“Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks.”
—T.S. Eliot (although it also seems like something Dorothy Parker would have said after a couple whiskey sours), Sweeney Agonistes
If you apply the logic of the titular Sweeney—also a recurring character in other Eliot works—to a neutered dog like Wyatt, there must be only birth and death (unless you count the occasional I’m-the-pack-leader reminder mountings from Reese as copulation). As this is too depressing a sentiment on which to dwell, we try to make the dogs’ days between the two as enjoyable as possible, especially on or around their birthdays, which I know is ridiculous because a dog has no concept of a birthday.
Last year, Wyatt—the only of our dogs whose actual date of birth is known—had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad birthday. It started with me forgetting his birthday, deteriorated further the more I tried to make amends, and finally ended in disaster and heartbreak when Reese stole Wyatt’s birthday bone, then paraded it around the house, ever so slowly grinding it to nothing before Wyatt, who trailed the entire time, waiting for Reese to suffer an attention lapse or for karma to intervene.
This year, come Hades or high water, Wyatt would have a fun day. I was prepared to sacrifice presidential wannabe Ben Carson’s life to make it so. (Seriously, though, his doctorate should be revoked for thinking the insane shit that he thinks. This is a man who wrote in his subtly ugly book America the Beautiful that he believes “it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists … and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena.” A sound sentiment to be sure. But just what facts and empirical data are Carson’s views on (homo)sexuality, evolution and even taxation based on? That’s right, that great repository of cumulative knowledge and scientifically proven information known as the Bible (Carson’s idea of a tax plan is essentially a tithe). I almost hope for the sake of cosmic justice that the hell the hate-mongering Carson believes in is real, and that his is a steamy prison filled with hard, pipe-hitting inmates going medieval on his ass for eternity.) But I digress; for we are here to celebrate Wyatt, truly a great soul, not lament the increasingly sad state of American politics and the backward-thinking, self-serving douche nozzles who practice it.
As it happened, and as is rarely case when I try to plan something, fortune smiled upon us for Wyatt’s day. Fragments of blue broke through stubborn clouds, and the waking spring sun warmed the crisp air. We set off for a favorite hiking spot and found no cars clogging the trailhead; the dogs could roam freely. An exuberant Wyatt bounded between creeks and boulders and meadows and trees and the trail, breaking for an extended courtship with a large rock. He chased chipmunks and squirrels; he assaulted Miles like an alpha wolf attacking a crippled musk ox; he marked a forest-worth of pine; he had a good day.
After we returned home, Wyatt enjoyed his birthday dinner (beloved canned salmon atop loathed dry dog food), then all of the dogs passed out on different corners of the living room rug, too tired to tear into the birthday bones that waited in the pantry. Wyatt dreamt happily, his paws twitching in rhythm, muffled yips and growls bubbling from his mouth. There is more to life than Eliot’s Sweeney thought.
Note: Most of the photos that accompany this post were taken by the talented and, if I may say, devilishly charming Anthony Groen. Other lovely pictures he takes can be seen on his Instagram, which I rarely get to view because I don’t have a fancy phone.