Giving shape and form to my somewhat diaphanous life are these two dogs, one deaf and the other afraid of cats. As Jimmy Stewart once quipped in “It’s a Wonderful Life”: “Well, you look about like the kind of [guardian] angel I'd get.”
Maybe I’m the guardian and they’re the angels?
Each night, the 300-pound beagle needs to go out — at 3 a.m., then again at 5 — thereby ensuring that I’ll always be a little chilled, my toes a bit damp and that I’ll never finish a single naughty dream.
I don’t even think the 15-year-old beagle has a bladder any more. Food and drink goes directly from his mouth to our lawn. Where once he had a liver and bladder, there is now something gelatinous, like the stuff you skim from boiling meat.
I’d say that the beagle is no longer in his prime, but like me, he probably never had a prime. Plus, he’s now deaf and barks at every imagined noise. Also like me, he barks the most at things he cannot see.
Yet, to be honest, when his internal alarms go off at 3 a.m., so do mine. Patter-pat-pat, the two of us head for the front door.
Thing is, I always took pretty good care of myself — shunned second helpings of haggis and those huge icy cups of Coke they serve in fast food joints. I love nothing more than an 80-ounce soft drink, with crushed ice sparkling like wet diamonds. But I resist that animal urge. From what I hear, processed sugar isn’t so good for you.
Far as I can tell, nothing is good for you. One day coffee will save your life, the next day other experts say it’s toxic. They even say some bad things about rum.
I don’t know whom to believe anymore, so I try everything in moderation. Except fun. Fun, I do to excess, and so should you.
It’s late July, so there is much fun still to be had, especially since my summers — like life itself — slip by at an ever-increasing clip.
We have so many home-grown tomatoes on the sill this July that I can’t even crank open the kitchen window in the mornings. I think I should stomp them and make a red sauce, or perhaps a Bloody Mary for the entire neighborhood.
Or I could just ping our kids with the tomatoes, which sounds like the most fun.
They do that in Spain, you know, where the summer tomato crop is so plentiful that bored locals play dodgeball with the rotting tomatoes in gleeful, slightly physical confrontations that resemble a good honeymoon.
We won’t go that far at our house, since romantic overtones are expressly forbidden. I questioned that policy once, and Posh quickly reminded me that sex leads to children, after which a look of melancholy swept over her. I remember holding her till she quit crying. What a baby.
I mean, they’re just kids. At most, they’ll ruin your life by what, 80%?
So we’ve got the tomatoes, and we’ve got the leaky dog. We’ve also got White Fang, the pet wolf our late son left us — his legacy, his lark. Like most excessively beautiful things, White Fang is deeply flawed on the inside.
She’s the one who’s afraid of neighborhood cats, for example.
White Fang could squash a house cat if she wanted, but she doesn’t want to, and as I walk her down the street, the cats will hide beneath parked cars and jump out at her, attempting to destroy her icy-blue Siberian eyes.
Cats have an inner will to destroy gorgeous objects: birds, sofas and purebred dogs. I know the feeling, but as with my lustful chronic hunger for Coke, I resist it. Cats resist nothing, which is the one thing I respect about cats.
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” I assure White Fang as she cowers between my knees during our walks.
“It’s so not OK I can taste it,” she answers.
At which point, a cat comes out from beneath a Lexus, all claws.
Figures I’d have a dog with emotional issues and constant existential crises. One time, I picked White Fang up and carried her safely past the cats. She’s about 90 pounds, so that proved not to be a permanent solution, at least according to my chiropractor, Dr. Crunch.
Then, I taught her to run through the cat gantlet as if running along a Brazilian beach, pretending everything was all right when it obviously wasn’t, which is a skill you pick up as you get older.
As an adult, reassuring fretful creatures becomes sort of a second career. Dogs, midfielders, shortstops, friends. Even my attorney, Billable Bob.
“Nothin’ to worry about,” I always insist during the moments they wobble. “You’ll crush this.”
And, most times, they do.