Growing up, my dad and I spent many an afternoon in the St. Louis Art Museum. One of my dad’s favorite paintings is a rather large portrait of a man lying dead on a Cliffside with his devoted dog lying next to him – determined never to leave beloved owner’s side – even in the sad event of said owner’s demise. My father’s dogs had always been fiercely loyal to him – walking unleashed dutiful by his side at all times, coming to his defense in times of need, and never wanting to be farther than ten feet from him. This was my perception of what would fill a life with a dog – loyalty, devotion, affection. Needless to say it was a cold slap in the face when my life with Ralphie began.
Let me just say that our turbulent time together has never been marked by much of anything even mildly resembling devotion. Ralphie’s apparent attitude toward me would lean more to the, “F*** off, mom! I’m a loner beagle,” arena. If he had opposable thumbs and never-ending access to cat poop and garbage, I’m sure he would walk out of my life for good. For now, however, we are stuck together. Our differences in appearance (he is a natural red head, while I am not) and demeanor far outweigh any similarities we might have. He would love nothing better than to spend an entire day running, chasing rabbits. I, on the other hand, would prefer to sit at home watching old movies and reading Us Weekly. His favorite treat is a side-order of cat poop, mine would be French fries. I like to wear Pleasures by Estee Lauder while Ralphie’s scent of choice is Eau de Dead Deer by Nature. Whereas he prefers the pre-Rat Pack Frank, I prefer post. The one thing we do share, however, appears to be a fear of weakness. We both put up tough veneers in an attempt to hide the deeper weakness within.
The discovery of this similarity is finally allowing me to find my dependant, somewhat devoted dog. Let me explain. We recently experienced our first real snowfall of the year, leaving a couple of inches on the ground. I have to say that I was proud to see that my city was on the ball and had, by the time I got home, already covered the sidewalk outside my building with salt. As Ralphie and I went on our walk, however, I realized that this salt was not all it was cracked up to be. After taking a few steps on the sidewalk, Ralphie froze, lifting one or two paws at the same time, looking up at me with his huge, sad beagle eyes. And that was all I needed! I dutifully wiped the salt off his paws, warmed them with my hands, and scooped up my little dog – knowing that now we would be closer than ever. He had let his veneer peel back to show me the beagle beneath – the beagle whom every now and then needed to reach out and ask for help - the beagle who sometimes cried - the beagle who is sometimes hurt by words - the beagle who, some nights, needs a hug, cuddle, and someone who loves her – I mean him. Carrying him over the paw-piercing salt to set him gently in the newly fallen snow, I knew that we had reached a new place in our relationship. A place of pure honesty and trust. One where I could let my guard down and he would, in turn, do the same.
I walked back into our apartment after the walk more hopeful and excited about the proverbial journey on which he and I were about to embark where we would finally open up to each other and share our history, present and future.I turned to find Ralphie, ready to finally open up and bare my soul, only to find a trail made up of torn and chewed items he had pulled off of nearby tables leading me to find him ferociously humping my pillow. After chasing him off my bed, I knew that even though I had paid a fair amount of money to have someone remove his testicles half a year ago, his call for help and trust which lead me to open up was still only about sex.