Paws for reflection

We got a puppy, against my stern paternal and spousal advice and counsel, but no one listens to me much anyway, and no one listened to me at all when I muttered dark phrases like hidden costs and sudden puddles, and now, a month after we got the pup, she is technically still on probation, and dire lectures are delivered at dinner about Sharing the Load or Else, but the cold fact of the matter is that she is here to stay, and the chances of her being exiled back to the pup factory are nil, and she knows this, I know, because every time I corner her in the hallway, away from her many small shrill agents and apologists, and make her Sit!, and stare into her mad roiling eyes, and give her a terse lecture about her behaviour being totally unacceptable, she smirks and yawns and pretends to be fascinated by insects drowsing by, and she drums her snowshoe feet on the floor impatiently as soon as I finish my speech and thunders away like a driverless car and soon there is a crash or roar or sudden puddle.

Yet there are things I admire about her: the way she vacuums ants, and her general cheerful exuberance, and the way she chases balls with no regard whatsoever for her personal safety, and the way she loses her footing in the dining room and goes sliding headlong into the wall where she piles up like a race car but bounces up grinning, and the way she considers all cats brooding evil spawn, and the way she snores like an ancient horse, and the way she is terrified of wrens, and the way she falls asleep instantly when classical music drones out of the radio, and the way her ears pay attention when you ask her a question, and the way she licks any and all toes, and the way she thrums her tail madly when you say her name, which is pretty cool.

There are many things about her that make me snarl and moan, primarily the eating of caftans, chairs, cleats, coins, crayons, cushions, mail, marbles, mice, sandals, shampoo, shawls, sneakers, soap, toothpaste, and some other things I don’t remember and some I don’t want to remember, but it seems to me, all in all, that I have had worse room-mates over the years, and far louder and ruder ones, with far more peculiar diets, and far weirder obsessions and misdemeanours, and anyway not one of my room-mates over the years was anywhere near as good at sucking up ants.

I ponder what is coolest about the pup, and conclude it is the way she worships, the way she bears witness to miracle, the way she is a silent sacrament at daybreak: she pads down the hallway from the kitchen, where she has been eating the newspaper and worrying my shoes, and there in the warm dark she pitches camp, staring at the knobs of the doors, for she believes with a faith unshakeable that soon a hole in the world will open and out will come the rumpled gods she loves with all her hungry heart.

I watch this every morning and go away edified, graced, washed with joy.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon, and the author most recently of The Wet Engine (Paraclete Press), about the miracle and muddle of hearts.



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