Dear Pepper is growing up, which hurts my heart and makes me glad at the same time. She doesn’t need me quite as much as she used to. She’ll sniff around the yard now without her favorite friend right by her side.
A few days ago, she was puttering around outside while I was puttering around in the kitchen. She came to the back door to be let in – and greeted me with the most astonishing smell, strong enough to make a grown woman shriek. One glance at the sticky brown mess around her neck and shoulder revealed what she had gotten into.
My husband’s emergency assistance was required. We hustled Pepper unceremoniously to the faucet and hose at the side of the house, lathered her up, drenched her, lathered her up again, and then thoroughly rinsed her. None of us were in good spirits during this process.
Afterwards, while Pep and I were drying off in the sun, we had a chance to talk.
“Why were you so upset?” she asked. “I didn’t think I smelled so bad.”
“You smelled so bad,” I told her.
“Okay maybe I smelled a little bad. But I was so interested in it,” she admitted, a bit sheepishly.
“No matter how interesting it is, you can’t roll around in other people’s business. I mean other dogs’ business. It only leads to trouble. Keep your nose clean, Pepper. If you can remember this, you will be a happier dog your whole life.”
She reflected for a minute while the sun warmed us. “But I’m really interested,” Pepper said. “A lot of what makes life interesting is that kind of business.”
It was my turn to reflect – and offer the best wisdom I could. “One way to be interested in other people’s business without rolling around in it is to read a story. A good author takes her own business – or someone else’s – and turns it into something higher and better. Something that you learn from – or that encourages you – or helps you avoid a mistake. Something that makes your world a bigger place, or makes you feel less lonely. Something that you might even underline because it’s mysteriously and inexplicably beautiful. There’s this magical transformation that happens. Forgive my language, Pep – but shit becomes art in the hands of the best. It’s one of the most amazing things there is.”
“Sort of like in Lolita,” Pep offered.
“Yes, like in Lolita!” I enthused. “Or in The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. It was terrible how those Jack rabbits looked down on the Country Bunny and made her feel like she wasn’t worth much. It was terrible that the little golden-haired boy was so sick he might die. He really might die. But the book still fills me with wonder and hope.”
“I kind of get it,” Pep said. “But I’m not making any promises,” she added, running off as a squirrel caught her eye.
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