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Lionel & Lexi

BFFs: Lionel the Golden Retriever mix and Lexi the mongrel

I first met Lionel, a bouncy, handsome, brown Golden Retriever with a big head that fitted on my lap when he needed petting, around 11 years ago. He was my son Gino’s latest pet who stayed with him while he was composing or arranging music in the studio in his house. It broke my heart when I saw him many months ago.  He had grown old, decrepit, dragging himself lifelessly along, tail hardly wagging. How old is he? I asked. Around 11, Gino said worriedly.

That’s around 77 in dog years, I said. Oh, Lionel, you’re older than I, I said as I stroked his head. He looked so sick I thought he would die soon. But last Sunday I went to Gino’s house for lunch and a young Golden Retriever came bounding out to greet me. He is handsome, young, tail wildly wagging, eyes so wonderfully warm.  Lionel? I ask. Yes, Gino said. He has found Lexi and that has taken about 20 years off his age.

Lexi? I ask. A stray mongrel that Jing brought in. Jing is their cook who loves animals, who cries when she steams live crabs. Lionel makes love to Lexi around five times a day and look what that’s done to him, Gino says. I am amazed. He was or is 77 and now he looks like he’s in his 50s. Except that he has white eyelashes that sort of indicate his age but they didn’t even attract my attention. Lionel looked wonderful, fit, buff, energetic and very happy.

After greeting us, however, he disappeared into the kitchen and didn’t reappear to say goodbye.  What happened to Lionel? I asked Gino over lunch. He had contracted some dangerous virus that we thought would kill him. You remember that.  You saw him then and thought he was dying. We also thought he would go. I sat on the kitchen steps and he put his head on my lap. We were all there.  Faye and Maxine (his wife and daughter) were with me and we were all crying. I was petting him and whispering to him that we would miss him very much but that we loved him very much, too, and he could go if that was what he wanted. After about an hour-and-a-half he stood up, drank a lot of water, walked away and went to sleep.  He didn’t die. He lived.

Then Jing brought in Lexi and since then Lionel has turned into a very happy dog.  He and Lexi are devoted to each other. They are always together. Lexi is afraid of people. We think she was traumatized by whoever had her before so we stay away from her but Lionel and Jing stand guard over her. I think Lexi  created the quality of Lionel’s life. Before he was alone surrounded by people who loved him, yes, but he was a dog. He needed, though he wasn’t really aware of it, another dog’s company, another dog’s love.

Last week Gino received a notice on his cell looking for someone who wanted to adopt a really tiny kitten whose mother had been run over and killed. He responded. That added a very small kitten with tiger stripes and large bright dark brown eyes to their list of pets. They named the kitten Archie and guess what?  Lionel now stays a lot in the kitchen because when he lies down, Archie finds his way up on Lionel’s side and loves to sleep there.

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Here is the picture of a true unholy family — Lionel, the father, a golden retriever; Lexi, the mother, a mongrel stray;  and Archie, an itty bitty tiger-striped kitten, the baby.  But they are really and truly happy.  And you know what? I envy them.  I wish at the ripe old age of 72 that I had their lives. They have no concept of sin or marriage or whatever papers are required of a union. All they know is they found each other, sniffed each other, liked each other’s smell and decided to love each other. They are devoted to each other, always knowing what the other wants, always watching for each other, even if it means tuning out of the larger world — the whole house — and staying in their kitchen quarters. They are very happy.

I find myself thinking — that is the happiness I wish I could find. Simple.  Straightforward.  Loving only each other. No other concerns. No worrying about other people getting hurt. No hurting each other. No pushing away. No withdrawing.  No taking one step forward and two steps backward. None of all that. I want the impossible.  I want a man who simply loves me as I am as I simply love him as he is.

Maybe I should simply pray to God to take me now and reincarnate me as a dog. Then maybe my life will be as happy as Lionel’s and Lexi’s.

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