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there were the kids, there were the dogs. The first night I met my now-ex-wife,
she told me she owned a young black lab named Max. I could tell by the way she
talked about him that she was as much in love with this dog as she had ever
been with any human dude.
That meant a
lot to me. I found it enticing, captivating. Meeting a bright, pretty girl is
always pretty great. But meeting a bright, pretty girl who has a young black
lab—that’s just straight up over the top. That’s just hard to resist, really.
I found it endlessly charming. And quite frankly, I found it wildly hot.
after that night, we were married, and Max slipped into a starring role in my
life. He became my closest buddy. He became the heartbeat I fell asleep to more
than any other heartbeat I have ever heard.
Manhattan, Salt Lake City: Max led a life most dogs only ever dream of. He
chased mule deer in the mountains and he took sh*ts on 34th Street, in
the shadow of the Empire State Building. He was our guy—a dark, beautiful
symbol of our small family.
He was the
poster child for our flawed but unflappable love.
A few years
later, around the time my wife became pregnant, we drove up into the mountains
of Utah and picked out another dog, a puppy, to roll with our crew. They were
all labs, all black ones, purebreds, couple hundred bucks apiece. My wife was
so excited. I never saw her like that before.
happens with dog people: They lose their minds on that big day that only ever
comes once in a great while if everything works out. You pick a puppy out, every
now and then. It’s like only having Christmas morning every dozen years or so.
But when it happens, your mind kind of crumbles in the flood path of your own
But I understand Milo. I feel him, so to speak. I have bathed enough in his rancid breath to know his innermost feelings and thoughts ...
selling the dogs opened a small gate and let the puppies tumble off the bale of
hay in their doghouse. One by one, they found their way out. It was a crazy
windy day, I remember that. Up in those mountains, the winds were slashing and
bashing against the world and you could barely hear each other talking. I was
afraid the pups would blow away, but they didn’t.
tell their dog story and they tell you all about how they knew right away—RIGHT AWAY!—that the dog they ended up taking home was “the one.” That didn’t
happen for us that day. All the puppies looked exactly the same and none of
them was doing anything cool or whatever.
thinking, “Isn’t one of them supposed to come over to us and squeal with
delight and hop up on our shins and basically tell us to take his ass out of
here so we can be best friends forever?”
just kind of stood there, a throbbing lump of Labrador retriever being pounded
by the wind. My wife oooh’d and ahhh’d, but she didn’t know which damn dog to
pick. And neither did I.
both noticed something at the same time. One of the pups had something on his
eye. Was it a birthmark? Whatever it was it was the only thing separating any of the dogs from the pack.
that dog over to us.
little buddy!" we said, kneeling down/twitching our fingers/egging him on. He showed
up. Maybe it was the wind. But he showed up at our feet and we stared down at
him, a husband and his wife/a wife and her husband, gazing down into the soft
browns of warm, fresh life.
I rented a house where dogs aren’t allowed. I needed something fast that I could afford and that was the big trade-off. And so now he lives with my ex ...
mountains were the Colosseum. The wind was the crowd exploding. Fate entered
the building, I guess.
ring around the puppy’s eye?
It was a
smear of dried dog crap.
We had our
two kinds of labs, they say: proud, stoic, mature ones with regal dispositions;
and wild, energetic, crazy-as-a-sh*thouse rat ones, who will try your
patience for the rest of your lives yet demand that you love them with all
you’ve got because they love you like that and so it’s easy.
I don’t need
to tell you which one Milo turned out to be.
this past November. Milo seemed to take it all in stride, but I know it hurt
him. And it still does. It’s tough to tell with dogs that only want to play
Frisbee and run and roll around on the stinky bones of a dead deer, because
they never seem to react to too much—unless there’s a Frisbee or a field or a
dead deer laid out before them, you know?
understand Milo. I feel him, so to speak. I have bathed enough in his rancid
breath to know his innermost feelings and thoughts and so I know he misses Max
more than he wants to let on.
It kills me
in a way.
everything about Milo kills me in a way anymore. See, I seem to have lost him,
us. Our thing, it’s going away. I never dreamed that it could or would—especially not like it has, with divorce and all—but it has and it sucks. And
I rented a
house where dogs aren’t allowed. I needed something fast that I could afford
and that was the big trade-off. And so now he lives with my ex, walking across
the same rug where Max took his last breaths, both dogs, both of my best
friends, ending up living in a nice house with a beautiful backyard in a cool
neighborhood, and yet, I’m not in on any of it.
Milo and it’s all my fault.
obviously, you, sitting there in your computer chair or skimming this on your
iPhone on the subway or sitting there in traffic, you’re saying to yourself,
“This guy’s an idiot. Why doesn’t he just drive over there and take the dog for
long hikes and play Frisbee with him and spend tons of time with him just like
he did when they lived together?”
kids, the 20 miles between our homes: they’ve all wedged themselves between my
dog and me. I know that sounds like I’m making excuses. No sh*t, Sherlock. I
mean, that’s all I’m doing, really.
Still. I miss him
so bad. I miss being his hiking partner. I miss the evenings when I’d get up in
his earholes and rub my fingers gently and this maniacal tornado of hair and
slobber would just melt in my hands like Sunday morning frying pan butter,
I might be
able to make it right with Milo. I need to try somehow, before it’s too late. Spring
will be here before long. I never have enough time. Neither does Milo. Dogs
know how to live.
really suck most of the time, did you know that? You should know that by now. Our
priorities, our dreams, what the hell happened to them, you know? We lose the
plot so fast.
loss/entertain me/I’m mad at you/don’t talk to me/retirement fund/college
fund/fund fund/after all this time, you don’t even know me/I need to find
myself/parenting styles/Gods/expensive organic carrots will make you live
longer/Facebook messages from married people/I wonder when I’m going to die/I
have to save more/I need to spend less/my kids are my life/it hurts when I
pee/I hate the people I work with/we need to go our separate ways/I need to be
alone/everything that has ever happened was a great big mistake.
divorcing people. Man oh man.
divorcing dogs. I’m going to
Hell, aren’t I? Ha ha ha. We probably