What’s in a name?
At the Farmer’s Market there are fourteen puppies in a cardboard box. One of the puppies, still blind, clambers whimpering over the side of the box and totters toward me. An elderly lady picks him up, thrusts him towards me and says:
“Here: he’s your dog. He wants to be with you!”
“No way, Lady!” I say and turn away.
When I exit the market, I walk past the dog box. There are five dogs left but the one that wandered in my direction has gone. The salesman calls out to me: “Hey you!” He walks towards me. “That woman said you’d be back for your dog. Here: take him!” He unzips his coat, and there’s the dog, snuggled against his chest.
“When was he born?” I ask.
“January 16!” comes the reply.
January 16 is my birthday. Today is March 8, the anniversary of my mother’s death. The dog is 53 days old, much too young to leave his mother.
When I get home, my wife tells me to take the dog straight back to the market.
“I can’t do that!” I say. “The man will be gone by now.”
“But we don’t know anything about the dog!”
“I’ll clean up after it.” I say. “I’ll feed it and train it.”
“You’ll have to put it in a cage.” She tells me. “I’m not having it peeing and pooping all over the floor. You know why they’re called poopies.”
Later that evening, I force the little puppy into the old dog’s crate, and I retire to bed. No sooner have I gone upstairs than there’s an unholy noise from the kitchen.
“Help me!” I say to my wife.
She laughs. “Not a chance! You know the rules!”
Down in the kitchen the puppy is in distress. I take him out of his cage and he waddles and wags and promptly pees. I clean up after him and wonder what to do. The cage isn’t a solution. There’s no box in which to put him and any form of captivity, like a board across the door or a baby’s gate, sets him howling again. I gather my sleeping bag and a couple of cushions and I lie down on the kitchen floor. He immediately snuggles up to me, finds my finger, and sucks on it.
I get up off the floor, make my way to the fridge, open the door, and pour a glass of milk; for the rest of the night, every time the dog gets restless, I stick my finger into the milk and the dog sucks my finger. I spend the next week doing this.
While I’m lying on the floor, I study the dog.
“What is your name?” I ask him constantly.
Then, one night, as I watch him bounce across the room towards my milky finger, I know what to call him.
If I had waited another week, I might have called him Pooh!
Tigger never leaves me. He is like an orphaned duck who follows the first human being who feeds it. Tigger follows me around the house with his nose behind my knee and if I stop suddenly, he bumps into me. My wife has started to call me Dada Duck. I now call her Mother Duck and our daughter has been renamed Baby Duck. Tigger has a second name: Dada Duck Dog.
We have a little corner piece on our lot where the roads join and all the dogs stop, including mine. I went out there one day and put up a large sign with “Pooh Corner!” written on it. Beside it I placed an arrow which points “To the house!”
All the children on the block love Tigger. When he came home, he weighed 6 pound and covered six tiles. Full grown, he weighs 110 pound and covers 108 tiles! He is gentle and well-behaved and everyone adores him. Some of the children want to buy a little saddle and ride on him, he is certainly big enough, but I won’t let them do that. The children on the block now call me Christopher Robin. At Christmas, they bring me pots of honey.
As eleven years went by, Tigger grew old and slow. He developed cancer and had arthritis. On fine days he was fine, but on damp days he could hardly place one foot in front of the other. He had difficulty climbing the stairs and would sleep for hours rising only for his morning and evening walks and his food.
Yesterday, el cinco de mayo, at 12 noon, Tigger passed away.
Today, there is a little white cross at the corner of our lot. The children have laid a circle of flowers around the cross. On it somebody has painted: R.I.P. Tigger.
What’s in a name?