October 15th, 2011
THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER
There’s a new woman in my life, and if I may be so bold, she's quite a beauty. Big brown eyes. Silky blond hair. She wakes me every morning with a tender kiss, and never fails to greet me at the door with a playful nibble on the ear.
Now before you all get to wondering how my wife Victoria could possibly allow for such woman to enter my life, I should say that the woman to whom I am referring is not of the two-legged, upright-walking variety, but is rather my new Wheaten Terrier, Bella.
In truth my wife would have no room to complain about Bella anyhow, seeing as it was she who thought it would be a good idea to add a puppy to our existing list of semi-housebroken dependents, which already includes an eight-year-old son and two rescued cats (both of whom are completely mad).
My wife, you see, has recently taken leave of her senses.
Picture, if you will, the scene from a few weeks back: I am at my desk, deep in mindless doodling – er, intense creative thought – when the phone rings. It is my son Raff, telling me in breathless haste that I must get home immediately. He then hangs up before my terror has even had a chance to register.
Panicked, I cycle like a crazed lunatic the eleven New York City blocks between my office and home. Has the apartment burned down? Is my family being held hostage? No. Indeed I am greeted at the front door by my wife and son, both of them all smiles and seemingly unharmed. But they are not alone. Before I can even get a word out, my wife places this faceless, formless ball of fur into my arms and gushes, “She’s yours!”
Now the difference is subtle, but saying ‘she’s yours’ is not quite the same as saying ‘she’s ours.’ She’s yours is actually wife-speak for ‘Surprise…oh, and guess who’s going to be feeding, walking, bathing, and cleaning up after this animal – often in darkness and snow - for the next decade or so?’
Luckily, for both wife and dog, I’m a softy for all things cuddly that slobber (which includes, come to think of it, my eight-year-old son), so any resistance on my part was futile.
This isn’t my first foray into dog ownership, but it is the first in a number of years. I got my first dog Demo when I was ten. He was a mutt, and a free handout from a neighbor up the street. Demo stood loyally beside me through grade school, junior and senior high schools, college and far beyond. I was twenty-six and engaged to be married when Demo passed away peacefully on September 10th, 2001…yes, the day before 9/11. Talk about the end of innocence.
Perhaps I’ve gone so long without getting another dog because I knew Demo would be such a tough act to follow. Perhaps it is because my wife (have I mentioned that she's taken leave of her senses?) continues to bring home rescued cats for us to care for, and I have been steadily losing all of my personal man-space in the apartment. All I know is that I probably wouldn’t have brought Bella home myself…and so I can only say that I am eternally grateful that my wife did.
Demo will never be replaced, but now I see he doesn't have to be. Bella, for lack of a better term, is a whole different animal. Demo was typically male in ever respect - he liked chicken bones, ribs, and Quarter Pounders. He never met a sweaty gym sock he didn't want to gnaw on, and he took great pleasure in scratching himself while watching football.
Bella, on the other hand, is a good and proper lady. She insists on a nightly brush and a monthly day at the spa. She won't leave the house without her pink bandana, and she is positively insulted by the suggestion of eating meat off the bone.
And I love her for it. In Bella I can already see that I have another loyal friend for life…not to mention an excellent writing partner. I'm serious. She’s a brilliant sounding board for bouncing off ideas. True, she can only speak with her eyes, but I assure you that I can read her thoughts loud and clear. For instance just yesterday I turned from my computer and said, “Bella, how can I open Chapter Twelve with some necessary exposition without losing any of the narrative thread?” Bella's visual response was immediate and concise, “How the hell should I know…when’s dinner?”
That sort of companionship just cannot be bought. There is no question that being a dog owner again has made me a happier husband, father, writer…and man.
So in closing I’d like to publicly send out a heartfelt thank you to my loving wife for bringing Bella into my life! And now, I’ve got a stained rug to go and clean…
(A picture of the new lady in my life can now be found in my photo gallery).