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Harry's birthday

It was six years ago today that I drove out to the high desert to fetch home a dog I only knew from his photo online. Six years! I can't quite believe it. I remember how bedraggled and smelly he was, a lump of long white hair with dark eyes peering out. He sat up in the passenger's seat on the long ride home, still subdued at first from the anesthesia (he'd been neutered earlier in the day), then rousing himself to nose through the cassettes I had tucked in the arm rest storage. A born investigator. I told him "No," sternly, and when he looked back at me, uncertain, I petted him and said, "It'll be all right, Harry. You and me, kiddo." When I parked the car in my driveway and got out, he made a quick, panicked jump into the driver's seat -- "You're not leaving me!"

They told me he was two years old, which means he's eight now. Fifty-six in dog years. We're the same age. This is the year our ages cross; after this, he'll always be older than me, this tireless puppy I dubbed "the fastest dog in the West." He's seen the ocean, run wild at dog parks, threatened coyotes, and tried mightily to slip the leash and chase deer. This year, through sheer random chance, he encountered his first hill rat, and two more the same week. He hunted, pounced, and killed them all immediately, in workmanlike fashion, with a single shake; no catlike playing. I could only wonder at the power of his genetic coding.

I wish I could give him more to experience, while he's still playful and adventurous. He loves to explore, but I can't let him roam off-leash because he'll get into trouble. He loves to hunt squirrels (which he never catches; they taunt him from the branches), but again, I can't let him off-leash. Sometimes I read Mary Oliver's descriptions of her dogs running through the woods of Cape Cod and think, "If only." I'm still trying to strategize a way to let him play in snow.

He does know he's loved. A few weeks ago a gentleman at the park, well-dressed, with a French accent, watched as Harry made the acquaintance of two other dogs, and noted, astutely, "Harry thinks he's a star." I'm not sure how he picked that up, as Harry was simply sniffing at the other dogs in that evaluating way they have; but I've no doubt he's right. And no doubt I've given Harry every reason to think so, for I praise him extravagantly when I pet him.

Meanwhile, he stands guard over me when I'm ill, and if I cry he presses himself against me. Every day since he arrived, he checks the perimeter of the property, watching for threats to the homestead. When his little sister barks from another room, he comes running to save the day. (Although a brilliant dog in other ways, he has not yet figured out that sometimes she barks when I'm making a fuss over him and she's jealous. He invariably leaps out of my arms and runs to confront the threat. There's no trace of deceit in his body; when he's jealous he simply sulks eloquently.)

And every year he gets older, at a furious pace.




Apr. 2nd, 2012 02:55 am (UTC)
Happy anniversary! I remember that picture of Harry and the cone of silence. How things have changed! May you two have many more happy adventures together!