Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Buddy and His Kiss

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today's story is reminiscent of the dog memoirs of yore (yore = a few years ago), and I thought it would be a refreshing change of pace on Glass Cases (between the heavier fiction and my various rants on vampires, how books are never happy, etc.) to bring you something lighter.

The author, Emil DeAndreis, is a teacher from San Francisco who has been published in the University of Hawaii literary journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. His story is about his "cat- hating dog and how he ended up being kissed by a cat." Enjoy!

Buddy and His Kiss
By Emil DeAndreis

It used to be that no cats came into our backyard unless they were drawn to the idea of an early death.  This is because my dog, Buddy, had a Capulet-Montague hatred for them that no meow could ever mend.  We tried to introduce him to the little purring creatures but he proved our experiments futile by nearly treating the cats to his version of the guillotine.
He was a big lab with the markings of a border collie.  When cats saw the white line separating his two eyes, and those sturdy black-spotted legs inching towards them, they knew that they would have to flee if they wanted to live to see another Fancy Feast.  Understandably, when Buddy became part of my family in 1995, cats disappeared from our property entirely.
Me and Buddy essentially grew up together.  Our journey began when I was in fifth grade and we were relatively the same age (according to the arbitrary sliding scale of doggie year vs. human years).  I never had a brother, neither did he, and we relished in the opportunity of being youngsters together during an age of bottomless energy, exploration and vicious tug-of-war battles.  We were brothers—we dug holes together (not at the same time or in search for the same things, but we did dig holes at the same points in our lives), we wrestled, we appreciated sunny San Francisco days in the backyard and slept next to each other at night.  
For about eight good years, I took him down to the West Sunset soccer field after school and hit the tennis ball around for him.  On the walk down, he tugged on the leash until I was being dragged the last ten feet.
While playing fetch, little sparrows dove near Buddy and dared him to chase them.  They zig-zagged and did figure eights and Buddy barked and tore the field up chasing them in the dizzying directions they flew (I later learned that sparrows did that to distract any potential predator from their nearby nest, but Buddy thought they were testing his manhood).  In his younger years, it took a good thirty minutes before Buddy was so tired by the birds that he was sprawled out on the lawn drooling out exhausted barks of defeat.  And as he grew up with me as my brother, something I never considered was the unfair certainty that dogs, our best friends, grow up much quicker than we are ever prepared for.
I started to notice that Buddy was older than me when little grey hairs began to pepper his snout.  They fought their way onto his face sometime in the middle of high school, and it seemed he had entered another stage of his life.  He was calmer and more obedient.  At night, my dad sat on the couch with a glass of wine and listened to Coltrane.  Buddy was always curled up at his feet, taking comfort in the presence of his father and the warmth of a peaceful home, his home.  He was no longer a boy with me, but a man with my dad.  On the walks, Buddy tugged less to get to the soccer field, and when he was there, it only took about five minutes for the sparrows to have him collapsed on the field, breathless.
And still, in his old age, cats chose to exist in backyards outside of ours.
I was in college when Buddy went blind.  Evidently it happened over night, and I was twenty five hundred miles away.  Vets thought he had a stroke, and we as a family began to prepare ourselves to part ways with the most cherished part of our lives.
To us, he was glue, the cartilage or the jellied substance in between bones that prevents them from grinding into dust.  He was the common denominator.  And when he went blind, he became helpless and was forced to succumb to the fact that he depended on us like we had always depended on him.
We began to guide him around corners and tried our hardest to prevent him from playing bumper cars with the walls of the house.  When someone knelt down to visit with him he lifted his snout and sniffed furiously to recognize who it was.  He developed a slow, cautious, bowlegged walk- one that involved him sticking his paws out as far as he could with each step in order to prevent himself from running into things and getting more bumps and cuts than he had already accumulated.  In the middle of the night he whimpered for someone to come pet him because he was lonely.  We gave him peanut butter biscuits, kissed him on his snout and on the pointy crown atop of his head just like we had been doing since he was a puppy.  It was the only way we knew how to let him know we were still there.
He was an old man now and with that came a new set of worries: no longer were we concerned about him sneaking out of the house and wandering down along busy Sunset Boulevard or chasing birds into oncoming traffic.  Now we worried about whether or not he was drinking enough water; we worried that he might be living in pain.
Around the time he went blind, a family of black and white cats began to appear in our backyard and the neighboring ones.  They traveled in a herd of five and looked like a moving pack of Oreos.  There was never four, or three, or two.  Always five.  On sunny days, they lounged on our back lawn and absorbed the sun.
Sometimes they ran patterns around the grass and chased each other up our trees.  Occasionally, while outside, Buddy caught a scent of the cats, but for the most part he was oblivious to their presence.
“Ohhhh if he only knew,” my mom would say from the window upstairs as she watched the five cats lay in close proximity to our blind, cat-loathing dog.  “He’d turn those guys into ground chuck.”
he’s become a peaceful cur,” my dad would offer.
A meow would cause Buddy to perk his head up as if he was hearing a hit song that brought him back to his youth.  But he always laid his head back down and returned to the warmth in his grassy kingdom.  As time passed, the cats naturally grew less weary of Buddy, the king Black and White Beast, figuring if he was going to kill them he would have already done it.
The other day, something unfathomable happened.  The cats took their historically curious lifestyle to a new level.  In plain view, the most audacious of the cats, a girl, approached Buddy.  She crept right up to my old, precious brother who was deep in a dream, his paws quivering madly.  She got closer and closer until finally she put her nose on his. A kiss.
I stood, stunned and a bit uneasy.  If I knew Buddy, this cat wasn’t going to be living much longer.  He began to snap out of his dream until he too was stunned; his eyes wide and cloudy, his nose being tickled by his enemy’s dainty whiskers.  Buddy was missing one of his senses, but at that moment he knew quite well that a cat was within chomping distance.  But he laid there, his snout puckered and his chompers hidden, permitting the cat to live.  It lasted a year if it was a second, as frozen as a still life painting.  A kiss, long and felt.   And then it was over.
Their noses separated, and the cat strutted away, leaving Buddy in complete shock.  His ears remained perked long after she disappeared into the foliage of our backyard.  My parents couldn’t believe it, and neither could I, and Buddy certainly belonged in the category of disbelief.  Perhaps he sensed the cat was black and white and found that reason enough to spare her, or maybe he didn’t want to humiliate himself with a failed attempt at her life, or maybe he wasn’t particularly hungry.
Since that day there has been lots of speculation in my house as to why our dog allowed himself to be kissed by a cat, and why the cat was allowed to walk away without severe blood spillage.  If you told me ten years ago that at one point in Buddy’s life he would kiss a cat, I would have said “Yea right.  What else are you going to tell me, we’re going to have a black president?”
Personally, I think at the moment that Buddy accepted the peace offering from the Oreo cat, he knew that soon his time would be up.  Though he spent the greater years of his life exercising a zero tolerance policy towards the strays, he has had a lot of time to think since he went blind.
We can learn a lot from animals.  In many cases, we feel they teach us how not to behave; we like to think we’re above the traits of wild animals with their meat-tearing fangs and pack mentality ruthlessness.  But there is usually a flipside to every coin.  Buddy, a dog who at one point would have mangled a cat beyond identification, proved it the other day with the simple permission of a kiss.  And after dedicating a considerable amount of thought to this matter, I believe that Buddy has reached a point where he would prefer to be remembered by all critters, even his lifelong enemies, the same way his family will remember him.

4 comments:

  1. That was awesome! Such beautiful writing, and such a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think this is probably my favorite story on this blog so far, Sarah. Emil's got a great way of writing that's so relatable, it's like he's talking to you, telling a story. The grammar teacher in me noticed the "Me and Buddy essentially grew up together" sentence in particular, but this is where stories are great: people actually talk this way.

    And as an animal lover (I have pics of our critters on my blog if anyone wants to oogle our precious little buddies) this especially touched my heart. Our pup is about 11, but still a puppy at heart. What a great friend you had there, Emil! Keep up with the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's sweet - reminds me of "Stand By Me" for some reason. Very nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for allowing us to share these stories here, Sarah!
    Emil,great work, it´s great to meet writers that rise the level of the craft like this. I hereby hail the awesomeness of this storty.
    Hailed.

    ReplyDelete