“Come smell the dog,” I said to Dave tonight, and he knew just what I meant. I didn’t even know quite what I meant.
He wasn’t far away, just sitting on the other end of the couch. The dog was curled up between us. We’d been talking about the story I was going to read for Essay Fiesta (this Monday). I’d decided it wasn’t quite the right piece and Dave was explaining why it was. Who else on earth would do this? He went up and printed it out, then brought it down and read it while I skimmed episode summaries of the first four episodes of Man Men Season 5. Dave had spent most of the evening at his Othello class, which came after a scene rehearsal, so it was a long evening for him, but still he read each line carefully enough that he could explain in detail what he liked about it.
He also suggested a rehearsal strategy: “Print each paragraph on a separate sheet, so you stay fully in each world.” He got it from a Shakespeare book he’s reading for his class. The author says to cover a page of Shakespeare text with a sheet of paper and reveal only a line at a time. “It’s amazing,” said Dave, “Everything becomes crystal clear when you can’t see what’s ahead.”
The dog’s legs were all crisscrossed over each other. I had one of those sudden panicked realizations that I can’t imagine life without her. She’s been in our relationship as long as we have. “In just a couple of years, I said, “she’s going to kindergarten.”
“Um, Mar, she’s eleven and a half,” said Dave.
“Ssh,” I motioned, like Malcolm the toddler did earlier tonight when he tried to sneak upstairs to visit the dog, who was locked in a bedroom.
Ever since my brother Joey told us about his hairstylist calling her parents’ dog “the baby,” we’ve been calling the dog “the baby.” It’s so wrong and creepy that we can’t stop doing it. “The baby.” The more I know someone will think I’m weird for doing it, the more I want to. “The baby.” It would be less funny if she had a happy dog face. But the more wretchedly she stares ahead when I bury my face in her fur, waiting for the moment she can spring out of my grasp, the more I want to annoy her.
Tonight, for some reason, she wasn’t annoyed. She tolerated me like she does once a month or so. She smelled like clean fur and corn chips. Faintly like canola oil. I tried to save the smell of her in my memory for when she’s gone, like that would help. “You know we’ll have to clone her,” said Dave. “You do realize that, don’t you?”
“Clone baby,” I said, and we laughed hysterically.
Miraculously, for she doesn’t tolerate loud noises, she remained on the couch. It was time to turn off the lights and go to bed. Dave picked up his glass and sighed. “Come smell the dog,” I said. He put down his glass and leaned in to smell the dog.