Sunday, August 23, 2009
If I’ve done my math correctly (debatable), José would have been eighteen this month. When he was given to me, they said he was two and a half. I never knew what his birthday was, but supposedly he was born in the month of August.
Here are a few moments in a good dog’s life:
Young and chipper and sitting in the front seat of Tom and Elmo’s truck, on some lot, in some town, in some state, on the José Colé Circus (the names are just a coincidence). I’d never seen him before and glanced as I stepped by, and thought, oh, that poor, ugly dog.
Jumping from the seat on one side of the trailer to the seat on the other side of the trailer, all excited for guests, as we arrived at Tom and Elmo’s for dinner. Spaghetti. They fed him from the table. That was the night before the afternoon after, when Tom would come up to me and say, are you interested in José?
I thought Tim would never go for getting a dog, so I turned Tom down. Later in the day, Tim came up to me and said, guess what, we could have José.
First time being fed by his new owners, sitting on the floor of our clown van. He would go to the dish and fish out one kernel of food. Bring it over to me. Drop it on the floor. Look at me with that face that looks like love. I’d pick the thing up and feed it to him. Then he’d run over to the dish and come back with another. It was so cute I could hardly stand it, and he trained me good.
Nose to nose with a tiger rug – which is like a bear skin rug but an actual tiger – head and all, for little Chihuahuas to growl at and feel themselves quite the menacing beast. This was in a mansion once owned by one of the Ringling brothers, and the carriage house would soon become José’s first real home. He’d be there only for short visits between circus seasons.
Sleeping on my lap on the long jumps from town to town. Curled up happy, but never quite satisfied unless he was using my writing arm for a pillow, and I would sit for long hours journaling and writing stories with just the tips of my fingers moving the pen while he slept.
On my lap, again and as always, me cross legged on the carpet floor. Feeding him by hand. This, to most people, is the most idiotic way to treat a dog, and I understand all the implications – understand what it says about the pushover I was.
But if you take away all that, take away what it undoubtedly did to the human-dog relationship, making José the alpha dog, not me – I. E. spoiling him – if you put aside all of that and just sit in the moment – what lovely. To give someone complete security and happiness, to give the utmost of what a life wants.
Walking on the leash up to the circus arena, passing the line of shifting cages, each with a tiger inside. Tigers that jump up and bounce around behind the bars, eyes on José for a snack. José pulling against the leash to growl and bark at the tigers. He figured he could take ‘em.
Bites of hotdog and then lifted into the clown prop – like a cylinder – like a pet carrier but rounder and thinner, a painted-over grating for air to get in, but not much room for a dog, and I hated hated hated that thing.
He’s in there for half a minute, Tim said. And there were more bites of hot dog inside. But it was dark and small, and how could I know how scared he was for that half a minute? It was the stomach pump gag, and I was the nurse (balloon boobs) who came out to pump the stomach of the poor, ailing clown who ate too many tacos. Usually it’s too many hotdogs the clown eats, and when they pump his stomach, a dog comes out. Get it, get it? Groan. But this was the height of the Taco Bell Chihuahua campaign. So, out comes a Chihuahua. Cheesy, cheesy gag, complete with that horrible catch phrase.
I can’t remember how long that Chicago date was – two weeks? three? – but when we closed there, I said José wouldn’t be doing that anymore. That was the way I was back then. Took me all that time to finally put my foot down.
Here and there, Tim used to consider producing him in a magic routine. I said, sorry, it’s never going to happen.
Curled in the travel pet carrier on the floor of an airplane as I left Tim and left the circus and left the Midwest. Pissed off in the pet carrier. Not knowing he’d never see one of his main two people again, only focused on my fingers coming small through the unzipped zipper in the top.
I believe the next time José was in a plane, when he and I moved from Orange County to Portland, the nice stewardesses let me take him out and have him on my lap.
José’s first time meeting Stephen – neither too enthusiastic about it. In the beginning each one was a bit jealous of the other – José most of all, as evidenced by the fact that as Stephen and I were hanging out in the evening, José came, looked at him, and peed in the doorway.
Suddenly, after years of being only dog, now having to be around other animals – first the big and laidback dog Angus and cats Baby and Oreo, then the puppy Quigley – already bigger than José and as fast and full of energy as a balloon that slips between your fingers before the tying. Then, when Stephen and I moved into the apartment – Kitty. I never thought José would get along with another animal, but he did surprisingly well. Never bit anyone, though I’m sure he thought about it sometimes. When he moved in with Kitty, neither was too happy about it, but they begrudgingly accepted each other’s existence.
(Looks like they're sleeping together, but José's all eyes-open and watchful.)
But happy in Portland, with a steady home, no dressing rooms to wait in, no hotel rooms. Long walks down the Portland sidewalks, no burs in the grass, and snow only once in a while. Everything familiar – José’s home and José’s bed and still the same lap and still the same pushover to feed him by hand and give him an arm for a pillow. A good place for a good dog to grow old.