Friday, August 23, 2002

The trashcans grated across the concrete as I drug them down my driveway last Monday night. They had wheels on one side but it was dark and I obviously was pulling on the wrong handles. No matter. In just a few more feet I would have them resting on the grass and all ready for tomorrow mornings trash pick-up. The cans were full to overflowing. A variety of pizza carryout boxes tipped my neighbors off to my new “sausage and pepperoni diet.” The Rubber Maid cans had no lids. Early on in their careers the 6:00am remover of fine refuse decided that the lids had no business on his route. He evidently threw them into the back of his truck. They are beginning their 2,000-year process of decomposing and returning to mother earth in a landfill somewhere tonight. I have often wondered what possessed that guy to throw my lids out. A few years ago I tried to throw an entire garbage can away. It was nearly impossible. I left it empty next to the full cans hoping they would get the hint. They did not. The next week I spray painted “garbage” in big red letters on the can and left it at the curb again. Evidently it was not clear enough and the can remained on the lawn when I returned home at the end of the day. I waited another week. I spray painted the words “take this” before the word “garbage” and “can” after it. That ought to do it. Uh uh. The can stood its ground. I thought about sitting outside on the curb in a lawn chair the next week when the guru of garbage showed up but I wasn’t yet ready to sacrifice a couple of hours of sleep just to accomplish my purposes. I tried stomping on the can and leaving it for dead next to the good cans. Nothing doing. After about a month I gave up. I ushered the can to the church dumpster when I unceremoniously sent it to trash can heaven. For some reason perfectly good lids are garbage truck worthy but old trash cans must live forever. Must be a local ordinance.

My dog Bear, (better known as “The King of Canines, The Prince of Puppies, The Duke of Dogs”) walked with me on my bi-weekly excursion to the curb. Bear is my best friend. He behaves better than anybody I know. If obedience would get you into heaven, Bear would be the first one in the door. We started our walk back up the driveway together when I noticed that the front passenger window was open on our little green Neon. I opened the door. The dome light did not come on. As the owner of three (count ‘em… 3) Neon’s, I have learned a few things. Neon’s do whatever they want to do. They need neither rhyme nor reason. On this particular occasion the car just decided it was not worth the effort to light itself up for me. No matter. I reached down and began turning the crank. The window inched its way up. Bear sulked in disappointment. When I reached for the car door he immediately concluded we were going for a ride. Bear lives for car rides. He loves to stick his head out the window. He keeps his mouth closed but the wind rushes up his nose, fills his cheeks, and eventually his lips pop open to allow the air to escape. This happens once about every 10 seconds and every time it does, drool runs down the window. Bear doesn’t take many car rides anymore. As I looked through the darkness into the car I noticed that the drivers window was down too. Darn kids. So Bear and I walked around the car. I opened the driver’s door. Again, the car decided I would work in the dark and the dome light stayed dark. But this time, as I reached for the window crank, something hissed at me. Something dark… shadow-like… swiped at my hand, narrowly missing me. I pulled back quickly. Bear took my place. He shot into the open car door like the defender of the family that he is. I pay him perfectly good Milky Bones everyday of his life for moments like this one. I heard another hiss and then a thud as the shadowy object slammed against the far window. Bear lunged again and threw his head to the right. As he did another thud echoed from the rear window. Something inside was taking a serious licking at the jaws of my 79-pound puppy. As Bear began the climb over the seat toward the back window I suddenly got this image of the mess I was going to have to clean up if I let him finish the job. My heart was still pounding, wondering what demonic entity he was fighting. If it had blood coursing through its veins I would be scrubbing upholstery for weeks. I yelled at the top of my voice, “BEAR!” He froze. (I pay him Milky Bones to freeze too.) He looked at me and slowly backed out the door. I could tell he was not happy. As he got all four paws back on the pavement he gave me that, “Oh please, can I kill it” look. I decided quickly that my decision would depend upon that blasted dome light. I reached back and opened the back door of the car. Finally the car cooperated and it’s interior lit up, revealing a relatively small gray kitty cat. A very, haggard looking, small gray kitty cat. I left the doors open and Bear and I walked toward the house. I let him in and handed him two bonus Milky Bones, scratched him behind the ears, and pledged my undying love. By the time I got back outside the cat was gone and probably halfway to Litchfield.

I am certain there is a moral to this story. Probably several. “Don’t cheap out on Milky Bones” comes to mind. So does “keep your car windows closed when you are not in it.” And then there is the ever important, “The only good dome light is a working dome light.” All of those work. But here is the one I decided on. “If you want to live a happy, safe life… find a good dog. The bigger the better.” You know you have a good one when he looks at you like you single handedly are responsible for all of the joy in his world. Bear got sick recently and had to go to the doctor. My kids took him. On the way home they took him into PetCo and let him pick out his own rawhide chew. It is 3 feet long. No lie. The first time he walked through a doorway in our house with it in his mouth he hit the wall on both sides. So get yourself a dog that absolutely worships you. And make sure he goes with you when you take the trash out.

Ok, I could give you a deeper meaning, a theological lesson, for this little event. Call me up if you feel like you need one. But sometimes the simple is better than the profound. For Bear, life is about Milky Bones and me. For me, life is about relationships. And they don't come any better than ours.