A survey of canines
This weekend my neighbor uploaded a picture to Facebook of the one-year-old golden retriever staying at her house. Within five minutes my sister and I were knocking at her door, falling inside the house and onto the kitchen floor, burying our faces in the wriggling puppy’s golden fur.
It’s no secret that my sister and I are full-blown dog fanatics. My friends have grown accustomed to my squeals of delight as we stroll the Downtown Mall, scouting out cute puppies. Nobody is surprised when I run across the street, kneeling down to meet whatever furry creature has caught my eye. Usually the owners are understanding, and smile at me like one would smile at a small, simple child. Other times, they pull their dogs along, wanting to save them from the crazy girl who is racing toward them, arms open wide.
I’ve always loved dogs, known dogs, and been covered in dog hair. Growing up we always had at least one big muddy-pawed pup jumping on beds and bringing dead animals to the front door. My favorite books from my childhood were from the “Good Dog, Carl” series, where a Rottweiler named Carl takes care of a baby girl when her parents are away. Unfortunately, my mother never left me in my crib with our dog Sophie to babysit, but I would like to think that if she had, Sophie would have done a fine job.
I think I love dogs so much because dogs are not people. People, myself very much included, are always lagging a little behind in some way or another. I’m okay with it — in lacking something, we make room for all the chaotic good stuff to happen in our lives. But sometimes I need an ideal — a certainty. And dogs have never disappointed me.
I used to have a lab-mix named Wally whose head was smaller than his neck; his collar would always slip off because of it, but he never left home long enough for us to worry about his lack of ID. Wally would sleep at the foot of my or my sister’s bed every night for as long as we had him — from elementary school to our senior year of high school. He always managed to lay right on top of my legs so that they would fall asleep, and in the middle of the night I would inevitably wake up and have to angrily nudge him off of me. He would slip down to the floor, grunting, until I fell asleep again. When I woke up in the morning, he was invariably back in his original position, wagging his tail.
When Wally got sick my senior year, he would go lay in our yard or our neighbors’ yard, unable to move once he was down. My father would take a wheelbarrow out and scoop up Wally, and then carry him up our steep front steps so he could sleep inside for the night. He could no longer jump on my bed, so I lay on the floor with him. Wally was simple and wonderful and caring, and I didn’t know how much I loved him until the foot of my bed had an empty space where a big goofy lab used to lay.
This weekend I went to the gym, a coffee shop, a themed party and a few bars. I cried from laughing too hard at my roommates, and I got in a fight with my sister. I waited too long to do my environmental science homework and I officially ran out of groceries. But all I really remember is the dog I met, the one-year-old golden retriever who wagged his whole body — curving his back around my shoulders so we were essentially hugging. The dog who heard a mop fall to the floor and started barking, circling the mop as if it were an armed gunman. The dog who reminded me of my dogs, of all the dogs I’ve ever had. And I forgot about the minor disappointments, about the people who are lagging just a little behind. Because there are good dogs in the world, and that’s all the certainty I need.
Mary Scott’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com.