Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Sermon

"As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God—never mind now what that command was, or how conveyed—which he found a hard command.  But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do—remember that—and hence, He oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade.  And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists."

"And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea; when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water behind."

Our dog Daphne was sick recently.  She vomited eight times, always on a carpet.  It reminded me of how David will never put a spoon on a counter, he likes to put spoons on top of pot-holders.  Or maybe, I thought, scrubbing the carpet, again, it was an aesthetic decision she had made, as if vomit just didn’t look right to her on the bare floor.

By the time she’d vomited four times I knew, even though I had not yet called the vet, that I would have to take her to the vet, and that they would have to x-ray her, and that it would cost $600.

I did it, even though I believed, correctly, that the x-ray wouldn’t show anything, even though I didn’t want to leave my house and my children that night and go out to the vet’s office, where, the last time I was in the waiting room with Daphne, a woman said to me, in the most unfriendly way, I’m passing a kidney stone so could you keep your dog from getting my dog to pull?

A long time ago, before we were married, I made David promise that someday we could get a dog.  I remembered loving the dogs my parents had when we were young.  I remembered calling Molly to me at night, and holding her by the collar so she wouldn’t leave me and go to my sister’s room.

But when we did get the dog I didn’t love her.  And when we moved from New York to San Francisco, and flew Daphne out on an airline, now defunct, that carried pets in the plane’s main cabin, and met her in Los Angeles, and drove her up the Pacific coast road  for three days, and arrived at our new home, and she decided, in her wisdom, that she would not shit on the sidewalk, but only on grass, and for the first few weeks we were there I had either to run her several times a day up the steep hill on Laguna to Lafayette Park, where she would grudgingly shit, or to take her out to one of the trees on our street and yell at her and sometimes cry, while she wouldn’t shit, there—then I wished her dead, I really did.  One day, as Daphne and I entered the park across from John’s school, I threw a ball for her to chase.  Except instead of throwing it into the park, I threw it hard against a tree at the entrance of the park, and it bounced off the tree and into the street, where Daphne was almost run over by a car.

If she had died, my children would have mourned her.  At night, John calls her to his room, and tries to keep her on his bed.  She submits for a minute or two before sliding to the ground and heading for her spot under the piano.  Dogs are not children.  They don’t hold, within them, a future, or at least they don’t when you raise them, as we’ve raised Daphne, to be a guard who greets people by licking them, a retriever who looks only for orange balls, a baby who can’t have babies of her own.  Daphne will never be transformed.  She is a dog, and always will be a dog, and I will be her master.