Because I grew up eating no processed foods, only able to eat food from our garden or slaughtered animals, I always thought the machines that dispensed things like turkey or ham sandwiches were the best invention known to mankind.  I wanted one of those stale, pinkish treats that did not exist in nature because, frankly, I was tired of nature. Living on 220 acres of nothing but trees and a cross-country ski path that led from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, there was no shortage of God’s creations around: five or six dogs, a few cats (if they did not crawl into our car’s engine to keep warm and burn to death when my Mom turned the car on), twenty-one chickens, two horses and two ponies (very stubborn, one with a hematoma), a black sheep, three pigs named ham, bacon and sausage, a cow named Bubba (who once went to the bathroom all over the inside of my Step-Father’s Land Cruiser) and, for two weeks, a  cockatoo named Jose Feliciano that got eaten by our old cat Tiger.  We had a huge garden, and grew things like rhubarb for pies, and zucchini, of which there was a seemingly endless supply, and for dessert we would pick wild berries and, if we were really lucky my Mom would whip some fresh cream she would skim off of fresh cow’s milk to top them off.  When I ran away from home to go live with my Dad in Ohio at the age of sixteen, I wanted nothing to do with nature, or anything healthy or fresh – I was still scarred from my Mom’s health food kick in the seventies that included dinners like refried tofu and carob cakes on our birthdays.  Columbus, Ohio, the fast-food capital of the world, was the perfect place for me, and when I called my Mom to tell her I had left camp a day early to fly to Ohio to live in a town house with my Dad, I am pretty sure her gasp of shock was because she did not want her offspring living in any structure built after the 1800’s.

I wasn’t able to escape God’s Creatures forever though, because when I was in college my boyfriend and I inherited two tiny Boxer puppies after his Dad died of lung cancer, and suddenly we were living in an illegal sublet in Stuyvesant Town on the lower East Side of Manhattan with two dogs, something frowned upon severely by the Stuyvesant Town Gestapo, who had already banged down our door on several occasions to try and evict us, foiled only by my insistence that I was not in fact living there, but just the maid and that the tenant would, always, be home shortly.  I was only 20 years old, and I did not want dogs.  I didn’t want dog hair on my Marc Jacobs silk sweaters, but I loved my boyfriend, so we moved to an apartment that allowed animals, a little dump in Hell’s Kitchen with a patio, and soon those little puppies turned into eighty pound dogs that took up more room in our little full size bed than me, and I spent years in bed with my boyfriend and two dogs, curled up in a little corner with my feet hanging off so those dogs, who were brothers and best friends,  could be comfortable.

One night, fourteen years later, I was out with my cousin, and I came home a little drunk and very tired, and as I kicked off my heels I saw that one of the dogs had died on the floor of our apartment.  I called my boyfriend and he left his bartending job and came home and wrapped the dog in a blanket and took him to an animal hospital where they could properly dispose of him.  The other dog stood patiently at our apartment door waiting for his brother to come home for three months.  Once in a while he would let out a small whimper, but mostly he was just quietly waiting as he had no knowledge of death, so for him, it was just a matter of time before his brother came bounding through the doorway.  We got a cabin in Vermont that summer because I had a book deal and wanted to finish my novel, and the surviving dog got to go with me.  We thought he would love the open fields and refreshing little lake, but he had lost the use of his back legs by then, and he waited at the cabin door for his brother just like he had waited for him back in New York.  A few months later, he died.  I feel like that dog sometimes, as the bright sun shines through my balcony window and I can smell the ocean air on a quiet Sunday at the beach.  I don’t want to go run through the fields or jump off the dock into the cool lake water. I just want my best friend to come home.

D GIRL‘s last column.

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