Whenever I pickup up a book or watch a movie about animals, I know there will usually be some kind of tragedy that unfolds. Bambi and Old Yeller taught me what it felt like to have my heart disintegrate into a dusty powder when the finger of death pointed my way. More recently, Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain gave me a refresher course.
You know. The sad tales that force the tears from your eyes to run, in salty rivulets, to the basin of your mouth. The ones that make your breath heave and shudder and your chest ache, but not so much that you won't go on to the finish. Tales that find the perfect ratio of sadness to joy.
That's how I feel whenever I accept a dog into my family. I know that the pleasure of our journey far out weighs the grief over their loss. Every time one dies, I say never again but, a few months later...here we go again. One of my dogs, Miss B.B. La La, turned 10 years old. She is strong and healthy and full of snarky playfulness. This decade of human years equals some kind of fuzzy canine time that's supposed to make her about 70. Her life span is dwindling.
This 10 year mark is one that I notice, not her. I notice how her already white fur is turning just a shade whiter. How she turns her back to me, puts her ears down and pretends she can't hear me when I call her to go outside. How she'd rather watch the other dogs play than join in as much as she once did. Her breathy whisper, "woof woof," as she gently wakes us in the middle of the night to go out, no longer able to hold her stuffin' until morning.
But, I also notice how she still puts on her 9:30, nightly Butt-Scratch and Sniff show. The funniest show on Earth. As regular as clockwork, she gets up off her pillow, eyes glinting with mischief, scratches her butt on the floor and shoots straight up, more than a foot, while turning and sniffing her butt in mid-air.
I wish I could catch it on video. In that moment, she's as agile as any gymnast. She contorts as well as any pretzel bending contortionist during her, thrice repeated, high flying aerial act. Then she comes over to me, nuzzles my head and schnarfles up the jasmine scent from my hair into her nostrils. For her finale, she hides her head under the sofa cushion with a curtsy as she waits for applause.
We're still enjoying the laughter together. The tears, gathering like a thunder storm along the periphery of my emotions, are still a ways off. Even though I know tragedy will surely unfold, this is a story I'm glad I didn't put down.