rubber dog

by tobias crabtree

when i was a senior in high school my dad brought a puppy home from the reservation he had just visited. he looked quite a bit like the dog from the t.v. show The Little Rascals, he had a big black spot on his back and a half black, half pink nose. if you rolled him on his back, which he loved, you would see that his belly was as pink as a rose. because of that pink color, and the fact that he would let us kids pick him up from any limb (kids are so bad about mauling puppies) he earned the nick-name rubber dog. his real name was brewster, but in a family with five kids there seems to be an endless flow of name shortenings. brew, brewskie,ski, and on and on…he answered to them all, with a wagging tail. he grew into a 90 pound staffordshire terrier and was muscle from ear to caboose. my mom was his favorite in the family and i know why, she simply loved him so much.

let me break off and tell you about my mama. maybe everyone feels this way about their ma, i don’t know, but i have never met a better human. she has always had the ability to absorb all my bad, and love me just the same. i know dozens of hard-case marines that i’ve taken to meet my ma, many of them have returned just to stop in and eat pie and have coffee…even when i ain’t there! she has a way.

once i took my buddy, Christian, home for christmas. we were leaving on a long trip together and we stopped in to put our gear into order. christian slept in the guest bedroom that had a lacy bedspread and frilly pillows and my ma teased him appropriately. two weeks later my ma was seeing us off on a journey that would last 8 months and cover most of south america. it was the last time my ma would see christian. i guess we never know these things…they seem too unfathomable until they happen. christian would fly back to the states, take the job as a fireman that he had waited on for months, be stationed on the brooklyn side of the brooklyn bridge, ride a firetruck to the base of the twin towers, run in with 4 other men, and be turned to dust.  i went to NYC, i think it was a day or two later…i don’t really remember. i was awestruck by the grief. i felt the hot, terrible sadness as i realized that i would not find christian in a hospital or under a piece of rubble. the big maybe was too big. they never found a trace of my buddy, not a smidgeon. i stayed for his funeral…but i hadn’t called my mom. i was afraid to call her. i wasn’t sure if i would be able to hear her voice and not break apart into little pieces of myself. when i did call, it was her voice that made the damn break free…just the words, “oh, tobe…”. i never did completely come back from that one. i still have some trouble when my mom mentions ol’ boy christian.

it’s that kind of love that makes someone shine a little brighter than others. it’s why rubber dog sighed and posted up with his nose to the crack under the door anytime he was locked out of a room that ma was in; and my, my, did he make here laugh. he was terrified of spiders, rubber bands(i’m sure that’s because us kids shot him once or twice), and the dark. he loved to lay in the sun on his back with his pink stomach to the sky. one day we noticed a patch of angry skin on his belly…it was cancer. rubber dog died within a year. my ma never wanted another dog. i think brewster’s death hurt my ma more that she ever let on. it’s difficult to explain our human attachment to other hearts.

love.  that thumping heart, hurried breath, furrowed brow, kind of thing that comes from losing another being. everyone has their own opinion about souls and eternity. i lean toward the simple…love with all your might and without excuse. love till the stars fall from the sky and the earth cracks into pieces. love most the things that love you back and be careful not to waste it on the trivial. love relentlessly like a river. love…aw hell, love like my mother.