I’ve been kissing my dog for a long time now—thirteen years, going on fourteen—grabbing him around the middle with one arm, and around the neck with the other, and wrestling him in so he can’t get away and his neck and his ear are mine, for those moments, to be kissed. I have no idea what he’s thought about this over the years, except that, when I let him go he does a little dance away, and looks back smiling, and sometimes kind of dodges back in for a feint attack, and then dodges away, done with it. Done with me.
Now he’s deaf and frail and his bones hurt and he doesn’t look up much from the hang-dog thing that has taken over, so to roughhouse him is to risk hurting him, and getting bit. And yet I found myself on the floor with him just now, back at L.B.’s in Greenport, patting Jotto’s blue corduroy dog bed with the white star in the middle (Jotto is L.B.’s dog, absent at the moment), trying to show Scout that there is a soft place to lie down, should he dare try. I was down there with him, patting and patting the beddie—so grateful that he still understands that gesture; that not everything he once knew has disappeared—and he came over and offered his snout to me, and his ear and his neck, and I drew him in and kissed him.
He did not do a little dance afterwards, but I think he understood it as love. I hope he got that it was deep love. He got something, I must say, because as I was writing this post, he found the blue corduroy beddie, and climbed on, and sat down, which is not easy for him these days, facing away from me and toward the wall, like one of those Booth dogs that lives with the old people as out of it as he is.
But, just now, alas, I heard a crash, and there he is on his side on the ground. I have to go kiss him. Please excuse me.