Rose Richard:Best in show

It is rare that I wake before 7:30 on a Saturday morning, particularly on top of a hangover. There was one time, though, that I did it and was glad.

My aunt came home from California and she must have driven all night. I woke up because I heard noises upstairs, and I knew to wake up and go to the source. I knelt on the ground and reached out my right hand when I saw who was making the noise. “Shh,” my aunt said. Out of a dog crate came the new puppy. As any stranger who meets me for the first time, he regarded me with suspicion. Where did my outstretched hand lead?

He sniffed my fingers with his tiny dog nose. I wanted so much to grab him in my arms and bury my face in his puppy softness. But he was scared, and probably very tired, and I most assuredly smelled funny after a night at the bars.

Collie is a Gaelic word meaning something useful. When I think of useful collies these days, I think of border collies herding sheep and cows. Rough collies (think Lassie) were indeed herding dogs, a long time ago. Now they star in movies and grace dog-food packaging.

Clyde, my collie, does not have much particular practical use. No, he barks at anything that moves, and sometimes he just makes things up to bark at. He begs, he hates having his hair brushed and his toenails clipped. He does not love to be toweled off after going outside and playing in the rain. And when we take him on walks and he doesn’t feel like walking anymore, he just sits down. He is pampered and spoiled, and has been since the day he came to us.

Usefulness is a subjective term. Clyde (a.k.a. El Escabarche, Clydie Bitey, etc.) doesn’t herd anything, or even rescue small children from wells as his ancestor Lassie did. Clyde has done nothing spectacular. What Clyde does, and why he’s my Valentine, is that he is that unconditional friend who doesn’t care when I graduate, what I get on my LSAT score, or even if I look ugly and hung over. Clyde never yells at me for coming home late, and drunk. He never questions my taste in men and doesn’t say I told you so when it all ends. I can leave for two months, and he still loves me when I come back, though others may have disappeared or gone away.

Yes, this year my love goes out to a hairy, barky dog, who year in and year out, keeps me from going completely crazy.

Except when he has cornered a squirrel and won’t stop barking.