The first point of confusion I’d like to clear up is that there are three legs left, three good legs that are perfectly capable of lifting the entire lithe grey body over a single-strand barbed wire fence from a standstill, especially if the human you love is standing next to it, crying about your osteosarcoma, about your lost fourth leg, about your impending decline and premature death, about how she will never live without you.
You jump over the barbed wire to show her that your death is still a long way off, that for a wolfhound three legs is a kind of koan, that your one true goal is to stay alive long enough to help her find another human who will love her properly after you are gone, and that finding that human is at once as improbable–and as effortless–as a three legged wolfhound sailing over a four-foot barbed wire fence.
She has been such a slow, yet eager learner, and that has given the assignment a sweetness like none that has ever come before, tinged with the fear that time would run out. Tucker, Adam, and Peter. I could waste a lot of your time trying to put them in some kind of order from bad toworse.
She and I would be spooned up in bed together after one of their untimely departures, she’d be trying to take comfort—as most people do—in the cinnamon smell of my ears. I’d roll over to face her and press the ends of my big black nose flaps right up against hers and try to stare everything I know right into her eyes. Sometimes she’d get it and fall asleep, dreaming of sea turtles and prayer flags, other times she wouldn’t, and she’d sleep dreamless just to know someone was keeping watch.
It’s funny how love is both harder, and easier, without language.
I watched the moon, those nights, roll from one of her windows to the other. I never went to sleep myself until the light behind the mountainsmarked the dawn.
A wolfhound isn’t afraid to die. A wolfhound isn’t afraid to suffer. A wolfhound practices non-attachment—with only modest success when it comes to the organic beef roast she cooks for dinner, and very little success when it comes to her.
The tail, a very important part of a wolfhound’s musculature in terms of carriage and balance, made all the more so by the amputation of one leg, reveals this failure by thwacking rather violently, as if it had a will of its own, against walls, doors, windows, every time she walks in the room. Tail to washing machine provides the best resonance, a booming beating heart.
It makes her smile. Twenty times a day, two hundred times a week, two thousand times a season, how many smiles hath the thwacking of one tail wrought? Countless, though more to the point, counted upon, and therefore forgivable, since counting upon anything has been an ability she has not heretofore possessed.
She barely has the covers up in bed and I am there, rib to rib against her. She only has to think about sitting on the couch, and I am there, curled up at one end, ready to warm her feet. She has hardly made a trip as far as the clothes line without me. There has never been a time when she has extended her hand into the car’s back seat that I haven’t licked it. I go each week to the therapist’s with her, and I drink the water he offers me, whether I am thirsty or not.
There are three principles to remember if you are to teach a human being anything, and they are consistency, consistency, consistency. They are such fragile creatures to begin with, with poor eyes, poorer hearing and no sense of smell left to speak of, it’s no wonder they are made of fear. Some centuries ago they moved inside and with that move went nine tenths of their intuition. It is almost unmerciful to make them live solong when they spend their lives in so much pain.
Yesterday she and Howard and I walked in the mountains behind her ranch, which were covered with purple lupine and skyrocket gillia, and little blue grey butterflies fluttered among them, the color of barn wood at dawn. The streams are fat and full this summer, Rose was tumbling in them, scattering rainbow and golden trout. Everything brimming with life and health, except me, of course, which now is of even less concern than ever before, and even I was keeping up better than usual, the crisp dry day giving my overworked hip joints a reprieve.
I heard my human singing a little song under her breath, I don’t think there were words, just syllables, Doop-y-doo, she sang, doop-y-doo. The grief she carries—always–in her face was gone. She leaned over and kissed my wet whiskers, and Howard kissed her hand. Then I stumbled a little, nothing serious, nothing any four legged healthy hearted dog couldn’t have done, and when I looked at her again, she was still smiling brightly, yet behind the smile the sadness had returned.
Perhaps that is the most the humans can hope for, a moment on a blue Sunday morning when grief closes its eyes and dozes off for a while, when it relaxes its old arthritic hand. If that’s true, I’ll die proud of having helped her to a few of those moments. Of the day two years ago when I leapt the fence for her–though my heart wouldn’t allow it yesterday—of the way she gasped and clasped her hands together as my body reached the top of its trajectory, clearing the barbed wire by half a foot, if it was a millimeter, and I kicked my back legs even a little higher into the air.
Dr. Evans #1:
I see a lot of animals in here. I mean sometimes twenty-five in a day, all of them critical in one way or another, all of them with perfectly nice owners who each try to make me understand that their little Rover or Morris’s mind-boggling uniqueness is matched only by the depth of their bond with him, and should I not be able to pull out of my hat some highly experimental cutting-edge surgical procedure to save him, their hearts, their psyches– not to mention their marriages–will never be the same again.
I’ll be sitting with them in the consultation room and their little Rin Tin Tin is ten minutes away from being dead from tumors the owners have somehow let grow undetected to the size of basketballs and they are literally throwing thousands of dollars at me with big glassy tears rolling down their faces and saying anything, try anything, it doesn’t matter how much it costs.
I want them to know so many things at once, then. First, though I may not appear to be, I am on their side; and if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be behind some big oak desk in an advertising firm figuring out ways to sell people even more coca cola, or driving a landscaping truck full of begonias around the wealthy suburbs, or making my father happy cutting out and replacing human organs over at the medical center on the other side of campus. But where I am is here, at what is arguably the finest college of veterinary medicine in the country, sixteen hours a day, fighting the good fight on behalf of the animals.
The second thing I want them to know is that I’m not God, though I impersonate Him daily, and am delighted when He lets me get away with it. I can’t save every dog and cat that comes in here and no amount of money or tears or wishing will make it so I can.
The third thing I want them to know is that I believe every word they tell me. I believe that long faced Henry is the smartest Basset Hound in the state of Colorado, that silky Vishnu picks out her own flavor of cat food each evening, that fluffy little Fooseball comes to the door of her rabbit hutch whenever she hears her mother’s car in the driveway.
I believe that Maggie and Guinness and Decker and Sarvis and Walter and Moxie and Toto and Dumpster and Spot is each one of them the greatest dog that ever lived. And that Stanley and Monkey Boy and Trader and Scat and Road Kill and Tigger and Josephine and even fat Apostrophe is each one of them the most wonderful cat. That’s what you learn here, and every ferret and hedgehog and pot-bellied pig and now all of a sudden even every flying squirrel—perfection on four legs.
Please do not mistake my tone for sarcasm; there is not one ounce of derision in what I say. In ten years I have opened the bodies of more than ten thousand animals and what I have seen there lying around and among their organs are souls as deep and authentic as anything in creation.
You don’t have to convince me, I want to tell the owners, I will try equally hard for each of them. So hard that I will lie awake the night before every surgery making lists in my head. So hard that my wife is ready to divorce me because I’ve had to return home from two family vacations in a row when one of my patients became critical and because I do tend to sleep in ICU with a dog the night after a particularly grisly surgery, and while it’s true that aside from watching Detroit Redwings hockey, veterinary medicine is the only thing that makes me happy and it makes me happy every single day, I literally cannot afford to get even more attached than I already am to this hospital or to any one particular case.
I don’t say any of these things to the owners, because I am not, I am told, a people person. So I sit there and look at my hands while they cry. I offer them x-rays and life expectancy charts and statistics from recent veterinary journals. I try to rub an ear or scratch a belly in a way that shows them I’m more than just the guy with the knife. They take me on faith and I take their faith seriously. I try to save the miracles for the operating room.
Having said all this I have to admit there was something special about Dante. I saw it right from the beginning, though I tried not to acknowledge it. He knew things– I wouldn’t want to have to say what all they were–but he knew a lot of things. His mom—his human mom– used to say he knew all the secrets of the universe. She said that when a high Tibetan llama does a really good job at being a high Tibetan llama, he gets to come back as an Irish Wolfhound.
At first I thought she was talking about real llamas of course, which I found confusing because we’ve got half a herd of them out here behind the clinic, and I was pretty sure they came from Peru, and while they definitely weren’t dumb they were mean as snakes when it came time to vaccinate them, they’d spit right in your face if you gave them the chance.
Then one day in the shower–which is where I figure most things out– I realized she meant the priest kind of lama and I only have limited experience with priests too, but I can tell you this dog knew more than any priest I ever met.
Let me give you a concrete example. When this dog developed the mother of all post-surgical infections and I had to scrub…SCRUB… the dead tissue out of his wound three times a day, a wound so deep I could look down in there and see the plate and the bone and the screws, see all the work it had taken my interns and me thirteen hours under anesthesia to accomplish–eleven of those being microscope work where we tried to repair all the veins and the capillaries, the most sensitive tissues—and that now some bacterial that wasn’t responding to anything—even to the eleven hundred dollars a dose antibiotic—was threatening to eat completely away….he didn’t move a muscle. He didn’t yelp or jump. He didn’t even twitch.
I have experienced nothing in my life that would hurt one tenth as much as that scrubbing must have hurt Dante, but this dog knew I wanted to help him. He understood what we were trying to do better and more completely than a person would, no matter what I might have said or what they might have said, if both of us spoke the same language. Which is another reason you find me here, at the vet school and not across campus working on human beings.
I’ve got nothing against people, except for all the ways you can’t trust them. I’m a veterinary surgeon, and a good one. Some people say I’m the best goddamn veterinary surgeon in America right now.
My father, who went to war instead of med school and wound up delivering the mail for forty-five years, still leaves the veterinary part off of my title when he tells his news friends about be. Everybody’s a disappointment to somebody I guess, and I’m his, and my mom’s, and my wife’s if you want to know the truth, and her mom’s too.
I ask you, has there ever been a dog who hasn’t approved of his master’s career choices? Or one who would make you sleep on the couch because you missed a stupid barbeque with your stupid neighbors who only want to talk about golf and the Home Depot, two subjects you know absolutely nothing about and hope never to?
Have you ever been in the waiting room of a veterinary hospital? It’s not like a Home Depot at all. In the middle of the night sometimes there’s an hour or two between emergencies and then that room is just a big space full of stained Formica and cracked vinyl chairs with chewed legs. But most of the night somebody is sitting there, flipping through a magazine without seeing the words, trying not to cry, trying not to look at the clock, trying not to ask the receptionist for news she doesn’t have on the Afghan hound whose stomach flipped over or the Siamese who had her first grand mal seizure or the Great Dane who has finally fallen into congestive heart failure.
During business hours there can be as many as fifty or sixty people in there, waiting for Abner to finish his chemotherapy, waiting to see if Blacken has developed any secondary pulmonary metastases, waiting to hear if the lump on Fiona’s back is malignant or benign. Sometimes I walk through there on my way to recovery and there’s a soft humming in the air like what you hear sometimes in a church, like all sixty of them are holding their collective breath, all sixty of them are murmuring their prayers.
There’s no mistaking the restrained sniffling that occasionally gives way to sobs, no missing the hopeful little Tupperware containers full of broiled chicken breast that might tempt Sadie even though she’s seventeen and hasn’t eaten a thing in days, no avoiding the hands that clutch the favorite toys, the beloved blankets, the empty carriers, no escaping the fear in the human eyes– so much more complicated than the fear in the eyes of the animals–as they follow my footsteps along the corridor, waiting to see if I am the one who comes with the news.
I once watched a big man, a marine, a man who if you passed him on the street you might believe didn’t care for anything in the world, fall to his knees when my intern told him his cockatiel had inoperable brain cancer. It’s okay for the people to cry in here. More okay, I think, than over at the med center because here, there’s nobody they have to be strong for. For years they have been jilted, cheated on, rejected, fired, and their pets have come to them and placed a warm nose on their thigh, a knobby three-toed claw on their shoulder. Would a dog ask his master not to cry over him? Would he ever misinterpret the grief?
Every now and then a silence will fall over the waiting room, and you know a family has decided to take a deceased pet home. We offer cremation, at no extra charge if the owners want it, but sometimes they’ll want to bury their pet in their back yard. When the room gets that kind of quiet, as the family crosses the tiles to the elevator, pushes the button and waits with the big zipped-up blue body bag wrapped in their arms or thrown over their shoulder, sometimes even carried between them, it makes a person long for the sound of the sobbing again.
I hate doing amputations. I mean, they’re the simplest operation I do, about as complicated as cutting up a roasting chicken just before you sit down to eat it for dinner, but with the exception of begging the suits in Administration for research money, amputations are my least favorite part of this job.
I know what people said after I punched the operating room wall right after Dante’s amputation and broke a couple of the smallest bones in these very well-insured hands. They said that God’s gift to veterinary medicine was pissed off because his miracle reconstruction was a failure, because he wouldn’t be written up in the journals, because he wouldn’t be flooded with offers that would get him out of this meat market and into private practice, working two days a week and spending the rest of the time playing golf.
Have I mentioned how I feel about golf? Have I mentioned how anyone who holds that opinion of me can shove a graphite compound nine iron straight up his ass?
I wanted Dante to have four legs. I wanted Dante to live forever.
It’s possible that my first mistake was that I never married. But if you’re born and raised in California, there’s something inherently wrong with the whole idea of marriage. The same kind of disconnect can happen if you are born Episcopalian and then you try to become a Buddhist, which brings me to my second mistake.
My first love was Ricky Nelson. After that Roy Orbison. After that the incomparable David Byrne. Ricky Nelson led me to Mick Fleetwood, Roy Orbison led me to Bruce Springsteen, David Byrne led me to Michael Stipe, and so on and so on into this new century.
I myself am a mostly unappreciated playwright by trade, a screenwriting hack by necessity, a poet in my heart, and in these unrequited loves I find inspiration. I wrote 100 coronas of sonnets to John Lennon, some of them double coronas, which represents, as you may know, nearly a thousand poems.
I write them, I mail them, I hear nothing in return. There is no art without suffering, and it gratifies me to know that the intended recipients of my letters pay another person, in some cases perhaps a whole team of people, to put my poems straight into the trash.
I have managed to acquire addresses for all my living mentors. My friend Rae says the internet is a dangerous tool in the hands of someone like me, but I do not abuse my knowledge. I send them things—artist to artist–poems mostly, sometimes newspaper articles I feel would interest them, an obscure book or CD that they might have missed. They are busy people, rock stars, and I’ve got nothing but time on my hands.
I would like the record to show that I have never dropped by any of their houses, have never thrown myself into any of their paths even if I happened to have found out, say, where they buy their groceries or get their dry cleaning done.
I like to imagine that in a few cases my letters get through somehow and they enjoy them. That I am, for some of them, the ideal fan. I am, after all, a dedicated scholar of their music, and I bring to it a deep and complicated understanding, deeper sometimes I’d wager, than they bring to it themselves.
My third mistake, as it turns out, has been investing the last ten years in my memoir, I Was Born In The USA, Too, in which I attempted to show, using Springsteen’s last seven albums, that my life and his life have run an almost perfectly parallel course. That aside from a few logistical differences: he’s been married, divorced and married again, he was raised looking out at the Atlantic and I the Pacific, he clings to his Christian upbringing, while I have tried to inhabit a different faith, he’s in a different economic bracket, naturally, and he does have that gaggle of children from the woman with the puffed-up hair…but when you’re talking about pain, about the kinds of suffering life dumps in your lap again and again, the Boss and I, we’re blood brothers.
I don’t know, I thought he would want to see it. I thought I owed the guy that much. Then all of a sudden one Tuesday morning the phone rings at my cabin and I pick it up and I say, “Hello,” and the guy says,
“Hello, is Jonathan there?”
And I say, “This is him,”
And he says, “Hey, Jonathan, it’s Bruce.”
I was sure it was somebody trying to fuck with me, and it took me a minute to respond.
“It’s Bruce,” he said again, “Bruce Springsteen.”
“Yes sir,” I said, “Mr. Springsteen, how can I help you today?”
He told me he was doing a concert in Sacramento in a couple of weeks and he wanted me to be his guest. I knew about the concert and told him so, told him I already had my tickets, that I had taken my sleeping bag down to Arco Arena and spent the night there with a couple dozen New Jersey ex-pats so we’d be the very first ones in line.
The Boss said, “But I bet you don’t have a back stage pass, do you?”
To tell anymore would be too much like bragging, how I got to tour with the band to their next three gigs in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, how restaurants would re-open after the shows, just for us, and make the Boss’s favorite dishes, pot roast and bar-b-cue and homemade meatloaf with heaps of mashed potatoes; and how Clarence and Nils Lofgren and Bruce would sit around these restaurants after dinner with their backs against one chair and a leg up on another, acoustic guitars in hand, singing all the not- for-prime-time verses of the songs they’d been singing on stage since I was a boy in short pants, and how Patty, who hung around for all these years until Bruce finally saw the light and married her, would get tired of all the old stories and all the old songs and she’d curl up like a little girl in one of the booths and go to sleep, how the Boss had a star over his name on the door in Portland and how he tore it right down and gave it to me, for your scrap book, he said, and the best part of all, how when I first got down to Sacramento and traded the seats I bought at Arco for a backstage pass, and a bouncer showed me the line of electric tape I had to stand behind, right up there on the side of the stage, and after I watched Bruce start off with a bluesy solo acoustic version of Born in the USA that was designed to remind all those asshole car makers who appropriated that song what it had really been trying to say in the first place, and after the end of Born in the USA fed right into Who’ll Stop the Rain–the only cover he did all night by the way—and made his point about our current political situation all too clear he looked right out into the audience and said “Did my friend Jonathanmake it?” and for just that one second my whole strange life made sense.
But the problem with three days like that is that you have to come home from them, and what happens after your little wet dream of a rock and roll fantasy comes true is that all of a sudden there is no more longing, there are no more poems, there is no more art. I couldn’t listen to the Boss’s albums at all after that, and turned my attention to Hendrix and Morrison and Stevie Ray Vaughan, guys I knew would never call me up.
Rae told me about one time she was flying from Denver to Kansas City–they gave her the upgrade at the last minute–and as she slid into seat 2A she looked at the guy in seat 2B and was pretty damn sure she was sitting next to Joe Montana.
Joe Montana seems like a guy you’d know if you saw him, especially Rae who’s a sports fan down to her toes, but she said he was so much smaller than she thought he would be; his wrists looked too thin to chuck a ball eighty yards.
So the seat belt sign went off and this trembling businessman came up from 4B and said, “Joe, I still have your jersey over my desk at the office,” and Joe was polite to the guy but Rae could tell he wanted to be left alone.
When their meal came Joe seemed willing to chat, and Rae apologized in advance
for being an Elway fan, and Joe seemed to like that approach better than the guy who trembled.
“Sitting next to someone like Joe Montana can only be disappointing,” Rae said, as if it were obvious. “You want to kneel down and kiss the earth around him, you want to say, there’s no way I can express how much happiness your existence on earth has brought me, but there he is in front of you, just another guy in first class in an expensive golf shirt, and there you are, on your way to talk about some play that you can’t quite remember writing, both of you gnawing on dried out chicken sandwiches with stainless steel forks and plastic knives, and you are struck suddenly by the fact that it won’t make any difference whether anybody remembers either of you ten minutes after you’re dead.”
I sent Rae tickets to see the Boss when he went through Denver. I can do that now with one phone call; get Springsteen tickets for any show, any night, anywhere in the world.
“That guy,” she said, “has the most amazing work ethic of anyone I’ve ever seen.”
“Jesus Christ, Rae,” I said, “You are getting so fucking old.”
I’m going to try to overlook the fact that my opinion was solicited so late in the game. Creatures of the feline persuasion are used to such treatment. However, you’ve done your project an injustice by not coming to me sooner.
Writers, it is said, all carry a chip of ice in their hearts, and the same can be said of cats. If you want to make all the kiddies laugh and the old ladies tear up, then go ahead and trot out your veterinarian with the heart of gold and your three-legged wolfhound. If you want the unsentimental truth of the matter, always ask a cat.
I’d like it also to be clear that the dogs and I have an understanding. That’s how I like to think of it, an understanding. Rose likes to use me as a chew toy from time to time, and I’ll allow it, as long as she doesn’t have any little friends over who think the sky’s the limit, and as long as when I make the move to the cabin roof Rose understands that’s enough for one day. She’s got a lovely soft mouth, and it feels good, for a while,
to be massaged in such a manner.
Dante is another matter. He likes me a bit too much–if you’ll excuse me saying so–he seems to have a kind of Socratic sexuality if you know what I mean, practically ignoring Rose even in the days when she used to go into heat, and getting his short hairs in a knot over buff little boy dogs, little hounds especially, fox hounds and Chesapeakes, and shockingly, from time to time, even me.
I suppose it’s to be expected, given his over-close relationship with his mother, and neither of them is to be blamed for that considering all they’ve been through together. Who’s to say Socrates and his friends didn’t have the right idea all along?
I wouldn’t know much about any of that, had my balls chopped off back in ’92. Sure I get a little thrill when Rose chews on me, but that’s kind of a size thing. That girl outweighs me by almost a hundred and thirty-five pounds.
There are Francophiles and there are Anglophiles, there are cooks and there are bakers and there are dog people and there are cat people and when anyone claims to be both, well, I have to be a bit suspicious. Rae falls squarely into the A list in all three categories, which may explain her sloppy personal life, but Rae and I, too, have an understanding.
She allows me to live in her house rent free in exchange for keeping the mouse population in check to the point where she doesn’t find little red wriggly babies in her underwear drawer. She’s not required to pet me or talk to me or make nice with me in any spurious display, but I am appreciative when she turns a blind eye to how much I enjoy sleeping on her writing chair between ten and twelve in the a.m. when the sun hits it in a very particular way, and when she lets it slide if she finds me sucking and kneading on her blue fleece robe with the grizzly bears on it. A cat’s got to exercise his instincts from time to time after all, even a cat who has lost his balls.
I’d like to go on record as saying that I like Howard too. That I am willing to overlook all the unpleasantries involving the squirt bottle, that I now understand he was new to the house and not fully cognizant of the power structures in place. That he believed Rae when she said she was allergic, and he didn’t understand, as we all have come to, that she’s actually talking about an allergy of the spirit, and if I do happen to sleep on her pillow between 2:30 and 4:30 when the afternoon sun comes in their bedroom window, he now knows that it is hardly going to send her intoanaphylactic shock.
I’m aware that there was some confusion about the interpretation of my response to the squirt bottle—ten little mouse heads, all lined up in the mud room, all facing the door—and I want to clarify that there was no threat intended whatsoever.
I was sending one message and one message only and that was just a note to the front office about how consistently and effectively I do my job around here. Don’t think I’m not as capable as the next cat of spelling out REDRUM in the body parts of small furry creatures. If I want to send a threatening message, they’ll be the first to know.
That aside, Howard’s a good egg. When you’ve lived as long as I have in a house with two women who are mad at their fathers, a hundred and sixty pound girl dog and a three-legged mama’s boy who’s as queer as a two-dollar bill, you’d be happy anytime an extra y chromosome showed up.
And while he’s a far cry from what I’d call a man’s man, Howard has learned how to use the fencing tool since he’s been here, he fires up the bar-b-cue of a summer evening, he’s officially in charge of disposing of the rabbits I chase into the basement, corner and eventually kill, and he never fails to say, “Jesus, Stanley, this one’s more than half your size,” and I’ll admit this old cat chest puffs up a little.
And let’s face it. This ranch is the Morrison’s Cafeteria of Catly Delights. You’ve got your field mice by the hundreds, your pack rats out in the barn, the swallows that build their nests in the eaves, the rock marmots who live in the culvert, and the jack rabbits that taste like shit but have got game like you cannot believe. That and the reducing diet cat food Darlene and the vet have suddenly decided I need. I say, Sure thing sister, give me a little RD snack just before I go out and hit the north 40 serve-your-self mouse-o-rama.
But I’ve wandered from the subject again. I’m not a young cat anymore, though you’d never know it to watch me take a ptarmigan down. If I have any real opinion about Howard, I suppose it would be, Better Rae than Darlene.
And don’t go mistaking that for anything it isn’t. There is a reason Darlene and I get along so well, and it is not because I spend several hours of my day fretting over her emotional well being. I don’t waste my time having an opinion about whether or not Darlene will ever want to share her life with one of her own kind, or whether when and if she does make that decision, she will choose one that we all can live with, and I assure you she doesn’t waste any of her time wondering the same kinds of things about me.
I’m a cat, for Chrissake, and I have my own interests to consider. It’s bad enough when Rae goes away on an airplane and I have to share Darlene’s bed with that unwieldy, leggy hound. I have lived too long and come too far to share my bed with any man who comes down the pike. If he drives a milk truck for a living, or maybe raises wild Coho salmon in his spare time, maybe we can talk. In the meantime, I’ve got everybody under control around here, and that’s the way I like it.
I like Howard. I know my opinion doesn’t count, because I’m the next dog, and I’m probably just agreeing with everyone else, because as we all know “Rose has no real thoughts in her head.” Even so, here it is. Right from the beginning he let me put my tongue all the way inside that big toothy mouth of his and lick off any remaining food particles, and I’ve got to respect that in a human being.
I’d also like to point out that Dante, the evolved one, was just evolved enough to be a little skeptical of Howard at the beginning. That may not be the story he’s telling now, but I could smell the skepticism all over him and I had already touched Howard’s uvula with my tongue several times by then.
And while it’s also true that yes, I did enjoy the company of Peter, who everyone else could apparently see through as if he was made of Saran Wrap, I was hardly old enough to be very discriminating at the time.
After all, I’m the next dog. I’m not here to say one person is better or worse than another, and while it’s true that “Rose isn’t going to win any major intelligence contests,” especially compared to the evolved one, and while it’s true that if Howard is trying to make me come inside at night and I don’t want to all he has to do is lie down in the middle of the street and play dead and I fall for it every single time, maybe that’s justa different kind of evolution.
I told you. I’m the next dog. My assignment is to teach her how to play.
2 thoughts on “Sight Hound”
Dear Pam Houston,
Sunday night my sweet Hannah dog died of osteosarcoma. She was about 6 years old. I had read “Sight Hound” last year before her diagnosis, and over and over I’ve returned to it for the beauty and your insights and perspective, all of which ring so true.
Hannah was a rescued dog who came to us when she was about 10 months old — an incredibly beautiful long-haired German shepherd who only weighed 55 pounds. When she was diagnosed, we made some difficult decisions: her front leg was amputated and she went on a serious chemo regimen, but in the end the cancer metastasized in her lungs. We only gained 6 1/2 months, but right up until a short time before her death she continued to be the most joyful and tail-waggingest of dogs. She seemed to think her job in life was to make sure we knew she loved and appreciated us, and to show us how to deal with physical difficulties with courage and even exuberance. She brought great happiness into my life and I miss her more than I can say.
I want to thank you for the help you and Dante’s story have given to me personally. One thing that you say towards the end of the book resonates for me right now: There are moments when I think that because she’s not here, I have no real purpose in life. … If only I can remember the love she was so adept at showing, and if the memory of her death can be overcome by memories of her sweetness and life, then I’m sure the desolation I’m experiencing now will recede.
Thank you for “Sight Hound,” Pam
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