All Grown Up

by jkatejohnston

1 December 2017

Dear Max,

Today is Pete’s third birthday. Enzo said we should get him drunk—because he’s twenty-one in dog years. And recently Teresa told us that, taking a walk with dog friends, one of the humans said about Pete, “He’s so powerful.” And ever since, we’ve been telling him “Oh, Petey, you’re so powerful.” And commenting to each other on his powerful rippling muscles, his powerful mind.

For those who don’t know Pete, he’s a long, tall Yellow Lab/Shar Pei mix. His head is gigantic. His jowls astound. With his giant paws, he looks like a perpetual puppy, an older one, an adolescent. It’s hard to see the Char Pei in him, but if you scrunch together the skin on his face, which he tolerates without a murmur, it’s obvious.

He loves swimming and balls. He likes to eat. Once on a walk he managed to swallow an entire plastic grocery bag with some morsel of food inside. I was preoccupied with Colin. Then I saw that Pete was prying this flattened piece of trash off the street, and he managed to get it down before I could get it away from him. We didn’t identify it until he threw it up a few days later. And we marveled.

There is no more amusing sight in the world than Pete in a hurry. Colin is an athlete, a beautiful runner. Pete, on the other hand. Oh Pete. His mechanics are all awry. Last weekend, Enzo and I took him to the huge lot in our neighborhood that we call The Dunes. (It’s going to be a housing development and shopping center someday, but for now it’s just dirt and empty streets and litigation.) Enzo was on his bike, but he got off and took off his helmet. Then Enzo and Pete must have separated for a moment, and Pete saw some kids wearing bike helmets, far across the lot, maybe three hundred yards away. He must have thought one of them was Enzo. He took off at a full gallop, and he is powerful, wonderfully strong, but inefficient, a sort of galumphing mass moving across the dunes, radiating anxiety.

We called him. He figured it out. He came back.

It’s five thirty. Pete and I have been up since four. It’s pretty cold, and we’re both in front of the fire, and Pete’s curled into a nearly perfect circle, gazing at the flames. It feels like an ancient scene, an ancient association. Maybe instead of going to work today to finalize exhibits and book my flight and write a First Amended Accusation, I should just stay home and hunt and gather.

But I doubt Early Man gave Early Dog any birthday presents, and certainly nothing like the red plaid fleece-lined winter jacket with a mandarin collar that Teresa picked out for Pete. He’ll get fun presents too of course, squeaky balls and Nylabones and lots of treats.

Happy Birthday, Dear Petey!