Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This is the beginning of a very long essay written for my daughter. Too long to post in its entirety, but wanted to share this snippet:

The world doesn't need another dog story, and I hate to say it, our dog is neither genius nor terror, neither Lassie nor Marley, and I doubt my pen can magnify our ordinary lives into books and movies that will entertain the masses. Sterling, our fifteen-year-old American Eskimo, is hardly a hero. So, these words are for us. We have lived this tale, and now that Sterling is truly geriatric, you and I both know there will be an end. Each day, we see the last page coming closer. With each meal he leaves uneaten, with each time his atrophied leg slips out from under him, whenever we shout his name and clap our hands at the front door, and watch him bark or wait resignedly at the sliding door a few feet away, deaf to our racket, oblivious to our movements, we circle mortality, worried that death will step into view. 

Sterling's demise will arrive too soon, whenever it comes, because we want him to outlive us. We try to be rational. I say, “After all, he's fifteen years old. That's somewhere between ninety and one hundred and five in human years, and he's in great shape when you think of it that way.” You agree, out loud at least. But how can you think of it that way? You yourself are only nineteen and Sterling has been part of our family since you were six.

We know very well that you are the reason he exists in our household, and that he, in the form of mythic dog, existed in our lives the moment you could assert your desire. You, born to cat loving parents, were enamored with dogs from infancy, so much so that you became a dog, shedding clothes and abandoning speech as a preschooler. When you reverted to your human self you explained your imaginative integrity, “Dog's don't wear clothes. Dogs don't talk.” Your father and I entered your fantasy. When you were canine, we allowed you to run naked at home, and in the homes of friends and relatives, saying to them, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “She's a dog right now. When she's a dog, she doesn't wear clothes,” and because we weren't shocked or angry, neither were they. When you stripped at Round Table Pizza and barked your way through the Cub Scouts awards dinner in the banquet area, instead of scolding you, Dad scooped you up and said that if you could turn back into a girl, he'd take you to the playground next door.