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Good dog 

click to enlarge ROXIE: Rescuer.
  • ROXIE: Rescuer.

This is the story of a boy and his dog. Is there a better observer of the folly of human behavior than the dog? The dog knows all about us. His findings are biased, and he never reports them to his peers, but the dog has all the data. And dogs still like us.

Roxie entered The Observer's life well over a decade ago. Shoes kept going missing from the front porch of the Observatory. The Observer suspected the punk rock kids down the street, as they seemed to be in perpetual sartorial need. But their feet betrayed no purloined footwear. It turns out the sneak thief didn't have feet at all. We found the shoes, and this dog, and all the other items she'd absconded with to make a home for herself, inside a drainage pipe. This subterranean circle was a tableau of trash. Within was a shoe of mine. Never found the other. She had on a flea collar, but no tags, and the collar was getting tight around her neck. She was a gorgeous Shepherd mix. She made black and brown go together so well, we questioned why mom told us not to mix those colors for church.

The Observer would like to tell you we knew immediately this was the dog for us due to our powers of observation. But having never been a dog owner, we figured we'd do the right thing and take her to the pound. At this point, it's unclear if it was hours or days, but it wasn't very long before she was ours. And we hers. We named her Roxie, after Little Rock. Not long after, we panicked when she lost a tooth — turns out, this streetwise pup was a puppy! Despite her youth, she seemed to know a lot. Or she was just that smart. She always seemed to understand what you were saying. Eventually, we'd have conversations that some non-pet owners would find ridiculous. The Observer would have, too — before. Remind us to tell you someday about the time she talked us out of driving when we'd had too much to drink.

Then, The Observer got divorced. We didn't observe that coming. We didn't hear much from friends or family, who probably didn't know what to say. Life became a country song — divorced, the parents got sick, the job ended, the car broke down beyond repair. There was one living creature whose eyes we could look into and find solace and self-worth: Roxie's. Eventually, The Observer got out of that hole, and eventually, the inevitable hoary cliche happened — we realized we hadn't rescued anything, but had been rescued.

On a recent cold and misty night, we called out into the backyard darkness, but Roxie didn't come jangling up. She must already be inside. Had we overlooked her? So loyal and predictable was this mutt that we actually walked back into the house and looked. Then, we grabbed the flashlight. If she'd somehow gotten out, she wouldn't be far — the cruelest joke you could play on her was to lock her out of the fence. She'd wait there at the gate to be let back in. Roxie knew what it was like to be on the outside, and she liked it on the inside.

The flashlight showed her lying in the yard like usual, only it was misting rain on her black and brown color scheme. Those big brown eyes we'd looked into thousands of times for meaning were vacant. It started raining harder, and we howled our confused grief into the darkness. Like a dog.

So here's to the animal that taught The Observer more about love, forgiveness, loyalty, jealousy, grief, friendship and family — the things that we think make us human — than any human ever did. Roxie, rest in peace. Good dog.

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