Life Lessons, Courtesy of Man's Best Friend
You can see where this is going. Along came that night when I didn't, when she stood dumbly, her head down, by the door at the worst possible time, and I just opened the door and went about what I was doing and out she went. It wasn't a very busy street. As with Dino, with the bear, nine years later: Was I sending my dog into harm's way? For that moment when I opened the door, it didn't matter.
The police called. A woman had reported having hit and killed a dog outside our house a few minutes earlier. They'd found our number on the dog license. Karen told them that there had to be a mistake, because Audrey was still in the house. It turned out that Audrey was not in the house. Jim had let Audrey out.
This time I pulled the dog onto the tarp, and I loaded the body onto the back of a vehicle. It was my decision what to do with the body. It was shocking to be reenacting that trauma all over again. It was shocking to be standing over my dog feeling as though I'd made the same heartless mistake that I'd made before. She'd probably had no idea where she was when the car hit her. She had relied on me—"You're not thinking of going anywhere without me, are you?"—and that had been a big mistake.
I was raised Catholic, which may or may not be a surprise to hear. Some of my earliest memories of parochial school involve the nuns—Sister Marie Edmund, Sister Justine, Sister Caroline—reminding us insistently of how lucky we were; of how many reasons we had to feel fortunate. We had our health, we had mostly intact families, we were never truly hungry or cold. "At least you have your legs," one Sister would always say to anyone who whined or complained. And she was right.
W.H. Auden once remarked that there was one thing that all poetry had to do: "It must praise all it can for being and for happening." One of the great and never-ending blessings of dogs is that they never tire of demonstrating that by example. And one of the great consolations of our relationship with dogs is that we're given the chance, over and over again, to learn that lesson, and to behave as though we have, no matter how persistently we seem to refuse to do so.