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The Handrail


Handrails on stairs are no longer ornaments.


My Shih-Tzu/Bichon Frieze dog, Tobi, as you know, passed away a year and half ago. Tobi had a raft of idiosyncrasies which he acquired, all on his own, I thought. He appreciated nature, taking the time to sniff and smell each and every flower in a grouping. He allowed the younger dog, Kiko, to run ahead, while he sauntered along behind, surveying the plants and inquiring as to their health. Tobi always slept on the bed with me from the day he joined us, while Kiko, hot-blooded as I thought he was, slept on the cool hardwood floor. Tobi most always placed his “dump” in the taller grass, backing into it, while Kiko dropped his wherever the feeling overtook him. Tobi commemorated a good “dump” by scratching the grass vivaciously with his hind paws sending the grass high up over the mound he had created. In this regard he had been self-taught, using all four paws to commemorate the occasion. This had not worked so well – with four paws up in the air, he belly flopped onto the grass. Eventually through trial and error he learned to steady himself with his front paws to avoid falling on his chest and chin. The two dogs most always in or near the same spot, lifted their legs after sniffing at it to leave their scent. After Tobi’s passing, it was difficult for me to walk the same trails. The memories. Kiko, too, could not find it in him to go further than the first rest stop where they most always peed together. He sat morosely on the trail, wistfully looking from whence we had come, waiting for Tobi to join us.


What came to my notice after Tobi’s passing was that Kiko would scratch the grass after a “dump”, but seemingly at random. Kiko slowed down to smell the flowers. Kiko became more selective as where he placed his “dumps”. Anywhere was no longer an option. He circled about to determine the perfect spot. Kiko spent more nights sleeping on my bed than he did on the floor. He sauntered on the paths.


The lights slowly came on as the similarities between the two became more apparent when Pom-Pom joined our troop. Kiko had been a six month old pup when we rescued him from his designation as a Christmas gift to two toddlers who threatened his furry composure. The thought took words and I could say, Kiko had assumed Tobi’s role, and, Pom-pom had acquired Kiko’s role.


Pom-pom, as you will recall, was of the same type of dog, which we had given to my wife’s Mother. He had lived with us from leaving his litter for four months until we presented him to her for Christmas. During that time I had grown extremely fond of the alert little black and white, and secretly harboured a hope that her ninety-two year old Mother would refuse him, and, I could bring him back home with us. When she passed away over a year ago, there was no question that this, now unwanted dog, would return with me to take up the space vacated by Tobi.


Enlarging my frame of reference to the members of my family, the awareness indicated that in our family of eight, each of us had become infused with different aspects of our parents’ behaviours. Reflection illuminated one factor above all others: until our parents deceased much of these syndromes remained dormant, but flourished afterwards. My father was an alcoholic, loved his wine, and was able to camouflage his habit with great success. One brother became his copy, two others developed his taste for wines. My mother was religious, and quite so having spent some years in convent. Another brother, in his eighties, can likely claim to never having missed mass on Sunday through his own fault. Because of my father’s habit, my mother became adept at conserving money. Another brother has refined the skill of stretching pennies into dollars, and, relying on others to foot the bill.


Other ponderances revealed that the death of the parents, and, I emphasize the plural, is akin to being granted a freedom to resume their lives without fear of reprobation. In my wife’s family, a brother of hers left his education-based employment to become a golf course gardener.


The syndrome overcome or acquired is neither good nor bad, healthy or unhealthy. It all depends on the handrail at the side of the stairs.


The dog who waited for me for six years

The dog who waited for me for six years


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