September 11 was Solo's Got Day before it meant anything else to me. I walked him home for the first time on the afternoon of September 11, 2000, on a leash and collar that his rescuer, in his eagerness to be rid of Solo, had given me. A copy of Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men was tucked under the other arm, also a value-added free gift. Perhaps the guy hoped I'd get caught up in the romance of the book, and of Border Collies, before the reality of the free dog on the free leash and collar hit me and I started having second thoughts.
We walked into the apartment, and the first thing Solo did was *** a leg and mark the door. I shook my head and said, "No. We don't do that here." Solo laid down, slicked his ears back, and lined his muzzle up along his white forepaws, looking up at me with sunken, yellow eyes and saying, clear as anything, "I'm sorry. I was bad, I was so bad. It will never happen again." Maybe the reason Solo decided to trust me then is that I took him at his word and left it at that. Which was good, by the way it's never happened again.It took me a long time to see the dog that other people saw when they looked at Solo. I was surprised when my friends called him "handsome." All I saw was the jutting ribs, the hollow eyes, the worm-filled belly. They thought he was "sweet" because of the desperate way he would hang his gaze on a person; I thought he was creepy. I kept hoping that someone else would come along and want him more than I did, but no one ever did. Later, though, as I got to know him better, everything turned upside down and backwards, like a reflection in a funhouse mirror: my friends told me he was vicious and dangerous and mean, and should be put to death.

I still couldn't see what they saw. I saw a dog who was absolutely terrified, who was essentially pessimistic, who assumed that the world was out to get him, whose glass was half empty. And then, all I wanted to do was protect him, this fierce animal with the feral eyes. So, that's what I did. I've literally never been mad at him, for anything. I'd never known such patience.Time went by, and Solo changed. Everything was new to him, but slowly, what was once novel became commonplace and finally unremarkable. He's still not what most people would call "normal," and his progress has been far from linear, although it's better than, say, a random walk. Solo has learned, with much effort, to take things for granted: I walked by twenty men today and none of them wanted to kill me, I watched the train go by and I wasn't afraid, Melanie went to the store and I knew she would come back again so I didn't need to panic and cry.

I learned to take things for granted too. The first time Solo played with a stuffed toy, I cried with relief; now I've become jaded enough to be annoyed by the squeaking. I enjoy the shameless luxury of hugging him and burying my face in his ruff, without remembering how embraces used to make him tuck his tail and duck away. I've almost forgotten that I had to teach him to chew rawhides by gnawing on one myself. (But only a fool could forget the utterly businesslike way he watched me, then took the rawhide when I offered it to him, tucked it carefully between his two paws like a lollipop on a stick, and started working on the exact corner I had had started for him.

I wouldn't believe it myself, if I hadn't been there. To this day, he holds chew toys like lollipops, because that's how I taught him.)

Today, I was walking home with him from the park, and I looked down at him, all sleek and auburn and gold and white, limber, rawboned, trotting down the sidewalk like he owned it. And he looked up at me with this brilliant grin, and his eyes said, as dogs' eyes have always said, since the first time they walked with human beings: "Isn't it a beautiful day?" And then, "I love you." And then, "Hey, what's for dinner?"

And it hit me that Solo's glass is finally half full.
I still have a hard time, sometimes, seeing the dog other people see. For example, the other day I showed up at school with a finger bandaged up because I'd cut myself while slicing a bagel. My labmate assumed that Solo had done it to me. She doesn't understand that Solo would literally die before he did anything like that to me. But, she has never known the dog I know.

I have other friends who have never seen the dog I used to know those are the friends who tell me I can bring Solo to the party if I want to, and ask if he wants to march in the parade, and are surprised when I demur. It makes me take a step back and realize that I'm not the same person in every situation, either. So how can I expect my dog to be?

In the end, it only matters what we are to each other. He is lucky to have me, it's true, but oh, am I lucky to have him. And so privileged, that he can be who he is around me. I can hardly believe we've only known each other for three years, and can't imagine life without him.

Cheers, Solo. Happy Got Day, sweetheart.
Love, Melanie

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
And he looked up at me with this brilliant grin, and his eyes said, as dogs' eyes have always said, ... "I love you." And then, "Hey, what's for dinner?" And it hit me that Solo's glass is finally half full.

damnit, you made me cry. what a beautiful feeling it must have been to look at Solo and know that he's finally a pretty happy boy, to see that potential realized. happy Got Day, Solo!

shelly (perfectly foul wench) and elliott & harriet http://home.bluemarble.net/~scouvrette
Sometimes when I sleep at night I think of (Dr. Seuss's) "Hop on Pop." George W. Bush
Happy Got Day to both of you but especially Solo. If he'd gone to most anyone else, I don't think he'd be celebrating a Got day right now. Here's to many, many more of them.

Tara
Today, I was walking home with him from the park, and I looked down at him, all sleek and auburn and gold and white, limber, rawboned, trotting down the sidewalk like he owned it.

You've given Solo the best Got Day present ever, Melanie. Confidence.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
Nice story, Melanie! And I agree with you these flag-waving nitwits need to GET OVER the 9/11 fixation. Many other important things have happened on that date.
Charlie
@netnews.upenn.edu:
In the end, it only matters what we are to each other. He is lucky to have me, it's true, ... around me. I can hardly believe we've only known each other for three years, and can't imagine life without him.

What a beautiful tribute Melanie. Thank you for sharing with us.

**
Marcel Beaudoin & Moogli
**
'If all goes well, you've overlooked
something!'
**
(in message (Email Removed)):
And he looked up at me with this brilliant grin, ... it hit me that Solo's glass is finally half full.

damnit, you made me cry. what a beautiful feeling it must have been to look at Solo and know that he's finally a pretty happy boy, to see that potential realized. happy Got Day, Solo!

me too.
Happy Got Day Solo and Melanie
Nessa

Sorry I missed church, I was busy learning witchcraft and practicing becoming a lesbian.
www.nessa.info