Friday, August 28, 2009
On Dogs (Discovery for 8.29.09)
Good dogs are everything that humans hope to be, but never have quite achieved yet.
When I think back on all my good dogs I had when I was a boy, I can't help getting a little bit sad. There was Arky, a little obese weiner dog my aunt in Arkansas gave me. He thought he was a big, ferocious dog, and would bare his teeth to anyone who threatened me. He sat right beside me when I propped my back against a tree to read a summer afternoon away. There was Fala, a white spitz I named after FDR and Eleanor's trusty dog. Every day Fala trotted out to Hoskins' Grocery where my bus let me off. Everyone on the school bus crowded to one side so they could see him sitting there patiently awaiting my arrival. When the bus screeched to a halt there he'd wag his tail--three thumps on the ground behind him--then jump up to walk home with me.
Those were the two I had the longest, although there were others along the way. I miss them every single one.
And now I have other dogs, but my favorite of all is old Rufus, who is ten years old now, and showing his age in the way he's not running quite as fast anymore, in the slow way he arises in the mornings when I first step outside, in his wise brown eyes. He's the best of dogs because he always knows when you need him, and when you do, he'll sit right there and not move a muscle until he knows that you're done with being still. Then he will arise and even though he's old and tired he'll dance around a little to get you smiling. And once he knows he has done his job he'll zoom back off into the woods to rush rabbits out of the underbrush or mess with a groundhog. Sometimes he emerges from the woods completely covered in mud from rolling around in the shoals of God's Creek. Or covered in burrs from an overgrown pasture he's travelled through. Once he came back home with his butt full of buckshot. But he always comes when I whistle for him.
That's the main thing we can ask of those we depend on the most: to simply be there when we call. That's what Rufus always does. That's what the really good dogs always do. The thing is, dogs are so much more dependable that way. They're who we want to be.