Speaking of Scout, I keep wondering how he feels, and how it feels to be him. When he was younger, I assumed he was happy—he was always wagging his tail and running around, his ears flying, and sometimes he had a laugh with Bodhicitta J. Cat, who he grew up with (she’s gone, and I’m trying not to make too big a fool of myself by yammering on about her, too). The vet in Brooklyn, Christine Young, called him Mr. Perfect one time when he went to keep Scooby company at an appointment. I always thought that summed him up.
When he was a puppy in L.A., a woman once jumped out of her car across the street, on a four-lane road, and came running through traffic, waving her arms, asking if she could “just see him.” That’s pretty much the way I’ve always felt about him. When we lived in Halifax (Maud went to high school there), Evan and Phillipe, two of Maud’s friends, used to come by the house and get him, and take him to a field to play. He was that kind of guy—a boy’s dog, though he grew up in a house of girls.
Now I’m not sure how he feels. The vet—a new one, on the upper east side—tells me that brain problems are not painful—but that doesn’t speak to his heart. I know he can’t do what he used to do: He can’t jump up on the couch, he can’t sleep with me (he may fall off the bed in the middle of the night or, worse, jump, and land with all fours splayed), he no longer lifts his leg like Nureyev, and he can’t catch cookies when I toss them. He can’t hear his name being called, and he no longer does the gag where he steals my socks and then pretends to be minding his own business while he walks by my desk with them in his mouth, sneaking peeks at me out of the corner of his eye. He no longer lies at my feet under my desk.
And his legs, they don’t hold him up for very long, and yet sitting down clearly hurts too much to do. Getting from standing to sitting is growing more and more problematic: When I hear a crash, I know he’s lying down.
When I first got him, he was sitting on the lap of a teenager outside of Wild Oats on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. She was part of a rescue operation, and they’d found Scout at a pound in South Central. I picked him up under the forearms (he was fat), held him in front of my face, and looked into his eyes: There he was, looking back, my darling Scout. So Maud and I took him home. Maud was nine; Scout was three months old.
Now Scout and I are both kind of homeless, crashing at Julia’s and L.B.’s until I figure out what to do next. It’s nice for me, especially on nights like tonight when we’re alone together—no other dogs or cats around—and we get to hang, just the two of us. When Maud was little, we were all a family: she and me and Bodhi and Scout. And now it’s just me and Scout, Maud having grown up and moved back to L.A., at least for now.
I hope he doesn’t feel too much pain, and that I am reference point enough to make him feel safe, even as he fails. It’s a little embarrassing, feeling so close to a dog. But love, it turns out, is love.