“Nothing!”

J.P. Devine

It doesn’t look as though we will be getting a newer car this year, or a new dresser for her, or have the oriental rugs cleaned, because it looks like Jack is going to live longer than she thought.

It’s not like she wants Jack to pass. She, whom he first kissed upon arrival, would not want that. She deeply loves him and hates it even when he gets a bug in his eye.

He seems to dispense doggy fondness equally, but why then does he walk between us when we quarrel, look up at only me and emit a small feral growl? “Don’t you love me, Jack?” I wait for a loving response. Nothing.

I’ve long accepted that they are soul mates, that he would drag her from a burning Prius, and she would sell the house to pay for an operation that would extend his life only eight minutes. I’m confident that she might do the same for me, but if the ER refused her Discover card? Nothing.

This is a warm, loving woman we’re talking about. She lets me drive her Prius, overlooks my enormous failings, and she knows that he is 10 years old, and all of our previous three sheep dogs started to go about that age. But yes, she has prepared herself for that sad event.

An example of this woman’s sensitivity: She knows he has a bit of arthritis in his back legs that makes it harder for him to get up the stairs at night, so she stands up there, cooing and extending a hand.

When I’m coming up, more slowly than I used to, there is no cooing. I like cooing. I miss cooing. “Aren’t you going to extend me a hand?” I ask.

She smiles and walks away saying nothing. Nothing.

It is my job to brush him and make sure his water pail is full and he gets his twice a day pill. She checks on this. I take a pill twice a day, and she never checks to see if I do, or if my wine glass is full.

Jack knows she adores him. What he doesn’t know is that she’s waiting until he’s “gone,” because she knows he will stain the new couch, and maybe go back to chewing on the leg of the new dresser. So there will be no new dresser nor couch. The same for the Orientals that need cleaning.

“We’ll wait,” she says.

She’s smart. She waits until he’s out of range before saying things like “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to Freeport and not have to worry about getting back so early, because we’ve got a dog waiting?” He doesn’t hear that.

This is the woman, who when I want to chat a little longer with the cute clerk at Polo Factory Store, whispers out loud, “We have a dog at home you know, and we’ve been gone six hours.” I wonder if when she’s shopping with friends, she ever says, “I’ve got a husband at home, you know, and I’ve been gone too long.” Nothing.

So I have my doubts, and so now and then, I’ll test him to see if he loves me as much. I rattle the keys.

“I’m leaving now, Jack.”

Nothing.

“I’m leaving Jack, Daddy is leaving.”

Nothing.

“And I might not come back, and you’ll be alone all day without water in your bowl and no extra food, and if you have to go outside, you’ll just have to hold it.”

Nothing.

Does he know I’m faking, and that no matter what, SHE will be back?

She claims we could go on trips if I’d put him in a kennel. A kennel? Where he would have to sleep with dogs of lesser quality, and get fleas or something worse? I don’t think he knows the true depth of my love, and I wouldn’t trade him for a night in Portland. I ask her if she would put me in a kennel. She smiles. I am suspicious of that smile. It’s not a “of course not” smile. It’s an ambiguous smile. Nothing.

He’s looking at me now because, when I write, I have the habit of speaking the words as I type and he always looks over when he hears his name.

A test: I just stood up and said, “I’m leaving and I may not come back … ever.”

Nothing.

I’m not sure a kennel is all that bad. “Maybe,” I tell him, “a flea bite and sleeping with a Rottweiler and Bichon Frise mix would teach you a thing or two about love.”

Nothing.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer


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