On 29 Years of Marriage Measured in Cats and Dogs
It’s possible to measure out a marriage
in pets. Up to year 29, my wife and I have had
two cats and two dogs. Our first pets as newlyweds
were all about the same age, relatively speaking,
so about half way through our history in wedlock
the two cats and the first dog died. We rescued
our next dog not a year later from a relative,
and that dog, the best dog ever, is old now,
and, as they say, on her last legs.
For some odd reason, this year
has been a dog year, a total dog year.
Perhaps, out of guilt for running over the old
dog backing the car out of the driveway,
and despite the fact that she miraculously
survived with nothing but a tire track to show,
we took on the task of rescuing dogs.
We fostered one dog, nearly fell in love
before finding it a home. We adopted another,
only to find out days later he was deathly ill
with some intestinal parasite. We
entertained the crazy notion after that,
perhaps, out of further guilt for giving up
the sick dog, of adopting two dogs at once,
at which we tried, and then failed. Totally overwhelmed
and stressed, we found a home for one and
kept the other, a rot, hound, spaniel mix,
a friendly but rambunctious pup, cute as hell.
I don’t know what it means that we
have had five dogs in our lives in as many
months, what it says about our marriage;
I don’t know why after 28 years only two dogs
and at year 29 four consecutive visits, one permanent.
Are we not busy enough? Do we not have enough
to do? Are we so overflowing with love
that we must find ways of spreading it around?
Would it kill the kid and the old dog to have too much
of a good thing all to themselves?
One of us was less enthusiastic about the dog project,
hesitant, doubtful, trepidatious, finally giving in.
Taking on the care of an animal is a commitment
and requires mountains of negotiation and compromise.
Plainly speaking, it’s hard work.
And at the risk of seeming almost pathologically
unsentimental, writing an anniversary poem
essentially about dogs, let me just say
that marriage or wedlock would perhaps
work more often for people if they would take
it as seriously as they take the care of their beloved animals,
which I believe, despite the various and sometimes momentous
challenges along the way, my lovely wife and I have done for 29 years.