He had a running star on his forehead, a cunning lope, and fur like a flock of piebald pigeons on a factory roof. He was as vigilant as only the speechless can be, guarding my windows and ringing my solitude with a gum-pink, skulking warmth.
His going carved in me a hole I hoped he’d take as his new home, a place he could rest after his long ride on the grill of that car.
It walks it runs it jumps right off the page but it’s not your dog, is it? No; you never had a dog, were a cat person, a clean white rat person. A people person.
And even if you do like dogs, this isn’t your dog you’ll find here. So Why bother?
Because what you’ll find is the missing link, furred and animate, as real as the mail that never comes. The bridge between what you had and what you lost, between what you wanted and got, between what you forgot and what you remember:
the dog you sent into the street after a spit-heavy tennis ball, then the thud of bumper on bumped,
the one that clawed through the basement door and was gone,
the one that ran from you and never looked back.
Remembering is harder than running. It takes more muscles, the little ones you never see. And it takes the nails pulled out of old birdhouses to sift through imagination for the indigestible pellets of memory.
He would lean against my leg when I cooked, ignoring the other strays I’d taken in. Or he’d crouch like a predatory sphinx, ready to leap. At his rivals or my throat or into his lack of a future I couldn’t tell. He was a good dog, a bad boy, a cow, a horse, a pony. A fulcrum on which to balance the world and yet something born without its bones set, fixed to break before it bent. Mud on his paws and smearing his snout, he was a digging dog. Dug his own grave and dug me out of mine.
I keep my memory of him full of holes, so he can come…and go. If you could slip between those ellipses you’d see how he’s different each time.
To fill in the gaps of memory is to be stuck with the same story always, one that sucks out its own insides and leaves a brittle shell. Which is not what I want for you, either. What I want is for one of the millions of images you recall to originate here, with me. It’s painful to be recalled, to be pulled like floss through the crowded teeth of a mind. But recall me and I’ll come.
Because the dog could be me, a creature of sharpened confusion. Would you still cuddle up on the couch with it? You let it on the couch when you’re alone, don’t you, indulge it in a way no one indulges you. You’re eating something bad (barbecued potato chips, sugar cubes) and the dog cranes its neck to lick the crumbs in the corners of your mouth.
There has never been a dog, you tell it, quicker than you, even when you’re lying down. You spin like a pixie-colored pinwheel on an impossibly green lawn, and no matter how fast you go, I won’t ever fall behind.
The dog lets you feel its teeth through the furred mouth flaps that sometimes hitch up on its eye teeth. It lets you whiff the waxed church pew smell from the insides of its ears.
And in the arms of this strange creature you have imagined down to the direction the hair whorls near its tail, something proudly smelly that you’ve woven into the upholstery of your long-enough-to-stretch-out-on couch, you have never felt so fully yourself.