Dolly


She was on the floor by the table, Dolly, when the men rose up from the floors below, riding the electric scaffolding, and stopped outside Julia’s livingroom windows. This was yesterday, when Dolly was still alive. I was at the diningroom table, sitting in front of my computer, and Dolly was just lying there in front of the windows, her eyes open, having already thrown up bile a few times, getting close.

The bamboo blinds were down, but I’m guessing they could see me. Dolly was so small, though, and so low, that I’m sure they had no idea that she was there—the best little girl, pure bodhicitta, a princess in the land of lungta. It was her day. They were wearing yellow hard hats, and one guy unclamped himself and climbed over the railing of Julia’s balcony. Another guy pulled out a camera, and handed it to the guy now just outside the window.

I don’t know what they were photographing. Though I’d like to tell you that it was something inside the apartment, I think it was probably their handiwork, since they, or their colleagues, had been working on the building all summer. Dolly continued to lie there, her head tilted to one side. I thought about how odd life was: that a tiny little dog, so precious, could be a few hours away from her death, and the men on the scaffolding outside the window take a photograph, though not of her, unaware. We are so far apart.

In the middle of the night, after Dolly was gone, Julia and I watched “Law and Order.” In the morning, I checked my email on my phone from bed and discovered an angry letter from a friend. I went outside to walk Scout at six, the sun just having risen, and was surprised by the sound of acorns hitting the pavement from above. On the stationary scaffolding overhead, they sounded like rain.

Good journey, Dolly. If we see you again, we will be the lucky ones.

Dolly: An Introduction

Dolly and Julia
Julia and I met, and within the week, she was driving with me from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I lived with Maud, who was sixteen at the time. Toby had just sold me his 1987 VW van with a mattress in the back, and that’s what we were driving. But this story is not about Julia and me and our wild ride. This story is about Dolly.

Dolly is a tiny shih tzu, not one of those big guys with an underbite who move like caterpillers. She weighs less than ten pounds, she has button eyes, and, if you were going to categorize her as either a movie dog or a stuffed animal (one of Maud’s childhood filing systems), she’d be a stuffed animal. She was two or three when I met her.

Dolly and Maud, asleep
Dolly traveled with us to Nova Scotia, and didn’t complain at all: not when we stopped in the parking lot of an old white library somewhere in Massachusetts, and slept under a blaring street lamp. Not when we took a food break somewhere up there, at the sort of place that has menus the size of surf boards, all laminated, and food that they bring out in buckets. I remember looking back at the van in the vast and empty parking lot as we trekked toward the place, and seeing Dolly looking out from the back window at us, disappearing into the night, O.K. to be a tiny shih tzu all alone in the world.

Very soon after we arrived in Halifax, a hurricane hit the city so hard that part of the roof was torn off the building where I worked at the Shambhala Sun. The two fantastic parks in the city were basically destroyed, people were killed, and we didn’t have gas or electricity for several days. The Big Slice lost its “S,” and remained, for a while, The Big Lice. Julia and I found the only coffee in town.

We brought a bunch back for the neighbors, who had set up barbecues outside of their houses, and cooked, every day, the stuff that would other be rotting in people’s refrigerators. This is Canada, and it was truly lovely. Anyway, on this particular day, we were standing outside the house where Maud and I lived on the second floor, chatting, and I was holding a tray with four lattes.

All of sudden, the universe ended. That is, the sky fell. That is something flew from above me, landed on my head, hard, hit the lattes, and fell to the ground with the tray. It was Dolly. She’d jumped off of our second-story porch, onto my head. She was OK, and I was OK. It was…a strange thing for her to do. (Maybe Bodhi and Scout, both well at the time, were inside torturing her—I wouldn’t put it past them.)

Anyway. I haven’t talked much about Dolly, except at the beginning of this blog. Since her first trip to Halifax, I’ve become her other mommy, though I doubt that Julia would agree with that, being so completely possessive of that particular being. Still, I’ve taken her to the vet when she had a terrible ear infection (or other kinds of unmentionable infections), and she was too brave for a tiny shih tzu. I’ve shooed away Fat Dave when he’s made her cry. I’ve fallen asleep, many, many times, with her in the crook of my legs, and sometimes even, when it’s thundering, with her shaking and panting on top of my head.

Now I’m warning you. Dolly is unexpectedly very sick. And that’s one reason why I haven’t written. I haven’t known what to say. Like Kevin, she is someone else’s bestfriend. Like Kevin, she is a tiny hero.