Even the Sun Shines on a Dog's Ass Some Days
I read J.R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip, not the pretty NYRB edition linked to but the plain-Jane, oddly sized Poseidon Press book pictured here, bought on the street a few months ago for the grand sum of $3. It's a slim book, easy to get through in a day.
I can see how it would put some people off, consumed as it is with Tulip's bathroom and sexual habits, flowing from this borderline-obsessive relationship to the dog in question. But that's why I liked it so much -- it spoke to that very consuming aspect of love for an animal -- a dog in particular -- and that narrow focus that comes of taking your responsibility for another creature so very seriously. Which I relate to, and others' mileage may vary.
Earlier in the year Pia Jane Bijkerk, in her blog enhance the everyday, came up with a project called my heart wanders: a collection of subtle hearts in special spaces. The idea was to submit heart images taken from life, presumably the more beautiful the better.
Right away, I knew what I wanted to send her. And right away, I knew I couldn't, for all sorts of reasons. It would be interpreted as crude, or smart-assy, or derogatory, or trying for shock value. Probably if I were a bit more militant about the whole concept of What Art Is, I would have gone ahead. As it was I said Eh, skip it, and didn't think about it again until now, after reading Ackerley's sweet hymn to all the parts and byproducts of the dog he loved.
Anyone who knows me or reads this blog is aware of how much I love Dorrie. Nearly every evening after a long workday, I drag my sorry self out for a walk with her no matter how unmotivated I am, and she never fails to infect me with her energy and joy at our being out together. She trots along, often slightly ahead of me -- I love The Dog Whisperer but don't subscribe to absolutely everything he preaches, and if she wants to forge ahead a little I have no problem with that, so long as she doesn't pull -- nose in the air, tail held high and happy. And although I don't seek it out, or focus on it in particular, neither do I take great pains to avert my eyes from what presents itself: my dog's pink, very heart-shaped, um... asshole.
OK, so you're wincing, and thinking HOW DISGUSTING. Fine. So let me ask, do you or do you not appreciate your lover's penis, testicles, vagina, less-than-perky breasts, because they're a part of someone you care about? Even though perhaps they're not about to win any beauty contests, or they're wrinkly, or icky stuff comes out of them? Do you love the parts because they're attached to the whole?
So I love the parts of my sweet Dorrie. I've blogged about her soft speckled ears, commented on her sweet brown eyes and damp black button nose and strong, delicate, deerlike legs. She's beautiful all over. And in fact a good friend, at whose house Dorrie was a guest last year, commented: "She has such pretty girlie parts." It's true. Her fur is white and she keeps herself very clean, and hey, I'm the one picking up her fresh shit in a little plastic bag -- if I want to admire my dog's asshole, I will.
The fact is, it's pink and perfectly heart-shaped and as dear to me as all the rest of her.
And no, don't worry, I haven't taken a photo. It looks like you think it looks. It would have been perfectly appropriate for subtle hearts in special spaces, but propriety won out -- and then lost out again for a moment, as long as it took to post this, thanks to J.R. Ackerley's celebration of all the bits and pieces and effluvia that were part of a good dog.
I promise not to mention it again.