Monday, August 9, 2010
The Missing Third
This morning on the street I passed a woman I met several months ago. Back then, I had been doing sit-ups on Ft. Tryon lawn, The Cloisters looming to one side. Poochini impatiently wanted to chase pigeons and dig up worms. The woman walked toward us. She lead on leashes three dogs the size of German shepherds. All, including the woman, shared the grizzled coats of old age. Poochini is a social guy, and eagerly pulled at his leash to get to them. I gave up on exercise and said admiringly, old ones, huh? Yes, she boasted, this one's eighteen years old. She pointed to a brown one that looked at me through clouded eyes. You must take good care of them, I replied. I walk them three hours a day, an hour and a half in the morning, and an hour and a half in the evening, she said. That's what keeps them healthy. That, and good food, she added. Must be good for you, too, I commented, impressed that someone her age could keep up with three big dogs. Her dogs greeted Poochini in the normal dog manner, then walked off distractedly. A few minutes later, halfway across the lawn, the brown one stumbled and collapsed. It struggled to stand, but laid down, defeated. At that moment the old woman had been watching the other two, and did not see the brown dog fall. Concerned, I approached them. She said, what happened? He fell, he tried to get up but couldn't, I replied. Her eyes registered sad acceptance, yes, the other day he collapsed in the elevator, she said. She coaxed him to his feet. He took a few halting steps and threw up yellow bile. That was the last I had seen of them until this morning when we crossed paths again, she walking two dogs now instead of three. I wondered how soon after we'd met had the third passed away, and my heart sank. The love of a dog is perhaps one of the simplest I've known.