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Candy

People will always let you down. But your dog never will.

maxwell

Maxwell – 2020

Over the last 25 years we’ve had 3. Kiko, my forever best friend. Abbey, as close to perfect as a living being can be. And now Maxwell, our first boy. A lovable rogue devoted to chaos and absolute devotion. In that order.

And growing up, we had Candy.

Nobody was quite sure what kind of dog Candy was. A wild mix of some kind. Her head was way too small for the rest of her, and her graying black hair made her seem much older than her years. When chasing squirrels she’d frequently get stuck trying to wedge her rather large behind underneath the backyard fence. Her beauty was definitely in the eyes of her beholders. But she’d hold her too-small head up high and act all beautiful and not give a fiddler’s fart.

Neighborhoods were different in those days. Doors were open and everybody was outside. Kids were playing and neighbors were gossiping on front porches. Parents would chase you out of the house, and you were free to wander to and fro as long as you stayed within certain boundaries. Being able to hear your Mother calling you for dinner was critical, but other than that, you could play in the sewers for all anybody cared.

Candy lived by the same rules as the rest of us. In the mornings she’d slip out and start to wander. Everybody knew her. She might visit the neighbors. Or take a siesta under a nearby cherry tree. You’d call her and she might be in the backyard, or down the next block. But she’d always come running. Never once do I remember her getting lost, or us worrying about her excursions. She always looked both ways before crossing the street. As I said, different times.

She would troll backyards like an African predator, waiting on the aforementioned squirrels. She never even came close to catching one of course, and had such a pleasant disposition I’m not sure what should would have done if she ever did. When she was hungry she’d come back home and scratch on the back door. In the summers her pulse quickened because catching the ice cream truck (Dairy Dan) became her obsession, nipping at its wheels as it drove off down the street with its bells going off. Not sure what her plan was in catching that either. I suspect it was all the thrill of the chase. At night she’d sit on the front stoop and doze at my Dad’s feet as he’d listen to the baseball game on the radio. Exhausted but content. Her days were filled with magical discovery, and she never met a stranger.

We took a one week family vacation ever year to the shore. My Dad would drop her off at a kennel…and on that long drive home from the beach, it was seeing her we were most looking forward to. We’d pick her up and she’d jump in the station wagon and slobber over each of us, her tail wagging so fast you could feel the breeze. Unbridled happiness. It was moments like this that always made me suspicious of anybody who didn’t have their own dog. Do you know what you’re missing? Were you dropped on your head as a child or something?

She was home the day I was born, and she lived into my teens. Not having her around was inconceivable. There was 6 kids, but she was in a category of her own.

And then all of a sudden she was old. She was getting slower. She’d given up on the squirrels and the ice cream man. But still, she loved us with a fierce devotion, asking nothing in return except a nuzzle, or to allow her to wedge under your feet as you watched TV. We pretended that she’d be here forever.

Every morning she’d make her way up from the basement where she slept. One morning she could not make it. Her back legs would not carry her. My Dad knew it was the end, and he carried her to the car for the ride to the humane society. It was the only time I ever saw him cry. I came home from school that day to…..silence. No barking or tail wagging or kisses or scratching on the back door. No seeing her through the front porch screen as we walked towards the house. The house was still full, but it felt empty. We all cried. I don’t ever remember even a discussion about replacing her. To us she was already up there on Mount Rushmore.

I don’t believe in much. But I believe that dogs make us better people. They love. And they ask for just a little of it back. They always miss us when we’re gone and revel in our return. They don’t judge. They don’t scold. They just go crazy and say “I’m sooooo glad you’re home!”

For those of us blessed with them, there’s no need to believe in angels. We know better.

In a bit..

–tf

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