Sometimes when the afternoon sunlight is a light-saber cutting through the room and spotlighting the particles of dust in the air as if they were some vast galaxy out in deep space, I watch my three-year old daughter, Violet, walk over to her dog, Max, and throw her arms around him with the same gusto as if he’d just walked in from winning us the Great War.
“Ohhh, Max!,” she cries to him, a hint of old Broadway in her squeak. It’s the same way you’d have to throw your arms around Jimmy Stewart at the end of a flick, with the credits itching to roll.
It’s hard and heartfelt and real.
And Max, well, he just cranks his head a little, not even lifting it from the damn floor until he’s certain where he wants it to end up/just sliding his old jaws along the pine boards until he spots Violet’s neck poking out of her Elmo shirt.
Then, with the bare minimum amount of gas dripping down into his pan, he revs his old engine, scraping just enough spark out of the flash to crane his noggin off of the floor. He leans in then, to plant an afternoon tongue kiss on that small ticklish county just behind my little girl’s left ear.
I watch him for a sec.
She giggles as if on cue and refuses to let up on her bear hug even though I can tell that Max would just as soon be left alone for a while, to lay in the settling dust of this eternally vibrating house.
It’s been nine years today since this dog was born.
In some ways, I guess, he was just another black lab puppy born on just another spring morning, in the shadow of just another stretch of Rocky Mountains. But I don’t don’t know what those ways are and I don’t care either.
I don’t know where I was that morning long ago. Probably in a van somewhere, chugging truck-stop coffee/driving my band to St. Louis or Tulsa or Athens or wherever we were gonna play that night.
There I was, just living my day out, probably thinking about last night’s show/ daydreaming down some highway, thinking about after we’d left the stage and the couple beers I’d pounded down with a cute local girl just before they blinked the halogens and told us all it was over, that it was time to go. And somewhere in that same exact moment: a thousand miles away or maybe more or maybe less, somewhere out there in the pre-dawn hours, Max was getting ready to get born. And down the road from him doing that, there was Monica: laying in her bed, unaware that she’d soon be buying herself a puppy to love on; completely bat-crap unaware that she’d soon be marrying some rhythm guitar player from a rock’n’roll band from Philly.
None of us had a clue.
How could we have?
Looking back, how could it ever be possible? Who decides that stuff? Who plucks out two young people with hearts on fire and picks them to get to share such an enchanted chunk of life with a magical young lab named Max? How did we get so lucky to spend our days with a fella who has more grace/kindness/chivalry/soul/and love in his left paw then anyone, or anything, that I have ever known.
Happy Birthday, buddy. I love you so much and I respect you more than I can ever show you or tell you.
Thank you so so much, man. For everything so far. For choosing Violet and Henry. For choosing all of us.
You have taught me more about the measure of a man than any man ever will.
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