Some of the best moments of my life have involved dogs. And so have some of the worst.
But who wants to live in a world with just ice cream and no pickles?
The Man in Love With His Dog
Michael Konik is a writer and performer who knows how to get attention.
His website is snarky and profane. His “indecent proposal” for ending gun violence is to allow parents to kill their disobedient children. He compares Islamist clerics calling for the death of Egypt’s opposition leaders to President Obama’s use of drone attacks in Pakistan. (Personally, I agree with Konik that both are reprehensible but doubt his tone will convince Americans to make our leader accountable.)
His book about gamblers included the story of a man who got breast implants to win a $100,000 bet. (And who is the doctor who agreed to perform that surgery?)
A friend, upon viewing Konik’s website, said he was not the “kind of person I would want to befriend in any way!”
And yet Konik has a softer side too.
Aware of the fleeting time left with his beloved dog Ella, he took her to Europe with him. He loved his dog. He enjoyed her company. And he wanted to spend time with her in places where she could join him in almost anything he wanted to do.
He wrote about their trip in Ella in Europe: An American Dog’s International Adventures. It’s one of the sweetest love stories to a dog I’ve ever read. You can read my thoughts on this “Canine Romance” at A Traveler’s Library.
And what drove Michael Konik to take his dog half way around the world when she was eight years old? His awareness that Ella would probably be with him for only a few more years.
Many traditions remind us to “remember our mortality” (the meaning of memento mori). Keeping our eventual deaths before us keeps us humble and reminds us to enjoy the precious moments given to us.
In a sense, Konik treated his and Ella’s trip to Europe as a memento morietur (remember she will die).
Knowing that some day she would be gone made dining with her in fancy Paris restaurants, taking her to shop for a Hermes scarf, and riding with her in a Venetian gondola all the more precious. Especially when most of Ella’s life was spent in the terribly undogfriendly U.S.
For example, Konik recounted getting a ticket for having Ella off leash in San Francisco while jogging despite her staying right by his side (as if on a leash) and sitting on cue.
No wonder he barely contained his glee at having her sitting beneath his table in a cafe. And continually expected someone to arrest him for having his dog beside him in taxis, trains, and restaurants.
Obviously, Ella wouldn’t look back on her trip to Europe with fond memories the way I’m sure Michael Konik has. But I believe that their trip was a wonderful gift to the dog. Because she got what most dogs enjoy best of all—to spend time with the person she loved.
One Perfect Day
I wrote about Jon Katz’s advice to plan One Perfect Day with your dying dog and vowed not to wait until the end to do special things with Honey.
And that’s what Michael Konik did. He did all the things with Ella that he would have liked to do at home in California: took her shopping, rode a train with her, watched a soccer game in a bar, and ate fine cuisine with her nose peeking out under the white linen tablecloth.
Ella’s presence at the writer’s side brought joy to him, but also to others.
…seeing her be herself, her true unfettered self, in Europe this summer, I sense that she unconsciously brings something helpful and healing to our human hearts.
Ella is like comedy. Comedy cannot permanently alter the world—at least not as effectively as brave science, bold literature, and well-defined abs. But comedy can bring disparate human souls together in the shared communion of laughter.
Comedy and Pain; Bitter and Sweet
Try to think of a funny joke that doesn’t include pain or discomfiture somewhere in it. It’s hard, isn’t it?
If a dog, like Konik says of Ella, is like comedy than our relationship with them will include pain as well.
Most of us expect to outlive our dogs. We know (and probably prefer not to think about it too long) that some day we will say good-bye.
It’s a bitter notion. But it makes every day together all the more sweet.
If you could take your dog into a fine restaurant or shop, would you? If not, what would be your perfect way of spending time with your dog?
Disclosure: The link to Ella in Europe takes you to Amazon.com. If you order this book through the link, I’ll make a few cents to pay for my hosting fees but the book won’t cost you any more. Thanks.
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