Bodhisattva Bowwow



3:09 A.M.

I sat up suddenly in bed and squinted through the darkness. Marley shook his head, jangling his tags to let me know he was also awake.

“How long have you been up, Bubby?”

Marley just sighed. I heard him stand and walk towards the bedroom door.

“OK, Bubby, just a second,” I slipped out of bed and into my slippers. “I’m pretty parched myself and I have too much on my mind to get back to sleep anyway. Might as well get up.”

Marley sighed again and headed out into the hall towards the kitchen for a drink.

After he’d adequately hydrated himself, he came back into the bedroom where I sat reading what looked like a Bible, but was, in actuality, a gold-leafed copy of one of my favorite novels, entitled Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

The author, Christopher Moore, was in Seattle the night before and Amanda had gone to meet him in person. She had taken my copy of Lamb with her and asked him to autograph it for me. “Kirk wasn’t feeling well at all,” she had told him. “There was just no way he could make it.” Moore had been happy to oblige. In fact, he autographed every single book Panda had brought with her. And there were many.

“So…what does it say?” It was Marley. He sat at my feet, doing his best not to scratch at the wrinkly, itchy mass that currently serves as his underbelly.

“It says, ‘To Kirk, Missed you! See ya next time! Christopher Moore’”.

“Shame,” said Marley.

“How do you mean? I think it’s very thoughtful.”

“Oh, it is. But I wasn’t talking about the autograph.”

I had no idea where he was going with this. “Where are you going with this?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you go with Amanda last night?”

“Because I felt like hell.”

“Huh. You looked fine to me. Please elaborate.”

“Well, I’m just having a bit of a hard time right now, Marls. Lots on my mind.”

“You said that much already.” (With the exception of playing fetch, Marley has little tolerance for redundancy.) “What I want to know is how keeping a few extra thoughts in your head prevents you from going to meet one of your favorite authors.”

“They’re heavy thoughts, Marley. About emotional topics. Sometimes emotions make humans very tired.”

“You stayed home because of me, didn’t you?”

“Not entirely.”

“Look, daddy, the cat isn’t the only one who knows the URL to your blog. I read your post yesterday about how much my declining health is troubling you.”

That took me by surprise, let me tell you. I didn’t even know Marley could read.

“Oh? Well, I just wanted to stay home and play with you instead. What’s wrong with that?”

“You can play with me any day! Christopher Moore won’t be back for at least a year!” Marley was shifting from his left paw to his right and back again. “What the hell is wrong with you!?”

He was visibly upset and I was confused as hell. There have only been a handful of times in eight years he’s acted in such a way. The last time was when I told him I was thinking about buying a motorcycle.

“You’re more important to me than some person I’ve never met,” I replied sharply. “I wanted to play ball with you. Get your sheets washed. Rub your itchy chin for a bit. Clean your ears. Massage your neck.”

“I love all of those things and you’re frequently doing one or another of them. Despite my illness, I am a happy dog. I am never in doubt as to whether I am loved. I am never hungry. I have a big, floofy bed and lots of other animals to hang out with. I get tired quickly, but I can still play. I have very little to complain about.”

I stared at him and felt tears begin to well up. When he realized I wasn’t going to say anything, he continued: “Do I have to spell it out for you, daddy? Are you really going to make me condescend?”


“What’s that song you keep playing over and over all the time right now?”

“It’s called Kids. It’s by a group called MGMT.”

“And what’s that lyric you like so much?”

“It goes, ‘Control yourself. Take only what you need from it.’”

“What do you think it means?”

“I believe it speaks to the importance of moderation and not allowing yourself to become so consumed by something you become compromised or held back by it.”

“Right – and that applies without exception, I might add. Even loving too much can be dangerous.”

Marley looked hard into my eyes, waiting for me to make the connection. Looking into his, I could see wisdom that extended back considerably farther than his eight short years. I perceived a level of understanding I doubt I’ve ever noted in a human being and found myself lost in it.

I had a realization then, as if falling so deeply into those dark, intelligent eyes had imbued me with the very awareness Marley wanted for me. I blurted it out even as it was forming in my mind. “Holy hell!” I shouted, forgetting everyone else in the house was still sound asleep. “I’ve allowed my concern for your health to make me miserable! I’ve taken so much from that uncertainty that I’m incapable of reacting appropriately. I’m so worried, my mind is elsewhere, even when we’re playing ball together!”

“There you go, daddy. Now you’re getting it. You should know by now there’s nothing I want more than to watch you get excited about something – to see you happy. That’s what makes me excited and happy.” He scratched at his belly and furrowed his brow as if in deep thought for a moment. “You know what doesn’t make me happy? Finding out you chose not to go to that book signing because you felt an obligation to stay here with me!”

“God, I am so sorry, Marley!”

“Oh, knock it off! It is what it is. Why not let go of the tiresome self-loathing and focus on the progress you’ve just made?”

I patted him on the head. He smiled and put his ears back in that adorable way that looks like he’s got a baseball cap on backwards.

“Now,” he said, “how about the two of us go outside and add a little excitement to some stupid squirrel’s morning? Whadda ya say?”

Last 5 posts by Kirk Starr

Last 5 posts by Kirk Starr