The Little Friends (What I Think About When I Think When I’m Running)
17 January 2020

His face was not his fortune.

A small, snaggle-toothed creature with monstrous breath and lopsided bearing. He used to skulk around the film studios where I was working. Just out of range, staring sadly at people. One day I saw a construction worker throw a rock at him and knew I would have to take him home. The two kind ladies who ran the studios had managed to win his trust and I picked him up from them the day after we wrapped. It was summer and I had to tie his lead to the hand brake of my car for fear of him leaping out the passenger side window to escape. I drove home with him pacing nervously on the seat beside me. Occasionally he would cast a rueful look in my direction. He was a chihuahua. His name was Bruce.

I was living in a beautiful old village house then. It had a central courtyard and a large garden to which the doors were always open. Soon we became pals. I no longer had to tie him to the handbrake. He loved driving and standing on his hind legs was just able to poke his head out the window. He walked close and at times I’d panic when I couldn’t see him only to find him at my heel. At night he slept beside my pillow which was unfortunate for his breath and prolific and eye-watering farts. No one end was preferable. He was a reticent dog except when he heard my key in the lock and then I would hear squeaks coming from the other side, and on opening the door I’d see his little nose popping up periodically over the glass pane of the antiporta as he bounced up and down. With the exception of myself and a few others, he remained wary of men.

The vet reckoned he was 8-10 years old and said his previous life hadn’t been a good one. He had few teeth and his kidneys were shot. One morning I woke up and knew his time was up. I took him to the vet, and she confirmed what I already knew. She gave him two injections there on the examination table. I held onto a small paw and rubbed his head and soon his shaking subsided. As his life left him, his eyes glazed over. I buried him in the garden of that house. Beneath the tree he liked to pee on.

Often my mind is a-whir. And I worry and I run. And I run because I worry. And there are days like today when I am genuinely saddened, because I wonder,

Who will remember our pets, and the names of our pets when we are gone?

Sometimes I will recite the names of all the animals of my life like an incantation.
Odin and Simba, loving Simba.
Elsa who never had a chance.
Robin who liked the sound of skateboards.
Tikka and Tikku who went mad.
Beloved, nervous Pippa. Thumper.
Haughty Tilly and goofy Fergie,
the Vislas down the street.
Charlie and Theo
the brother dachshunds
who lived opposite.
Viking and Citra,
on who’s belly I would lay my head.
Kitty who I found beneath a car.
Hunina, who would take
my forearm gently in her mouth
and lead me around the house.
Nelson, the canary
who lived on my parent’s balcony,
and sang his little heart out.

And Bruce,
who in a lifetime full
of bad decisions
and failed relationships,
for two years lived by my side,
and quietly became
my greatest accomplishment.