I've been reading Ann Patchett's This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of articles she's written over the years for various magazines -- and my favorite piece (unsurprisingly) is "This Dog's Life": the story of Rose, Patchett's first dog, found as a puppy abandoned in a parking lot.
"At home, the puppy, Rose, played with balls, struggled with the stairs, and slept behind my knees while I watched in adoration," writes Patchett. "It’s not that I was unhappy in what I now think of as 'the dogless years,' but I suspected things could be better. What I never could have imagined was how much better they would be. I had entered into my first relationship of mutual, unconditional love....
"While I think I would have enjoyed the company of many different dogs, I believe that the depth of my feeling for Rose in particular comes from the fact that she is, in matters of intelligence, loyalty and affection, an extraordinary animal. In the evenings, I drive Rose across town to a large open field where people come together to let their dogs off their leashes and play. As she bounds through the grass with the Great Danes and the Bernese Mountain Dogs, I believe that there was never a dog so popular and well adjusted as mine (and yet realize at the same time that this is the height of my own particular brand of insanity).
"The other dog owners want to talk about identifying her lineage, perhaps in hopes that one of her cousins might be located. It is not enough for Rose to be a good dog. She must be a particular breed of dog. She has been, depending on how one holds her in the light, a small Jack Russell, a large Chihuahua, a Rat Terrier, a Fox Terrier and a Corgi with legs. At present, she is a Portuguese Podengo, a dog that to the best of my knowledge was previously unknown in Tennessee. It is the picture she most closely resembles in our International Encyclopedia of Dogs. We now say things like 'Where is the Podengo?' and 'Has the Podengo been outside yet?' to give her a sense of heritage. In truth, she is a Parking Lot Dog, dropped off in a snowstorm to meet her fate.
"I watch the other dog owners in the park, married people and single people and people with children. The relationship each one has with his or her dog is very personal and distinct. But what I see again and again is that people are proud of their pets, proud of the way that they run, proud of how they nose around with the other dogs, proud that they are brave enough to go into the water or smart enough to stay out of it. People seem able to love their dogs with an unabashed acceptance that they rarely demonstrate with family or friends. The dogs do not disappoint them, or if they do, the owners manage to forget about it quickly. I want to learn to love like this, the way we love our dogs, with pride and enthusiasm and a complete amnesia for faults. In short, to love others the way our dogs love us."
Oh yes, that's it exactly.
You can read the whole piece online here. And I recommend the collection as a whole; Patchett's writing is simply delicious.