleaning and cuddling. Antibiotic goop oozed. The vet said Lucy would live to err another day.
I negotiated a new balance of power with the indigenous raccoon population by introducing them to my BB gun. I coined new language with Lucy. “Big Dog,” inflected with urgency, warns of predators, raccoon or otherwise. Lucy still considers most of my commands mere advisory opinions. But when I utter “Big Dog,” she finds my leg and hovers, that violent night dancing again in her tiny skull.
Dogs are relational confection, one of life’s startling sweetnesses. Charles DeGaulle (French WWII leader, 20th century A.D.) said, “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” Most days, I concur. Dogs are the best humans I know.
[Lucy died on September 25, 2009, falling to a pituitary brain tumor, consequent Cushing's adrenal disease, and a persistent infection of unknown origin. Our hearts are bereft, though Sofie, our new pup, and time are knitting the wound of Lucy's absence.]