I love dogs. I always have.
Dogs have been part of almost all of my life. My first was Uncle Jiggs. That is the two of us in the photograph. We were about the same age, and he was the boon companion of my youth.
When I moved to Mexico, my roommate was the aged and saintly Professor Jiggs -- my 13-year old golden retriever. Mexico was far too confusing and hot for him. The only thing he liked were the fireworks. Golden retrievers like anything that sounds like guns bringing down pheasants.
But, like most old men, he hated change. Even though he loved swimming in the Pacific in Oregon, he found the hot water in the bay here to be disturbing -- as if the world had somehow come unstuck.
He survived five months of living on the beach in Villa Obregón, and was then mercifully relieved of the vexations brought on by old age (my best friend).
That was 2009. Because I enjoy traveling, I avoided even thinking about buying a dog in Mexico. I saw several golden retrievers on trips to the Mexican highlands. Every sighting was a sure sign from God that I was to move inland where I would live happily with another golden. But I ignored the hints.
I held out for six years. It was just happenstance that my friend Elke informed me a litter of nine golden retriever puppies had been born here in Barra de Navidad. Golden retrievers in Barra? That had to be some sort of sign.
Darrel and I decided to visit the house where the puppies were staying. When the door opened, it was like a scene from 101 Dalmatians. The mother and a mob of puppies came rushing out to welcome us to their house.
One guy was rather aloof and haughty. And very vocal. I immediately took a liking to him -- and home he went with me to be transformed into the unforgettable (for those of you who have been reading these essays for some time) Barco Rubio. At the time I thought the name was a clever political pun. It was not until I thought about it that I realized I had named my dog "blond boat" in Spanish.
My neighbors loved him. Most of them knew his name better than mine. They still do. He was friends with every dog. Every kid. Every adult.
All of that ended just after his first birthday. He had contracted a lung infection and then his stomach turned. Surgery turned out to be futile. I had to make the hard decision that every kind dog owner has to make at some point. At least, I was there to hold him as he died (barco's door).
I thought of Uncle Jiggs, Professor Jiggs, and Barco Rubio this morning while reading one of Ted Kooser's poems -- Painting the Barn..
The ghost of my good dog, Alice, sits at the foot of my ladder,looking up, now and then touchingthe bottom rung with her paw.Even a spirit dog can't climban extension ladder and so,with my scraper, bucket and brush,I am up here alone, hanging onwith one hand in the autumn wind,high over the earth that Aliceknew so well, every last inch,and there she sits, whimperingin just the way the chilly windwhines under the tin of the roof--sweet Alice, dear Alice, good Alice,waiting for me to come down.I have experienced that same sensation in the house with no name. Whether waiting at the foot of the ladder, watching for the opportunity to dash through the open door to play with his street dog chums, or jumping onto the bed to dump me on the floor, Barco's spirit permeates this house. As do those of the two Jiggs -- even though neither of them lived here.
Is this a prelude to announcing there is a new dog in my future? Maybe. But, probably not.
I still have the same travel plans. But Barco Rubio managed to put an end to them with his more interesting life. If I do, it will be another golden retriever. I know a good thing when I experience it.
I do love dogs.