Friday, November 12, 2004

A Death in the Family

A break from the global to the personal, the canine.  In 1968 we were blessed with our first son, dutifully named and reared in the traditional way.  Wonderfully, he would have nothing of it and early on established his individuality including rebranding himself Tommy DOG.  His path ever since has been one of boundless creativity and originality, facing and meeting challenges, some of them steep, and in the end conquering.  He is among the most inventive and industrious people I know, and among the most loving.  He life is music, fanciful sculptures – some of them working instruments – and collecting.  It is also revolves around a true love of dogs.

In full disclosure his father is not a dog person, and further is guilty of depriving his children of a canine companion in our New York City apartment when they were growing up; until only recently, a home I shared with Tommy DOG.  Eleven years ago, my house mate announced that he had decided to purchase a puppy, a Rottweiler no less.  It wasn't something I had contemplated nor necessarily welcomed, but his money and certainly his home as well as mine.  Into are lives came Otis.  She, and I'm sure you were thinking he, was named after the elevator that carries us up and down each day.  Did I tell you he is an original?

From her unlikely name (he added to it, but rarely used Pricilla) to her disposition, Otis mirroring her master was a contradiction in terms.  While part of a breed known for its potential ferociousness, Otis decided that she was a lap dog.  Her favorite spot of course was on my comfortable leather couch which ultimately self destructed from years of her loving licking and lying about.  Over the years, knowing my general disposition toward dogs, TD would say to me, "admit it, you like her."  Who couldn't like, even admire, Otis?  Given the subjects I usually write about, I might add that some of the human Rottweilers out there could learn a thing or two from this powerful beast who opted for peace rather than war, gentility rather than confrontation.

Otis' disposition didn't come out of the blue.  It was responsive to extraordinary love and gentleness of her adopted "parent".  From the start, she knew unquestioned love and respect.  She wouldn't have been what she was without Tommy DOG.  But that is only half the story.  He would not have been who he is today without her which is what makes this a beautiful and a powerful metaphor.  I've tried to be a good parent to my two sons and hope that some of their innate character and value systems reflect what they were exposed to at home.  But what I may have given to them – and hopefully will continue to give for some time – pales in comparison to what they have given to me.  I'm sure their mother feels the same way, and hopefully so do you if you are a parent.  Tommy DOG saw Otis as his child and, as he told friends and family in his email announcing her death last evening, "nothing has given me more pleasure and personal satisfaction then raising my Rottweiler from a pup".  He is a different person today than he was eleven years ago, and Otis is part of that difference.

"My life with her has been full and gratifying and I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world," he said in his email.  I feel the same about my life with Tommy DOG.  Fortunately, I don't have to deal with it as a memory but as a living and wonderful work-in-progress.  We'll all miss Otis and I'll always be proud of him.

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