It’s true. They just are. It’s not the same with cats: some particular cats might be better than some particular humans, but for the most part, cats don’t care about being good. Dogs, on the other hand, are the Boddhisattvas of the animal world, come back to earth to help us even though as enlightened beings, they could go to, say, Jupiter or other dimensions. Okay, they do eat the most disgusting things in the universe, jump up on us at unsuspecting moments, bark to go out and then back in with no rhyme and reason and occasionally fight other dogs. But just because they have issues doesn’t mean they’re not way better than your typical human.
My dog is especially better, which is not to say she is the only best dog in the world, but she’s sure one of them. We found her — of course! — at the pound. She was the dog the staff kept at their desks because she was so sweet they couldn’t bear to be away from her. A lab-mation (mostly black lab with a shield-shaped spread of white and dalmation spots on her chest, she loves everyone, and after 12 years with us, particularly us.
We got Mariah Lily Karumba Lassman because my then 10-year-old son Daniel needed a friend and our house in the country needed a dog. Did I mention I was a cat person before her? Despite her eating all the Birkenstocks in the house and being sock-obsessed, she was a pool of love from the get-go. She spent a good part of her life sleeping with one child or another, kind of like an 80-pound body pillow.
When guests arrived, even ones who didn’t like dogs, Mariah walked over, put her head tenderly in their laps and looked up with great understanding. She won them over. When delivery people or other strangers came, she ran out to greet them and rolled on her back. When any of us were sick, she slept on the floor, lengthwise against our beds, ready to jump up and follow us from room to room. When critters circled the outside of the house, she circled the inside of the house, barking them away.
She is also a wizard with cats. I once found her lying down, face to face with Saulina, our cat of 20 years who was so smart that she did our taxes for us. They stared at each other for hours in that position, and I realized this was probably a daily pit stop in their lives when the humans were gone. I’m sure they were transmitting life-giving information about healing properties of the universe, each from their respective planets. Mariah was a love bunny with a series of kittens, and is now good friends with Miyako. She’s also been a staunch defender of each kitten in his/her time from Judy, the old cat, who doesn’t mean to be so bad but suffers from PTSD.
Now Mariah is old. Her eyes are glassy (but the vet said she’s not blind), she walks with a limp because of her arthritis, and she’s graying at the edges. Yesterday, she wouldn’t stop cry-barking, so I took her to the vet from hard-core steroids and painkillers. “12 is old for a lab,” people tell me, but I haven’t really faced this reality. Yet this reality is coming fast, and as I carry-pushed her into our bedroom, where she’s slept for years on the floor beside us, I nudged her onto a large pillow, covered her with a fleece blanket, and prayed for this good dog to live happy years, and least happy months more. Some beings seem too good to die.