I spent the whole of August of that year playing with a splendid little dog that appeared one day on the kitchen floor, awkward and squeaking, still smelling of milk and infancy, with a round, still unformed, and trembling head, paws like a mole’s, spreading to the sides, and the most delicate, silky-soft coat.
From the moment I first saw it, that crumb of life won the whole enthusiasm and admiration of which I was capable.
From what heavens had that favorite of the gods descended, to become closer to my heart than all the most beautiful toys? To think that an old, completely uninteresting charwoman could have had the wonderful idea to bring from her home in the suburbs—at a very early, transcendental hour—such a lovely dog to our kitchen!
Ah! One had still been absent—alas—not yet brought back from the dark bosom of sleep, when that happiness had been fulfilled and was waiting for us, lying awkwardly on the cool floor of the kitchen, unappreciated by Adela and the other members of the household. Why had I not been wakened earlier? The saucer of milk on the floor bore witness to Adela’s maternal instincts, bore witness, too, unfortunately, to moments lost to me forever from the joys of parenthood.
But before me, all the future lay open. What a prospect of new experiences, experiments, and discoveries! The most essential secret of life, reduced to this simple, handy, toylike form was revealed here to my insatiable curiosity. It was overwhelming interesting to have as one’s own that scrap of life, that particle of the eternal mystery in a new and amusing shape, which by its very strangeness, by the unexpected transposition of the spark of life, present in us human beings, into a different, animal form, awoke in me an infinite curiosity.
Animals! the object of insatiable interest, examples of the riddle of life, created, as it were, to reveal the human being to man himself, displaying his richness and complexity in a thousand kaleidoscopic possibilities, each of them brought to the some curious end, to some characteristic exuberance. Still unburdened by the complications of eccentric interests which spoil relationships between people, my heart was filled with sympathy for that manifestation of the eternity of life, with a loving tender curiosity that was identical with self-revelation.
The dog was warm and as a soft as velvet and had a small quick heartbeat. He had two petal-soft ears, opaque blue eyes, a pink mouth into which one could put one’s finger with impunity, delicate and innocent paws with enchanting pink warts on the outside, over the foretoes. He crept with these paws right into a bowl of milk, greedy and impatient, lapping it up with his pale red tongue. When he had had enough he would sadly lift his small muzzle, with drops of milk hanging from it, and retreat clumsily from the milky bath.
He walked with an awkward oblique roll in an undecided direction, along a shaky and uncertain line. His usual mood was one of indefinite basic sadness. He had the dejected helplessness of an orphan—an inability to fill the emptiness of life between the sensational events of meals. This was reflected in the aimlessness of his movements, in his irrational fits of melancholia, his sad whimpering, and his inability to settle down in any one place. Even in the depths of sleep, in which he had to satisfy his need for protection and love by curling himself up into a trembling ball, he could not rid himself of the feeling of loneliness and homelessness. Oh, how a young and meager life, brought forth from a familiar darkness, from the homely warmth of a mother’s womb into a large, foreign, bright world, shrinks and retreats and recoils from accepting the undertaking—and with what aversion and disappointment!
But slowly, little Nimrod (for that was the proud and martial name we gave him) began to like life better. His exclusive preoccupation with longing for a return to the maternal womb gave way before the charms of plurality.