Dogs were my first obsession, and from the time I could talk, I repeated an ardent desire to have one of my own. In the innocence of youth, my parents decided to grant my wish just before my brother was born. They soon discovered it was not their greatest plan, but I was euphoric almost to the point of madness.
Spaniels themselves are mad at the best of times, at least when nobody has time to train them. Left to instinct they revert to a state of random ebullience, as if their brains are full of sherbet and their bodies made of slack elastic. They are free from cares or aversions, remaining cheerful while their ears are sucked and their eyes prodded. Whether ridden bareback by a lopsided infant or locked in the laundry room by a haggard mistress, they are simply glad to exist. Mine was no exception, and we were instant friends. The lawn soon grew small craters and an air of carefree wildness. The flowerbeds were troves of half-eaten, half-buried wellingtons and other rubber treasures. Anything made of anything so flimsy as paper or fabric, anything so delicious as a crayon or an electric cable, either had to move fast or be hidden above snout level.
My secret tears often fell on the ears of that dog. When I was sent to my room for being naughty, she would come with me, head and tail hanging low. Although she was of a skittish breed, almost brainless, and later even epileptic, she dissolved into a mute stillness whenever I was sad. The same eyes that told only greed and vandalism in everyday life then offered a pathos more genuine than most humans could muster. As if I had bared my heart to her in verbal detail, she understood immediately: not what had taken place, but how to heal it with her warmth and attention.
I still have a thing about dogs. Such a thing that I could probably never have one of my own now, as I would never get anything done.