Saturday, May 28, 2016

Requiem for a Dane

Once upon a time, like five years ago, my mom lost 100 pounds. Not 10. 100.

Obviously, you have to celebrate big for a thing like that. So Allison and I agreed to meet up at Party City and go buy some of those special number balloons. I walked, since it was right behind my apartment, and she drove.

So we went in, got the balloons (huge shiny things!), and went back out to her car. Whereupon I discovered that she had filled up the ENTIRE back seat with Pete the Wonder-Dane. (Because Pete, I guess, but mostly because Al.)

That was when we discovered that Pete was deeply, deeply not okay with balloons. (We thought nothing could possibly be scarier than plastic bags and empty pizza boxes. We were wrong.)
So I held the balloons out the passenger side window while Allison drove at like ten miles an hour. Picture it, y'all: a tiny white Toyota clown-car making its own parade route down the street, sharing its bobbly silver "100" joy with the world while our harlequin Marmaduke farted anxiously in the back.

But despite our best efforts, the balloon strings broke and we lost them. So we went back to the store to buy new ones.

And I guess when you're a professional party-balloonist and the same two customers come back in the space of twenty minutes to order the same three balloons, you wonder about it. And when you ask, and we tell you the story, and you immediately have to rush out to meet the dog in question... well, when the dog in question is Pete, apparently there's nothing else you can do but give us a new set of balloons, free-gratis. It's probably just as well he didn't know that his own adorable melty Dali face prompted that second round of helium anxieties.

And that was Pete the nebbish adventure-dog. He walked parades and went shoe-shopping with Dad. He hiked and man-bonded with Alex. He moved up to Oklahoma with Al, and commuted back home with her every weekend like gassy clockwork. When she rescued Ripley, Pete helped teach him how to dog. And when she got married, Pete ran down the aisle after her, two rings secured in a drool-proof silk sachet around his neck.

Pete went on his last adventure today. 8 is a pretty good number for a dane, although of course we wish it were another shiny silver 100. And the thing I keep thinking about is something that Al and I decided a few years back: that pets are exercise for your emotions – especially the ones that don't get enough play in your everyday life. It's good that we remember how to roll in the monkey grass and run away from the vacuum cleaner and greet our favorite people with a full-throated, vociferous moo. And even though we don't enjoy it, it's good for us to invite this great, inevitable sadness into our lives – to know that the price for that big-footed puppy in the laundry basket will be a tremendous, piercing grief, and bring him home anyway, because we've already decided that we would rather lose a friend than miss out on one.

So here's to Pete, the Rick Moranis of dogs. Here's to Al, the greatest dog-mom I know. And here's to the love and friendship and carpet-stains that live on beyond our earthly tenure, and bring out the best in all of us.

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