What is it with me and dog stories lately? I recently wrote about Mark Doty’s moving and beautifully written tribute to his two beloved pets, Dog Years. Then, for some perverse reason, I decided to put myself through the emotional wringer again. I picked up an audio copy of Marley and Me, by John Grogan, knowing full well it was going to have a sad ending also. Yesterday I finished disk three and it is clear that disk four is going to bring sad news. For diversion, I had bought a book recommended by a friend who knows me well. She has been urging me for weeks to read something by Anne Lamott, and I finally got Plan B and was hooked from page one. Lamott writes with an irresistible combination of humor and anger, trying to make sense of today’s world and reconcile her faith with dark days. Anyway, I opened her book to the next chapter, and darned if it was not about HER dog dying! It was a good entry in an enjoyable book, but the timing was uncanny.
As for my own dog, and obviously all this reading brings me to thoughts about him, he has a great deal in common with Marley. The difference is in degree. He is not quite as big, nor as destructive. Instead of weighing 90 pounds, he runs about 75, hardly petite but slightly more manageable. He has never destroyed an entire room or even a piece of furniture. But he IS as loyal as Marley, and I am the primary object of his devotion now that we both lost husband/master two years ago. Ringo turned seven this spring. He is in his prime, but there is a hint of grey in his muzzle. A long walk slows him down towards the end, and his romping is not quite so prolonged. Like Marley, when he is alone he does not do well. He misses me, and has a way of expressing it that uniquely meshes with my interests. He eats books. Since I am a librarian, he has come upon a way to get across his frustration at being left behind by taking out, literally, things I really care about. I try to remember to keep my books out of reach except for those in shelves, which he largely ignores. Every now and then he will take a book out of the shelf lineup and place it on the floor, just to let me know he can do that if he wants. But the ones he goes after are the ones I am reading. Yesterday I came home from work, having just been gone a few hours, and the first thing I noticed was the cover to my latest acquisition, lying unsullied on the floor. He always takes the cover off, as if carefully unwrapping a delectable treat. He does not eat covers. The price sticker was still on the front and the title was: A Thousand Splendid Suns. Oh no! He had eaten my new best seller that I had just bought for a summer reading treat! I had told myself it was safe put up on the breakfast room table, but of course he can reach up there. I looked around, hoping that he had just moved the book as a small reminder that he had been very lonely. No luck. I looked in every room of my little house to no avail. By then it was getting dark and starting to sprinkle. Surely he had not taken the book outside. He had never done that before, but of course with a doggie door the possibility presented itself. Oh well, I told myself, it will turn up.
Finally this morning I found the book. I was wrong to think he would not maneuver it through the doggie door. The book was lying in the damp grass in the back yard. Fortunately it had not rained very hard after all, and the book, minus its front cover which evidently he ate, is still readable. He had the good manners to look contrite, putting his head on the floor and looking up sadly with his liquid brown eyes when I made my discovery. But after all my recent reading, how mad can I really be?
PS As for Marley and Me, there is a very extensive website about John Grogan and Marley. Here is the URL: http://www.marleyandme.com/