Ten years ago this month, I fell in love with S., and on my birthday, he introduced me to his dog, Sally. I had heard about Sally for several weeks, knew how much she meant to him, and so meeting her for the first time was momentous. They got out of the car at Neptune’s Net in Malibu, and I walked toward them, reaching down to greet and pet Sally, only to be rebuffed as she walked right on by.
Over the years that followed, I smiled when she did that to nearly everyone she met for the first time, and many she’d known for years. I was one of the lucky ones: In July that year, I moved up to Santa Barbara to be near S., and that began a series of trips to the coffee shop in the morning, in which I sat in the car next to Sally and talked to her and petted her and told her my secrets, and she eventually let me hold her paw. Sally was a control freak, and so was I. We were kindred spirits: suspicious of strangers, but unabashedly enthusiastic in our loyalty and adoration of those we love.
S. and I drove once or twice a week down to Los Angeles for class, and she went with us, of course, because she went everywhere with S. Sometimes, for reasons we never understood, she would climb from the back seat into the front and sit on my lap for the drive back up the Pacific Coast Highway. Her deigning to let me hold her was a gift—she was not a lap dog—and I never took it for granted. Sometimes she’d come with me while S. was in class, and when she spotted S. across the quad, his arms lifted as if to say, “Where the hell have you been?” she’d run to him full bore. Later, she would go with him to class, and when she saw me, she’d run toward me, nearly as fast as she ran toward him. Sally taught me the joy of a dog running toward you. (For more on that, read S.’s heartbreaking post here.)
I grew up with dogs, and the dogs were always part of the family and mourned when they died, but Sally and S. taught me what it was to be best friends with a dog. I had my own dog, Jack, but he and I had always been more roommates than best friends. He escaped every time he got the chance, once even running away from home and to the kennel where I boarded him when I was out of town. He made his point.
So, as Jack was getting older, and I was starting to think of getting a young dog, my decision was informed completely by Sally. I wanted a herd dog, one who would be as devoted to me as Sally was to S. I wanted a dog who would run to me like that. That’s how I found Boo. And he is all the things to me that Sally was to S.
When S. emailed me this morning (subject line: “Sad news”), it didn’t even occur to me that it would be about Sally. She was 17 years old and had some trouble getting around, so I don’t know why it came as such a shock, but it did. Boo and I drove up to Santa Barbara and said goodbye to her, her little body still in the back of S.’s car. I cried, Shelly cried, we hugged, and Boo lifted his leg and pissed on us both.
Dogs. Always and forever, dogs.