Stories & Lit
Musings on the world's oldest friendship in personal essays, memoirs, fiction, classics and, of course, humor.
My golden retriever, four years old,
has not yet learned to swim.
He is standing chest-deep
on the edge of a green, rippling
pool on the West Fork of Cold Spring.
The sandstone floor of the pool
slopes into the deep end, but he stays
rooted in the shallows, even though
an encouraging lifeguard stands by
in the person of his patient owner.
Come on, I say. Fetch! I say.
The stick floats in a sparkling eddy,
Einstein greets my clients with an enthusiasm no paid receptionist could match. I mean, even if I paid a receptionist $100,000 a year, he or she wouldn’t give each client a big sloppy kiss. He then escorts the client to the sofa, sitting right next to him (if not on his lap) and bestowing another round of kisses. An occasional client prefers career counseling without a face-washing and eases Einstein off the sofa. Undeterred, Einstein assumes the position: head on the client’s shoes.
Once upon a time, back in my teaching days at Minnesota State University in Mankato, the Chair of the Agronomy Department, Dr. Mohammed Azad, lived in the modest white stucco house clinging to the James Avenue hillside like the American middleclass clutching by its bloody fingernails to its disintegrating economic status. Mo had two PhDs—agronomy and hydrology—so I called him Dr. Dr. I often queried him in the words of Harry Nilsson: “Doctor, Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take, Doctor, Doctor, to relieve this belly ache?”
Wherever scent blows, this hound goes.
Flop-eared mutt, three times snake bit,
Bound by the black wet leather of his nose.
He trots the trail happily, lapping the green
hills over & back again. O! to be
this dog, pissing & crapping, drinking
in the trough of wind—coyote scat,
dense fur snagged on outcrop rock,
pine duff, the frag & slough
of opossum skin, the bear’s
bleached bones, musky underneath
of river stone—
“He’s worse than a baby,” my husband liked to say about our dog Nigel when the Hairy Son was acting particularly needy and pining for our attention. Of course, this was before we had our actual (human) baby this past summer and learned that Nigel—our 11-year-old Lhasa Apso— is indeed not worse than a baby.
In fact, there’s no comparing Nigel to our daughter Mirabelle. Nigel doesn’t cry inconsolably. He doesn’t wake us up throughout the night. He doesn’t suffer from gas pains. He doesn’t require a car seat or diaper changes or burping or the application of diaper cream.
We weren’t going to keep her. That was understood at the outset. By me and by my partner Kathy. By the Greyhound adoption group. By the Greyhound advocacy group that had deemed her a candidate for rehabilitation. Possibly even by Blondie herself. And after we brought her into our home, we wondered if we should have taken her at all.