Every columnist or blogger in sight who has a dog has probably written about their relationship. The most heart-rending ones talk of the tears and grief that come when it is time for that furry bundle of affection to be “put down.” “Put down” is now a term of art. In the not-so-tender past we just used the word “destroyed.” When I was about eight my dog “pal” was hauled off by the dogcatcher — we now say animal control agent–and “destroyed.” Pal was getting old and crotchety, and I think snapped at my three year old brother. My eight year old self was bereft, and until I found Mattie 75 years later, I have never had dog that was really mine.
Four years ago, some weeks after saving Mattie from the certain death as unadoptable and unwanted, I published a column in which I took a break from my usual grim topics. I called it, NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. This is the second installment of this human/animal relationship. I have not wanted to wait until Mattie and I take our last grim ride to the Vet’s office, so here is the latest about my second best friend while we both are getting older but still in reasonably good health.
Mattie is black, with increasing streaks of grey in her coat, and holds her 12 pounds with little variation. She is probably no different than most other canines. Most of the time she knows she is a dog with only occasional notions that she is human. She doesn’t do any of the things that really smart obedient dogs learn to do. I think she is just too wise to be conned into them. She can be persuaded to sit on command, but doesn’t sit up, shake hands, roll over, play dead or bring in the newspaper. I have nothing to show when guests come, except that she thinks the whole world is out to get me, and after a loud greeting, positions herself between me and whatever assassin has come in the house. My neighbors think she is just stuck up, because she refuses to wag her tail in hopes of being petted. She just walks away seeking whatever happens to be in the nearest bush. She will occasionally allow a child to pet her. The only person, besides Wendy and me, she comes to eagerly is Anthony, who works on our community’s grounds. He says, “She sees God in me,” and he may be right.
She refuses to play with toys and will have nothing to do with anything that squeaks. In fact she knows that some sinister enemy lurks in my squeaky computer’s printer and coffee grinder. If I throw a stick or a ball expecting her to chase it and bring it back, she sits down looks at me as if to say, “Why did you do a stupid thing like that? Get it yourself.” On our twice-daily neighborhood excursions, which I call “walks” and she calls “sniffs,” guess who gets all the attention from those we meet? But they are offended when she ignores them. If I happen to be walking alone, nobody says, “Hi Charles,” just “Where’s Mattie?” Any time I get ready to go out, she sits in my chair and says, “Aren’t I going too?” When she sees me pick up her leash, she is right at the door.
In the house she is never more than three feet from me, and that’s 24 hours a day. She sleeps on the foot of the bed, and when the weather cools manages sometime during the night to get herself comfortably under our covers. The crowning accomplishment of her life would be to catch one of those pesky squirrels who always make it up the nearest tree no matter how fast her three inch legs go when I turn her loose.
There are those who will talk forever about their grandchildren when they are probably just like the grandchildren of most everyone else. Well, we pet owners are always ready to tell you how our dog is the most attractive, cutest, smartest animal in the whole world. I like to believe that Mattie is all of those things, and don’t you dare think or tell me any different.