I had a dog once, who if nothing else, was a useful lesson in uncritical love, despite her anti-social acts to the contrary, at least as perceived by others.
My dog’s name was Simba, or when she was at Brackley Beach chasing sticks into the surf, her name was Swimba. The Brackley visits were forever and a day ago, long before our Government decided dogs in Parks Canada beaches were a threat of some kind, either because they might eat Piping Plover eggs, or leave steamy prizes for tourists to step in, or simply terrify people because they are dogs.
Still, Simba/Swimba was a threat to no one, and was a great dog, or at least to me she was, just as everybody’s dog is perfect to their companion, more often than not. Yet this does not mean she was universally loved, because she was not.
For one thing, she had a knack for discovering the beginning of lobster season, darting out our door at least once a year in early spring and vanishing through the neighbourhood; returning with bits of lobster shells stuck in her tight fur, the result of having ripped through garbage bags of the most putrid/beautiful smelling dinner waste ever: Summer-air heated lobster-dinner remains.
It didn’t hurt that a thriving lobster restaurant was a couple of blocks from our Charlottetown home. On these days, her admirers were not numerous.
Of Simba’s/Swimba’s/Lobstimba’s many talents, being a guard dog was not one of them. During one of our many visits to the fabulous Cedar’s Eatery for takeout, I left her in my unlocked car for about five minutes. In the passenger seat beside her was an early version of the cellphone, of the 1990s bag phone variety, which you may remember were the size and weight of a concrete block.
While I was collecting a kilo or two of tabouli, a quick thief opened the car door, reached over Simba and removed the phone. When I returned, she was as happy as ever, perhaps thrilled by the recent visit of a new friend who, I imagined, may have patted her affectionately while lifting my somewhat portable telephone-booth with a carrying strap. It seems likely he left with a little Simba-love-spit on the hand holding the phone.
Simba’s primary talent, as with many terriers, was escape. Any door marginally opened, in a car or house, was keenly eyed by her. I loved this intelligence in her, even celebrated it. Others, of course, did not.
Perhaps the most significant juxtaposition of the admiration of the one close to her (me) and the disdain of others was the day she fled over the Hillsborough bridge to Stratford. No doubt she had detected a stinky shellfish protruding from a driveway out yonder.
After a mad search yielded nothing, I received a phone call from a slightly enraged motorist who recognized her as my dog. It was 8 a.m,. and Simba had decided to return home, meandering leisurely down the middle of the Hillsborough Bridge. Dozens of cars were forced to follow at her sanguine pace, possibly leading to a pile of late arrivals at work on that day.
I was, incorrectly perhaps, delighted at the innocence and joy of this funny bunch of sweet trouble, and her obliviousness to the cares of the world around her. It doesn’t mean that this opinion was fair to the victims of her voyage. Of course it wasn’t, and no doubt caused varying degrees of heartache and trouble to the humans involved.
But it was a curious (albeit a tiny) revelation: We love those who are close to us, four-legged and otherwise. And it is only right to do so. We see their magic, even when their magic is everything from slightly problematic to annoying to even downright dangerous for others.
It is the dichotomy of all of our close relationships. We just love them. Others may only see the stinky lobster-claws sticking out of their heads. We also see the claws, but recognize such metaphoric filth as further evidence of what just makes those we love what they are.
So we apologize on their behalf. But we don’t denounce them. It is just unconditional love. Complicated, perhaps. But also a little bit funny, and further confirmation that beauty is found in the complete picture of all of us.
Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org