Norman was third, a Powder Puff Chinese Crested breed--that’s the sort that have fur, quite unlike their hairless counterparts which usually win the ugly dog award at pageants--and I hesitate to classify him quite as a dog at all, for in patience, kindness, intelligence, perception--in his general character and world view--he seemed to have more in common with Confucius or Buddha than with your run-of-the-mill four-legged canine.
Norman was a guru, a sage, a swami, a apostle of love. People who did not even like dogs would meet Norman and become true believers, dyed in the wool dog lovers.
Through his lifetime comportment, Norman superseded the leash law-for he was so clearly a law unto himself. In short, people did not walk him, he walked people, knowing better where they meant to go than they themselves knew.
He lived 17 long years--from the time I was 36 until the time I was 53. And yet he was older than I from the beginning.
What more can I say?
I had a dog. His name was Smokey. We had to leave him when we came to Bali. I remember him now, how he would run in circles when someone came home, his own dance of joy, his expression of love. He was 3 years old and never got over peeing on the floor when he became too excited.
We tried to find an owner for Smokey before we left, but could not. He was a big dog, a Labrador, with enormous paws and strong wide shoulders, and he laughed and played and ran like the wind.
We took him to the Oregon Humane Society the day before we left for Bali. The people there said that they place 99 percent of their dogs, and if there is a dog that they cannot place, they send him to an alternative home until someone will come and see him and love him and buy him.
I remember pushing Smokey from behind while the woman there in the Humane Society pulled him by the leash in the front.
Don’t do it, he said, don’t do it, don’t make me, I want you, I love you. I’m yours.
And I said It’s okay, you’ll see, it’s okay.
Smokey was my friend. He was the best dog ever. When I was sick, when I was hurt, he was with me. If I was cold he would sleep with his back against me. He was warm, and heavy, and so very present.
Smokey had a brother, a Chihuahua named Coco. It was easy to place Coco because he was small and cute and stupid while Smokey was large and rambunctious and devoted. He used to play so very carefully with Coco, letting the little dog bite his ears and nose. Sometimes he would hold Coco down with his forearm and put the little dog’s head inside his mouth. One time he picked Coco up by the back of his little dog shirt and carried him around the house from room to room.
He loved that damn stupid little dog.
And he loved my wife’s ex-husband, Albert, because Albert would walk him two and three times a day, and they would wrestle sometimes, and Albert would buy him large bones from the butcher shop as well.
Smokey never barked at people he knew, except to say Hello my friend.
When my wife returned to Oregon for a couple weeks, I kept asking her to find out about Smokey. She said she had tried but could get nowhere. She said Just believe the best, that he is happy, maybe living on a farm with lots of land for running, with other dogs as friends, and maybe sheep, maybe cows, maybe horses, and children.
And so I called Albert instead. I asked him to find out about Smokey.
Smokey loved children. He always wanted to be part of whatever game they would play. He ran behind them, tried to take part as best as he understood how, and even when they shooed him and said Go away, Smokey would persist, because he loved to have fun, and he loved the way children themselves were like puppies. This anyway is what I believe.
I believe that dogs must surely go to heaven, although I have heard some people say it’s not so. And yet I believe that if God is love, He must love dogs very well indeed. I believe because I must, and must because I believe. I believe that Smokey is waiting even now, and loves me still, with the unquestioning devotion that only a dog can muster.
I dreamed of him after moving away. I dreamed of him often, and then the dreams stopped. I dreamed of Smokey running to me, jumping up to my chest (into my heart) as he so often had--happy, happy, so large, so strong, so very present. There never was a better friend.
And so I wait now as Smokey waits, to embrace again, and wrestle, and play, and then sleep in warmth and comfort and safety when the day wanes to night and the night to slumber, and neither man nor dog must ever again wake to tears.