Friday, September 23, 2011

You're no Toast Hound, mister

Mr Burns
It's pretty weird to be sitting here typing and eating toast, as usual, while Mr Burns remains utterly sacked out, asleep under the covers in my bed, all the way down the hall.  I suppose having only had one dog in my adult life, the gorgeous and fantastic Jasper, I made Jasper the measure of all dogs -- assumed that all dogs would sit attentively and closely by my side all through breakfast, watching the progress of toast to mouth to plate, waiting for a morsel.  Whenever I looked at him, Jasper would whip his tail energetically; if I looked away, he'd stop.  Look: wag.  Look away: stop.

Not so with Mr Burns.  He is utterly uninterested in our food, does not even really approach the table when we're eating, can sleep through the sound of the freezer or pantry being opened, doesn't react to the skruncheling of chip or cracker packaging.  I just assumed things would be similar, and yet they are so not.

Jasper was almost as devoted to our food as he was to us.  Nothing delighted him more than the pantry door being left open so that he could stand and inspect everything at nose-level.  Nothing was ever eaten in this house except in his company, his ever-closer company as he very calmly and slowly inched his way closer, until chin resting on the edge of the table, he'd give you that See How Cute I Am look.  He was unstoppable in so many ways, so full of energy, so full of appetite, so full.  Just before he died, when we thought what he was suffering from was just pneumonia, from which he could recover, I had a tag made for him with his name on one side, Toast Hound on the other.  He never got to wear it, but he WAS it every day of his life.

Jasper's intense toast focus

Naturally, I have begun a list in my notebook of all the characteristics and behaviors that are so different, Jasper's column on the left since he was first, Mr Burns on the right.  I still maintain that Mr Burns is picking up where Jasper left off.  I know this is largely inspired by A Dog's Purpose, that precious book that helped me so much while grieving the loss of Mr Pillow Sticks, but it really does seem absolutely true.  Incredible Mr Burns showed up knowing just what we needed and ready to deliver.

How much of this is us I don't really know, though there is also that. We are better dog-parents this time around, I think, having been through this before.  We have a perspective that we utterly lacked the first time, along with an appreciation for all of what makes Mr Burns unique, different from Jasper.  And we're more relaxed.  More tired since we're older, but more relaxed.  I suppose this is exactly what it's like for people who have a second kid, which we didn't, so this is our first time experiencing this peculiar set of emotions, of adding on so significantly in this way to the love that we already had, learning, again, by experience, that it's cumulative, always more.  It just keeps expanding.

And we're still learning.  I struggle with small things, like how long do the screen saver on my laptop and phone remain Jasper now that Mr Burns is here. Does Jasper always enjoy Alpha status on my technology because he was my first love, even though there is more love beyond #1?  I don't have answers, naturally.  And it's really only been a little over a week, so there's time.

So much time.  I can sit here and drink coffee and think.  Nobody is shaking their collar at me asking to go for an hour-long run in the woods.  Instead Somebody is still a-snooze, head on my pillow, savoring the cozy big bed after four months of life in a shelter.

It's OK that Mr Burns is so different.  In fact, it's great.  Jasper was a terrific dog, a true and loyal and loving companion for so many years.  And Mr Burns is no Toast Hound, he's no Jasper.  He's him, Mr Burns, and that's more sweetness than we even knew was possible.


Jan Swan said...

You write so beautfully and feel things so deeply, it is a pleasure to follow your doggie experiences.

Anonymous said...

I share many of the same thoughts and memories. My husband and I waited a year before rescuing another dog. A full year of mourning the loss of our Sandy, whom we looked at as our second child. I often wonder if we should have waited as long as we did. For what it's worth, you did a brave and wonderful thing to bring Mr. Burns into your home. May he come to be just as an important part of your life as your first dog was.

Patricialynn said...

Don't feel guilt over Jasper's picture on your computer...having dogs is just like having kids, you don't have to feel guilty for loving your "second born".

Trouble comments that Mr. Burns probably never got human food at the shelter. He remembers this, because he never got human food at his previous home either. But after about a month of living here (where his #1 job is to clean off the plates before they are washed), he was a complete convert to human food.

I add a raw egg to Trouble's kibble twice a week - just mix it in there. I learned this trick from my mother, who raised show cats - the raw egg helps keep the coat healthy and shiny. All Trouble's siblings coats have faded to a dull black, almost a dark gray, but Trouble is still a glossy black. I credit the eggs!