On Dogs

I stumbled across this picture while cleaning up my computer desktop this morning. That’s Beastly, the dog I had when I was a kid. Unfortunately, that’s the only picture I have of him – scanned in from a small 4×6 print that sits on the filing cabinet behind me.

I don’t actually look at the picture that often, but when I do I invariably get nostalgic, as we all must when remembering our childhood companions. I have many memories of him, all of them fond ones. The only tarnish being perhaps a touch of regret that I couldn’t know him now, as a more mature and responsible friend. But perhaps it is better this way. Beastly was my boyhood friend and I remember him as sharing my enthusiasm and childhood recklessness in ways that would be hard for me to match as an adult.

One of my fondest memories of him is of the tip of his tail. Beastly was a happy and enthusiastic puppy, and his tail suffered for it. The nearly constant wagging it received resulted in a perpetual banging into walls and doorways that stripped the tip of it’s hair, and imbued it with a scaly, calloused appearance much like that of a sick rat. Hard to imagine something so ugly resulting from so much joy.

Beastly made the transition from puppy to dog when we moved from the urban streets of L.A. to the backwoods of Flagstaff, AZ. He became an outdoor animal and was soon exploring the endless miles of hills and forest around where we lived. Always fast and healthy, it was not unusual for him to disappear after a deer or elk, and be gone for days at a time. He was a terror to the local wildlife, chasing anything and everything that moved. I remember him returning one time with the decayed leg of a deer, presumably found on some mummified carcass he had discovered. I have no doubt he spent hours blissfully rolling around in that carcass, disguising his scent in the hopes he might be able to catch something a little fresher and bloodier.

Beastly has come to define, for me, the essence of a dog. A companion of absolute joy and loyalty, of enthusiasm and endless hope. And also of drool and hair and, at times, unthinkably disgusting habits. They are creatures of the earth imbued with infinite faith and trust, and an unshakeable belief that not all squirrels know how to climb trees. It’s just a matter of chasing the right one.