By Joe Darby
No, friends, hopefully this week’s column will not read, as the above title might indicate, like a Master’s Degree thesis. I was just trying to add some gravitas, as the more pretentious talking heads on TV like to say, to the thoughts I’m about to share with you about my dog Baby.
Gravitas is defined by an online dictionary as dignity, seriousness, solemnity of manners. It’s a fairly new term, as words go, because it’s not even listed in my 1,500 + page American Heritage Dictionary published in the early 1970s. The first time it started to come into popular usage was during the presidency of George W. Bush, when the lefty journalists were saying Bush was trying to add gravitas to his administration by gathering respected aides and cabinet members about him.
The implication, of course, was that Bush’s intellect was not weighty enough (and gravitas does stem from the word gravity, of course) to lend seriousness to his White House on his own account. Bush was actually a well-read and thoughtful man, but that of course made no difference to the pseudo-intellectual pundits.
Well, if you’re still with me, I’m about to start talking about Baby. I just wanted to let you know how important — and weighty — her presence is to me at this time in my life.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard about Baby before and you know that I lost my beloved wife Mary almost two months ago, after she had resided in a nursing home for six months with advanced dementia. Baby loved Mary and, perhaps sensing her “mama” was ill, spent a whole lot of time in Mary’s lap before Mary had to leave our home. And I remember that not too long before that happened, Baby was on the couch with Mary and I was sitting next to them and this is what my lady said of our dog: “She’s just precious.”
So the bond they created between themselves adds to my love for Baby, a mixed poodle who is mostly white with some cute black markings. I’ve pretty much had dogs all of my life and I’ve had some really great pups, if I do say so myself.
But I have never had a dog that shows love and affection like Baby does. Pet lovers say our animals are like members of the family and that is very true. Baby is child-like in the love she gives me unconditionally. When she cuddles up on my lap I can sense that she feels loved, comfortable and safe. And that’s a pretty good feeling for me to have at this point.
She doesn’t just lay in my lap. She puts her little head on my chest, again as a child would, and from time to time looks up at me with the most loving doggy eyes I’ve ever seen. Recently I’ve started to sing to her when she does that and although my voice could not carry a tune if the tune had a handle, she genuinely seems to like the sounds coming out of my mouth.
I, of course, talk to her throughout the day and into the evening — we are both night owls now, you see. She is a companion, a little object of love and a real friend. The experts say poodles are among the smarter dogs and I can vouch for that. If doggies had colleges, I’m pretty sure Baby would make the dean’s list every semester.
I observe her closely but of course she watches everything I do and learns also. She knows that if I have a ball cap on, I’m getting ready to go out. When I come in from the store or from doing other errands, she goes absolutely googoo, barking, madly running back and forth and finally jumping up on the couch. She knows I will sit there for our greeting rituals, consisting of hugging, playing and even a little loving roughhousing. It makes her day.
Baby sleeps in the bed with me. I read every night and while that’s going on she lingers mostly around the foot of the bed, probably because my reading lamp is fairly bright and she desires a little more subdued lighting for her before-bedtime nap. So, every night, when I put the book down, turn off the light, then turn on my right side to prepare to go to sleep, she comes up and plops herself down, to where we’re touching, usually side to side. She knows that when the dark comes, it’s time for Papa to go to sleep.
I let her lick my plate after I finished eating and that led to an unfortunate accident not long ago. I had a genuine British Royal Navy dinner plate, formerly used on ships, that I bought in Portsmouth, England 40 years ago. I used it the other night and, pretty stupidly, left it on the arm of the couch rather than putting it in the sink. So after I left the room Baby indulged in her right to lick plates and of course knocked the plate on the floor and shattered it. I was upset but I didn’t blame the dog. I never should have left the plate in such a vulnerable spot in the first place, right?
I could write on and on about this wonderful little animal, but I am sure you have a good picture now of what she means to me. I’ll be 80 in two months and she’s only 2 or 3, so she should outlive me with no problem. I sure hope so. I don’t know what I’d do without my little furry ball of love.