Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Remains

(With apologies to photographer Sally Mann and gratitude to the former student and FB friend who recommended Mann's extraordinary exploration of mortality, love, and grief.)

I told you Moose was digitizing me. To honor the one-month anniversary of my slipping of the mortal coil of the body (which was yesterday), she offers this bit of canine ephemera from the Refrigerator Art Division of the Roxie Electronic Archive (TM: RW Enterprises, LLC):

Lovely, isn't it? And how marvelous that the world's most famous beagle would recognize the capacity of my own delightful breed to make humans happy. Believe me, darlings, we WFTs earn our breed description as playful and friendly, making us excellent companions for children (and aging lesbians, though for some strange reason the AKC omits that particular detail in enumerating our many virtues).

How are the moms doing? you may be wondering as they mark this sad milestone, because you are caring people and you know how much they doted on me. That is a hard question to answer, even when it is posed by you, my legions of loyal and trusted readers. I feel protective of the moms right now, gazing down upon them tenderly -- as we might imagine I do -- from my new post here in heaven, right in between Spike, the butch gray tabby I never met, and Lily, the trans girl tabby who taught me early that cats rule the world, no matter what dogs or humans think. I watch Moose and Goose move, separately and together, through the early stages of their grief, and I long to lick away the unexpected tears that spring to their eyes in odd moments. I want to help them adjust to new routines or perhaps do something goofy to distract them from an unremitting sense of something missing, something silent, something painfully out of balance. Turns out, though, that my powers as Universal Dog are pretty much limited to sending out beams of all the love that was left in my mighty heart when it beat its last. The cats assure me the moms feel that sometimes, and I think they do, like when they tell the tale of one of my exploits and then start laughing. Or when one reaches out for no particular reason and squeezes the hand of the other. See, the cats say at moments like that, they're doing all right, Rox. They're doing all right.

Even though, from the moms' perspective, the world has become a minefield of heartwarming stories about dogs, humans, love, loss, and inter-species heroism, any one of which might produce some of those unexpected tears referred to above. Their in-boxes are full of such stories, and they read them eagerly and with gratitude for the kind thoughts that inspired the sender to pass them along:
  • A long New York magazine feature on "The Rise of Dog Identity Politics," which explores how the increasing intimacy of human/canine relationships in urban settings and in households with fewer children has produced something of an existential crisis for dogs. Moose preferred the part of the story focused on recent studies showing that dog ownership produces an increase in the social-bonding hormone, oxytocin. She figures that anything that increases the human capacities for empathy, trust, and social affiliation has to be good.
  • A touching story from the New York Times about two elderly dogs, Harry and Bix, who lived in the same New York City apartment building and died recently within twenty four hours of one another. I am enormously grateful to have spent my earthly life in a nice house with a ridiculously large back yard rather than in an apartment in the city, but I have to admit these two fellas seem to have had a pretty good thing going. Their humans got together after their deaths and shared a bottle of champagne. That sounds like a fitting ending to a happy story of urban canine life.
  • An amazing local news story about a 4-month-old chihuahua who saved his owner's life by barking his tiny head off to alert his human that the big rig they were sleeping in at a Frederick, MD truck stop had caught fire. Coco saved the day, but he suffered severe smoke inhalation and racked up some hefty vet bills. Click on that link if you'd like to find out how to help defray the costs of this little hero's care.
Heck, Moose even found herself choked up over a story about the keeper at the National Zoo who is facing separation from the giant panda, Tai Shan, whom she has cared for for the past 4 1/2 years. (Tai Shan, in the extremely unlikely event that you haven't heard, is leaving Washington this week to enter a breeding program in China.) And both moms got a little choked up when they went to the movies this afternoon. They went to see A Single Man, the marvelous adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Contrary to what you might have heard, this powerful film is actually a story about the devastating consequences of unexpected pet loss, featuring a couple of very handsome smooth-coated fox terriers. The moms agreed that the main character's life might have been marginally improved by the sex/gender revolution that would transform Western civilization in the years just after the film's 1962 setting, but they thought what he really needed was a new animal companion. As Snoopy notes above, there is just nothing like a terrier to cheer a guy up when he's down.

Meanwhile, in Roxie's World, there are as of yet no new dogs sniffing the grounds of my ridiculously large back yard. No dogs or plans for dogs -- just longings and memories and scraps of poetry like this one from Ezra Pound's "Canto 81," also featured in Mann's book:
What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov'st shall not be
reft from thee
Indeed, darlings. It is true. Don't ever doubt or forget it. Dogspeed.


  1. Ah Rox, from your perch between Spike and Lily in your new heavenly post, you make me smile and look out on this incredibly busy day and week with great optimism. As a dear friend wrote not long after you'd slipped this mortal coil, "remember Rilke's beautiful words on animals -- 'always turned toward the open.'" You were and still are always turned toward the open, sweet Rox, and on the rare occasions you didn't cotton to someone, it always turned out that we should've listened. You were and are always turned toward the open and didn't like those who turn toward the closed. We are so lucky to have had your mortal self for so long, and are so very fortunate that you continue to blog as your spirit thrives.

    I also think the whole world could use a big ole wire haired fox terrier right now. . . .

    love from your

  2. Roxie, sweet one - I've been thinking of you up there with my dear departed feline companions - Pankhurst, and Saffo, and Charlie [Charlotte, at birth, but a sexing mistake] Mew, and Ruskin - but since even typing this has me dripping inadvisable salt tears into my computer, I can see why I haven't tried communicating on the subject before. How your typist can bear to do so beats me ... Give Pankhurst a lick from me - she always managed to come and lick my tears off my face.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.