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Canter the dog

I liked a good sick dog. Not just because they were about to die, but also because they spent all day sleeping like a cat.

I am not a dog person. Why? Because sometimes I forget to get myself dinner. Because I never walk myself daily. Because I don’t play catch with myself and because I won’t change all that for a dog. That was my opinion anyhow before Canter came to stay.

Don’t think I would have let him in easy--he is a golden retriever, which is to say he is a dog. But it was one of those awkward family favors that at the time was grossly underestimated and which in the end will never be fully repaid. My great aunt Cynthia, a retired opera singer, was down again with pneumonia and this time she took it seriously. She revised her will, revisited her funeral arrangements, and resigned herself to the doctors at St. Mary’s Medical Center. And then she called me. I guess by the end of our conversation I understood pretty well that I was her only living relation on this side of the Rockies and of course, by extension, I was Canter’s only hope and if I would just put my childish stubbornness aside for one or two weeks, depending on how fast the Lord’s will came through, I would be blest immeasurably by the companionship of dear Canter. It made me sick thinking about it. But then, she really was sick this time and if my mother found out I’d said no, I think I would have been estranged. And so I said, “Yes, yes, Aunt Cynthia. I’ll come over for him tonight. And I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick.”

When I got back to my house with the dog, he jumped up on the couch and looked at me like I should bring him a platter of cucumber sandwiches and a truffle thank you very much. I smirked, then pushed him off my couch and gave him a bone instead. The rest of the night, Canter laid at my feet, completely entranced with his bone and completely entranced with me. When I folded my legs under me, he lifted his head. When I got up for a snack, he followed me into the kitchen. When I answered the phone, he stared at my face like a concerned mother watching a teenager for hints about what happened in school. I had not signed any waivor, and yet this dog was reaching into my soul.

I liked a good sick dog. Not just because they were about to die, but also because they spent all day sleeping like a cat. Canter wasn’t sick, per se, but he had symptoms of it in his old age. After a lifetime of good training, I guess he’d had enough of jumping up on people and peeing on the floor and it was nice not to have to watch him every minute. It was nice to know that he would curl up under the dining room table and feel michevious for hours just because he’d stolen a rag.

The days went by smoothly with Canter around. He didn’t ask for much, and I only forgot to feed him twice. But when my aunt got to feeling better and asked for Canter back, I thought of telling her that he’d up and died. I thought maybe I’d tell her a car ran over him. I thought I’d tell her anything to keep this guy around. Then I thought better of it, or maybe just felt guitly about it, and said, “I’ll bring him by in the morning.”

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