By Richard Boughton
I like dogs. It may be that I like them better than I like people. I make no apology. I’ve never been done wrong by a dog, save for the one that bit me in the nose when I was 5 – though in all fairness, he was an older dog, likely faint of sight, and may have mistaken the nose for a sausage or some sort of savoury biscuit. Aside from that isolated incident, I’ve experienced nothing other than companionship and love.
So it happens that I often find myself saddened by the lot that has fallen to Bali dogs. It’s a dangerous place for dogs, is Bali, and they often run afoul of various hazards. One dog I had struck up a friendship with was later poisoned by angry people whose motorbikes he had chased too often. Another more recent friend fell into the unfortunate habit of harassing the neighbouring farmers’ chickens. Well, okay, he ate a couple. And now he has quite disappeared from the face of the earth. One can’t help but suspect foul play.
One has to harden his heart. What else can one do?
I had a dog in America. His name was Smokey. We had to leave him when we came to Bali. I remember him now, how he would run in circles when someone came home, his own dance of joy, his expression of love. He was 3 years old and never got over peeing on the floor when he became overly excited.
We tried to find an owner for Smokey before we left, but could not. He was a big dog, a Labrador, with enormous paws and strong, wide shoulders, and he laughed and played and ran like the wind.
We took him to the Oregon Humane Society the day before we left for Bali. The people there said that they place 99 percent of their dogs, and if there is a dog that they cannot place, they send him to an alternative home until someone will come and see him and love him and buy him.
I remember pushing Smokey from behind while the woman there in the Humane Society pulled him by the leash in the front.
Don’t do it, Smoky said, don’t do it; don’t make me; I want you; I love you.
And I said, It’s okay, you’ll see; it’s okay.
Smokey was my friend. He was the best dog ever. When I was sick, when I was hurt, he was with me, and if I was cold he would sleep with his back against my chest. He was warm, and heavy, and so very present.
Smokey had a brother, a Chihuahua named Coco. It was easy to place Coco because he was small and cute and stupid, while Smokey was large and rambunctious and devoted. He used to play so very carefully with Coco, letting the little dog bite his ears and nose. Sometimes he would hold Coco down with his forearm and put the little dog’s head inside his mouth. One time he picked Coco up by the back of his little dog shirt and carried him around the house from room to room as if he had found a pet of his own.
He loved that damn stupid little dog.
And he loved my wife’s ex-husband, Albert, because Albert would walk him two and three times a day, and they would wrestle sometimes, and Albert would buy him large bones from the butcher shop and bring them home in greasy brown paper.
Smokey never barked at people he knew except to say hello my friend.
When my wife returned to Oregon for a time, I kept asking her to find out about Smokey. She said she had tried but could get nowhere. She said, Just believe the best, that he is happy, maybe living on a farm with lots of land for running, with other dogs as friends, and maybe sheep, maybe cows, maybe horses, and children.
And so I called Albert instead. I asked him to find out about Smokey. And he did. And he told me.
Smokey loved children. He always wanted to be part of whatever game they were playing. He ran behind them, tried to join in as best as he understood how, and even when they shooed him and said, “Go away,” Smokey would persist, because he loved to have fun, and he loved the way children themselves were like puppies. This, anyway, is what I believe.
I believe that dogs must surely go to heaven, although I have heard some people say it’s not so. And yet I believe that if God is love, He must love dogs very well indeed. I believe because I must, and must because any other alternative is unbearable. I believe that Smokey is waiting even now, and loves me still, and with the unquestioning devotion that only a dog can muster.
I dreamed of him after moving away to Bali. I dreamed of him often, and then the dreams suddenly stopped. I dreamed of Smokey running to me, jumping up to my chest (my heart) as he so often had, happy, happy, so large, so strong, so very present. There never was a better friend.
And so I wait now as Smokey waits, to embrace again, and wrestle, and play, and then sleep in warmth and comfort and safety when the day wanes to night and the night to slumber, and neither man nor dog must part or ever again wake to tears.