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She was, after all, just a dog, and she did what dogs do. So if she dug her way beneath the porch and snarled at strangers, was she so different from any others of her breed? What if she sharpened her already fearsome teeth upon some handy chair in the basement lair? Was it not there for that reason, and wasn’t the honing of canine teeth a higher purpose for dogs? Being just a dog, what could be more natural than to cavort among the schoolkids waiting for the bus, or to wander much beyond, where other dogs must surely idle, waiting to sniff and be sniffed? She was just a dog, after all, so she whiled away her days in waiting – poised at the great window, her head between the curtains, looking for the children to return from school or play. And with a dog’s great patience, in later years she’d huddle on her mat, waiting an eternity, it seemed, for Mom to reappear from work or shopping or – who knows where humans go? But that’s what dogs do, and she was just a dog, after all. Just a dog who played hide-and-seek around the kitchen island and chased the furnace man away, as all dogs are supposed to do. Just a dog who sneaked a nap upon the couch when Mom was not around, for how would she ever know? Just a dog who ate the roast if it was left within range – for were not roasts just made for eating? Just a dog who’d gladly join the gang in Mother’s bed, and bring a mouthful of socks if that’s what it took to get a laugh or get the family up on weekends, when they’d play rather than just go away. Whatever dogs do, that’s what Billie did. She chased the cat in fun, yet she’d defend that cat ‘gainst any other foe. And birds and squirrels? They were for chasing after, too, like any other dog would do. They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but that’s not really so. She learned where to go and where to stay in her new home – as long as humans were there to applaud when she performed. And like all dogs, she was a proud performer. But when she erred in some minor way, she carried her guilt like all dogs do – her head heavy, her eyes cast down, the stub of what passed for a tail pulled tightly down. But she was just a dog, after all. And no human can stay made at dogs, especially when those dogs put on their woe-is-me look and curl their hind ends and snuggle up for a forgiving pat. She was just a dog, after all, and she grew old and white-whiskered. Her once-strong legs betrayed her, and her sight and hearing lost their keenness, leaving her with but her nostrils – a dog’s true best friend. She could no longer do the things dogs do, though heaven knows she’d try. Her daily travails pulled on our heartstrings more than hers, for she was never one to complain, as is the usual way with dogs. Now that she’s left us, we remember what we knew all along – that she wasn’t just a dog, but a sunny spirit planted in our midst, with her own unique traits that made us laugh or clap or wonder. She was, above all, Billie. A poem by Dean M. Laux © Copyright 2016 by Dean M. Laux. All rights reserved. 72


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