Sunday, December 27, 2009

All Dogs Go To Heaven

As a child the world was nothing to me but a bleak row of inadequacies, humiliations, petty defeats. I had few pets. I was scared of dogs because they represented the snarling, unpredictable realities of the outside world, a world that spat in my hair. I hardly ever left my front garden. We had cats sporadically whom I tried to love, in the possessive manner children have towards objects in their ownership, but inevitably they died or were given away, with the same frequency my Mother’s boyfriends appeared and disappeared. In the end I stopped even noticing if they were around. Our rabbit escaped her hutch and tunnelled away into next door’s garden, right into the bitter and joyless grimace of our neighbour’s rottweiller. For a while I had a snake, who I cared for very badly. I forgot to feed him, I forgot to handle him, he died of neglect, and I decided against pets, or children for that matter.

Shortly before I went to college, my Mother bought a dog, to see her through the dull months between relationships. He was a boxer, caramel in colour and sleek like the 1930s, with the softest manner of anyone I’ve ever met, and I loved him. He loved me too, for once in my misguided life, it was requited. He and I found a grassy little outcropping amongst the barren rocks, the arid moonscape of so many so longed for loves. I let him follow me around, we fell asleep together on the sofa, he hopped up on my bed, and through one deep, springtime depression we watched Hedwig endlessly, simply because it was all we could manage. Charlie. He was big for such a young dog, he was all green shoots and joy, he had just been born and he was glad of it. He was na├»ve, for him everyday was dazzling, awash with possibilities, he feared nothing because nothing, no experience, had ever taught him fear. When we walked the block together, me broken hearted and he so full of life, he so stout and strong and me waist deep in self-starvation, we must have seemed like any other couple on the street. He dragged me behind, straining at the leash, barking with massive, abandoned, flirtation at everything and everyone, pouring out unbounded desire to comingle with the world, and even though I’ve always imagined myself to be more of a cat person, I never had a better friend than Charlie.

I did go to college, and Charlie served his time out bridging the empty time in my Mother’s life. In the middle of the night, in the middle of a tortured tangle of my body with another body in fact, my sister called. She was sobbing and I couldn’t quite distinguish the details of what she was saying, but I knew what she was telling me, just like you know now, as you’re reading this. I pulled the quilt around me, I turned on a lamp. I would have lit a cigarette if I were a smoker, it was that cinematic. I asked her to calm down and she whimpered. My Mother’s new boyfriend, not the worst of the lot but certainly not the best, had killed him in a temper. He said it was an accident, that he had taken him into the garden, slipped, and in the fall broken Charlie’s neck.

My Mother has a new dog now but I have no patience for her.

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