I cried for nine days straight after Boone died, and Violet lay on the floor in her frog pose and looked up at me, confused, lonely, helpless. I started reading The Grief Recovery Handbook. It said don’t try to replace the loss. At work, I told my friend Kate that I was going to live through my grief and when the time was right, I’d get another dog. Kate said she was going to give me some advice, take it or leave it. Kate’s mother had loved animals like it was her job—well, actually it was her job; she was a horse farmer, but she loved goats and dogs and whatever else ended up on her property. And Kate’s mom would lose a pet and go right out and replace it. Kate said, “Ame, go get yourself another dog. It’s what you want. Get another dog.” And I did. I got you. And I loooooooooooooooove you.
I made the mistake of getting on petfinder.com, and there was this lady Dawn, see, who rescued pit bulls, see, and she could show me some dogs that day, but then she’d be unavailable for a week. I told her I’d be there by 4:00. (Just to look, of course.)
I drove way out in Orange County and took a dirt driveway a quarter-mile to a mobile home surrounded by kennels, fenced areas, and broken-down trucks loaded down with bags of Eukanuba. Dawn was sunburnt and smoking a Camel. You and your sister and another pit puppy, all about 3 months old or so, were arfing and wagging yourselves into circles. I petted the two girls, and they were so SWEET and WILD. But when I scooped you into my arms, you gave me a smooch on the face, let out a big sigh through your nose, and put your head on my shoulder. So much for just looking.
I made the rounds with you that night, and everybody was besotted. People kept trying out names. Rosie said she wanted to call you Cracker because you were the color of a cracker. Um. Mary mentioned something about the Sundance Kid, and I’m not sure who said it, but all of a sudden, there it was, hanging in the early-summer humidity above Mary’s porch: Robert Redford. You had strawberry-blond eyelashes like him, and you were certainly as handsome.
The next day we went to the vet. You were a mess. They clipped your nails and cleaned your ears and put drops in your eyes and treated you for hookworm and kennel cough and injected fluids into your shoulder. A few days later, I threw you and Violet and Rosie in the Outback and drove to Dan’s house in Princeton, NJ, a nine-hour drive which took us twelve because of the damn traffic around DC. You were a champ; you peed in the car only once—and hey, what are those rubber mats for anyhow? The four-hour trip to the Cape took seven. Ugh. Again, you were perfect. And Mom and Dad were so excited to meet their new granddog! Even Great Uncle Russell, a dyed-in-the-wool Cat Person, agreed you had a “wonderful disposition”. “Hello, boys!” he’d say when you and Violet came in the room.
Ah, Cuttyhunk. You loved that island just as much as Boonie had. We went to the BEACH AND ATE DEAD SKATES EVERY MORNING and CHASED RABBITS FOR HOURS EVERY EVENING. You showered the Lovells with love. If anyone could make Dog People out of my mom’s family, it was you and Violet. Course, you were still suffering from liquid poops. Son, those are hard to pick up, but I did it because I didn’t want every other beast on that island getting hookworm. (It would eventually take three more treatments to get rid of the worms and the protozoa that was backstroking around your intestines. At least, I hope we’re rid of it all by now….)
Anyway, we spent the summer hiking, going to the dog park, and dog-sitting Moby, Katie, Jackie, and Barley. You remind me in many ways of Boonie. When you sit, it’s on your heels; your ass never touches the floor. You have that wrinkly-headed, dopey look. You poop at the drop of a hat. You torture the cat when you haven’t had enough exercise. You chew everything. (So far: all of my flip flops, Mary’s flip flops, four blankets, two pillows, a doormat, the cat’s scratching post, and a director’s chair. That’s in addition to eviscerating all the chew toys I’ve bought you, dammit.) Your bark gets houndier every day.
But you’re not Boonie. You’re your own dog. You love all dogs and kiss them square on the mouth with tongue to let them know it. When you run, depending on the direction you want to go, your opposite hind leg kicks out like a rudder. You’re a little wall-eyed which I find staggeringly adorable.
You’re not Boonie, Redford, and that both pleases me to no end and breaks my fucking heart.