Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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In Which I Wax Poetic About My Best Pal

When I was nine, my dog Sasha was hit by a car and killed. I arrived home from school, barely had time to sling my book bag on the floor, when Mom tearfully broke the news. I was devastated. This was death. Unlike my fond reminiscences of Bosco, who mysteriously disappeared after Mom claimed she gave him to a nice family who owned a farm, ("yeah, more like bought the farm" muttered my older and wiser brother) I could not envision Sasha roaming free, pawing at happily clucking chickens and frolicking among the horses. She was dead.

I immediately set to work building an altar honoring my dead dog. The altar consisted of Sasha’s collar, a sandwich baggie of her dog food I scavenged from her bowl and a baggie of dog hair I had feverishly scraped from my carpet. I then placed a Book of Mormon on the floor in the exact center of my bedroom and balanced my doggie tributes atop the book. This was my shrine to my Mormon Heavenly Father. I was certain either he or Jesus would see my devotion to Mormonism and much like Lazarus, bring my beloved pet back from the dead. We must have been studying Jesus’ resurrection that week in Sunday school is all I can figure. Or maybe this misguided notion was due to one too many PET SEMATARY viewings once my older brother Brandon discovered the joys of Stephen King.

I secretly told my younger brother Jordan my plan. Of course he immediately told Brandon who promptly set to work mocking me. Understandably, Mom was a bit concerned, but she allowed me to keep my resurrection shrine. Outwardly I half-heartedly laughed with everyone over my antics, but inside I was resolute, certain Sasha would scratch at the door at any moment and prove those skeptical fuckers wrong. They’ll see!

Of course that didn’t happen and I eventually moved on. But my devotion to all things dog has only increased throughout the years. After Sasha there was Sage, who was also struck and killed. This was just as heartbreaking, although this time I managed to leave the Book of Mormon on the shelf where it belongs. And then there was Spliffy. Oh Spliffer. We got him from the neighbors when their pregnant dog gave birth to a litter of squirming little critters. I was 16. Mom has the ol’ boy still.

The Spliffer, he’s fathered more than half the dogs in Mom’s neighborhood. Mom says neighbors will walk their dogs by the house, “Fluffy there’s your Daddy!” they’ll say and point to the Spliffer lazily sunning himself on the porch. Spliff, the bastard, doesn’t acknowledge his seed, can’t be troubled to get up and say hello, but is utterly devoted to Mom. They’re quite a pair, those two. They eat together, watch T.V. together, sing together and sleep together. Yes, he sings.

We always had medium-sized mutt dogs. Mom never wanted some “giant horse of a dog” wreaking havoc on her household. I did. I dreamed of the day I could get my very own “real dog”. A Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever. A big boy. One sunny day in June 2003 I got my wish. My own dog. A black Lab. And I called him Max.

Max is my best pal. Like the Spliffer and his girl Mom, Max is never far from my side. He eats with me, walks with me, I can feel his heart beat staccato rhythms across my outstretched hand as we sleep. He is happiest on the bed, nestled between his Mom and Pop. He loves to have his photo taken and will pause, puffing out his barrel chest until you snap the picture. He likes to be told “bye-bye” if anyone is leaving the apartment. If per chance you forget, he’ll bark until you come back and bid him adieu. He whines and barks when The Surge and I fight - afterward he places a reassuring paw on my arm and licks my tears away as I cry. All heart. A big, black love sponge. He’s just a love machine. An enormous, goofy love machine.