I believe in always catching Angel. Not the cherub or seraph who watches over little children and drunkards, but the four legged version who escapes daily from my neighbor’s house. I can count on her call as confidently as I can the rising of the sun. “Jim, Angel’s escaped. Can you catch him? He always comes to you.” Maybe it’s the bologna I slip him, or the belly rubs he so adores, but I’ve earned the title of dog’s best friend, a titular honor that contains one part glory and 99 parts soiled dress shirts and slacks.
The call always comes at the most inconvenient time. The pasta is ready to be drained; one of the children failed at potty training; the bottle of wine has been uncorked… “Jim, Angel’s escaped. Can you catch him? He always comes to you.”
My wife turns purple. “How many times do you have to catch that stupid mutt? You know you’re only enabling her by being at her beck and call!” I put on my jacket and shoes.
Pending Angel’s untimely death, there is no end in sight to this ritual. In fact, it promises to intensify. As Alzheimer’s disease claims more and more of Julia, Angel is getting the upper hand. He’s learned to free himself from his leash and dart through Julia’s legs at the slightest opening of the door. He’s not the first. Milkshake, her last dog, met an untimely death on the road in front of my house. I saw him sprinting through my yard minutes before, but tired of catching him, I looked away and finished washing the dishes. I looked away again when digging his grave in Julia’s backyard.
So, where’s the epiphany here? At its best, this daily ritual is a reminder to care for our neighbors, no matter how annoying the inconvenience. Then again, it may mean I’m too big a pushover and just can’t say no to people. Maybe my behavior inadvertently is rewarding Angel’s misbehavior. If I only had more time to think on it, I’m sure I could come up with something more profound, but my wife is holding the phone out to me. It’s Julia. Angel’s escaped. I need to put on my shoes.
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