The first dog I had as an adult was spectacular, an enormous, mostly black Malamute. Adults gawped, and kids would sometimes ask from a respectful distance, “Is he a wolf?” Though it’s been decades, there are people in that town who still remember me as that magnificent dog’s companion, folks who recall the tableau of that singular dog accompanied by a young woman with a long ponytail.
A decade after he died, I paired up with Olive, a comic mix of Basset Hound and Springer Spaniel. With her astonishingly long body and stubby, knobby legs, Olive was a local novelty. Schoolchildren laughed openly as she passed, and people slowed their cars to crack a joke or share that they’d seen some other dog once, somewhere, who looked sort of like her. For a few years after she died, neighbors still asked about her, the funny dog escorted by a middle-aged woman in a ball cap. This was sometimes me, and sometimes my partner, but that detail was irrelevant because Olive was the undisputed star of the circus.
And now there is Niblet, a black and tan terrier/chihuahua something-or-other who was already middle-aged when I acquired her. Though we are occasionally stopped by nice folks who want to pat Nib’s head and ask how old she is, for the most part we glide along unnoticed, a diffuse shape in the scenery that neither impresses nor amuses. We are happy companions in our invisibility, focused as we are on important matters: Nib studies the leftover aromas of other dogs, and I watch her as she works.
What almost no one knows is that, behind those bug eyes, this dog is as noble as a phoenix or a Buddha. She will win no prizes for beauty or novelty, but she is making her mark on the world nonetheless, like a faucet drip eroding an enamel sink. And we grow stealthy and powerful on the outskirts of the world’s peripheral vision, accessories to, and for, one another, as we get on with the repetitively satisfying sensuality of everyday life.