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Damn I. I have something to play for you. I found it. You're ready. Yeah.
Yeah. But what is not my dog, Rico? It doesn't sound like a happy sound, but it's actually a happy sound, I'm so happy.
It sounds like someone in pain, so it sounds like he's in pain or something, but he's actually like himself. He, like, throws his head off. And it's sort of a moment of pure bonding and joy to howl and how he'll go as long as we go.
Oh, wow. Oh, oh. Oh, one more. Now, fa la la la la la la la la la la la. OK, that's it now. Well, thank you for sharing that. Sure. So today we actually have two essays by the same author, Timothy Barone, and they're both about his relationship with his dog. Have you ever had a dog?
No, I've actually never had any pets. Really? No pets at all?
No, I had I had goldfish, but I can't say I was particularly close to any of them. I don't remember their names.
They didn't serve as like sort of a rallying, you know, a central focus of the family or anything. Not at all.
They were like a gross spectacle in their tank.
Well, well, our dog, Rico, is sort of serves as the glue that holds our family together when things when we when we aren't getting along or irritating each other. And during the pandemic, there's been plenty of that. And it's nice to have this sort of creature in the house that everybody can love equally and sort of removes the stress from the situation.
And I imagine that's really lovely and makes you be in the moment, I guess, in a way that few things do.
I think dogs do that for a lot of people, they just become they sort of absorb and expel love effortlessly. So here's Tim's first essay for good reason to keep it together. It was published in August 2012. And the second essay is called And I Don't Want to Give Anything Away, but it was seven years between the two pieces. The second essay is called She Wanted a Man with a Good Job Who Was Nice to Animals. Both essays are read by Eduardo Ballerini.
When I met the dog. He was sitting in a cage to my left as I entered a local animal shelter near the running path I frequent in downtown Austin, Texas. I had no intention to adopt a dog finally stopped for a drink of cold water. I don't run to stay healthy, around to stay thin, and lately to blow off steam. I was engaged to be married and the relationship with my fiancee was getting frosty with a lot of yelling and blame being tossed around.
The volunteers at the shelter were shrewd. It was overcrowded with a high kill ratio, the highest in its history, I was told. As patrons walked into the caged areas, the dog and their immediate left was next on the chopping block if no one adopted it. The dog after that was next and so on. He's half husky, half Australian Shepherd, a girl said, is the dog in the second cage looked at me with one blue eye and one round eye while wagging his tail.
Tired from my run in the Texas heat, I got a cup of water and sat under a tree with the dog. He was friendly but didn't listen to a thing.
I said, sit, I said, and he let my face come, I said. And he walked away. After a few minutes, he curled up next to me and put his nose against my knee. I thought maybe he would be a good running partner. I'm a low rent playwright and professor, I travel and have little time or money for a pet.
But out of curiosity or God knows what, I took a look at the dog's file. He'd been abandoned by an old woman.
Her reason? Dusty keeps following me around my house. At least he wasn't dangerous. I placed a hold on Dusty while I thought about how much damage he could cause my life. I would need a pet deposit for my apartment, chew toys, food, dishes and shouts forum. I teach twice a week in San Antonio, so I would need a dog walker for those days, someone I could trust with a key to my place. The dog was nice, but having a dog would be like having a child again.
I thought maybe he would be a good running partner. The next day came and I had an important deadline for a grant and better things to do, like buy food, the dog would find a home. I went to the grocery store only a mile from the shelter and promised myself I would drop by his cage only to say goodbye.
And when I peeked in, he was curled in a ball on a rubber cot, sleeping and shaking as he dreamed, but he woke quickly and with one blue eye and one brown eye, he looked at me. Stay here, I said. I'm getting you out. He didn't turn out to be much of a runner. He stopped to eat every dead bird and piece of trash you could find around my complex. His favorite was pizza crusts. One day he got sick, vomited as sweet smelling brown substance in my rug, and then passed a Snickers bar wrapper.
That night, people in my neighborhood would ask if he was a wolf, usually men walking pitbulls.
Too many people asked if he fights. He seemed fearless, so I started calling him Dange. Days later, I met my friend John at an All You Can Eat Indian buffet. John had had a trying week. He had bought a house. His wife was pregnant and their dog was gravely ill after eating a tennis ball that was now stuck in his stomach, an operation to save him would cost thousands. Our lunch date was the first time I'd left my new dog alone and my imagination began to run wild.
I decided to start a bank account for doggie emergencies, medications, surgeries or any unforeseen tragedy. I called it his college fund. I came home, a thin letter was in the mail, a grant I'd been awarded, a grant I needed to pay, the bills have been taken away for a lack of funding. I wanted to drink and punch the walls, but the dog didn't care. The dog wanted to go outside, smell things, poop and play with me.
He licks my face as I cried, I gave him some peanut butter and snuggled with him in front of our television that night, I couldn't drink in front of him and I couldn't drink in any case because he needed me to get up early so he could walk and eat pizza crusts. The dog kept me grounded. I winter my fiance and I were fighting. We were always fighting. But she invited me to our family home near Houston. Mary affiliated with NASA, hoping our relationship would get better.
Her mother asked that we keep the dog confined to a room with an uncomfortable white tile floor.
Because of this, we used every excuse we could to take the dog to the only dog park within 30 miles. My fiance and I never fought around the dog or the dog park on Christmas morning, I realized I forgot to get the dog a gift, but we escaped to the park and he played with an older German shepherd that limped owned by an old Russian man. Every Christmas. Josh and I come here to have bones. He said, she is my best friend.
She is my only real friend. I understood exactly what he meant. I imagine he was a former Russian spy or Soviet scientist who defected here during the Kennedy administration to make miracles and build rockets to the moon. Here you take this, said the Russian, pulling a bone from his coat pocket. It is a Christmas present from me and Sasha. She is too old for bones now. Danger, come and thank him, I said. They ignored me while wrestling with Sasha.
Two days later, we got back to Austin and I bought a bit. Since I was 13, I'd always slept on a futon mattress I threw on the ground, I went to IKEA and found something low to the ground so my dog could get in easily, even when he's old, like Sasha. This was compensation for that tile floor he had to sleep on. A year later, my fiancee told me she was pregnant with another guy's kid. She had done nothing wrong, we had stopped fighting, almost stopped speaking, we'd been on a break.
I was what I kept telling myself, but when I found out I wanted to drink and punch the walls. The dog didn't care, he wanted to go outside and play. And we did, and if we hadn't. I would have drank myself into the ground. Danger licked my face as I cried. And we snuggled while watching television. Two days later, there was a banging on our door at two o'clock in the morning, a man screaming for Carlos, I told him he had the wrong place and if he didn't leave, I was calling the cops.
The man ran away and danger was nowhere to be found. I finally found him behind my old sofa, trembling. And people ask if you are a wolf. I said. So much for Fearless. So much for danger. The next morning, I called John and asked him who his real estate broker was. It was time for a real home and a better neighborhood, at least for my dog. I had never liked the idea of buying a home.
It seemed like tying a bag of wet concrete to my ankle. Quickly, I learned banks didn't like the idea of me buying a home either. But I had enough ammunition to buy a condo. All I wanted was a small, quiet place with windows low to the ground so danger could see out while I was away teaching. Our broker found exactly what I had asked for, complete with a dog park on the premises, my friend Michael repainted the place for us.
I even bought an IKEA sofa that was low to the ground so we could watch TV together in comfort and ease. I didn't even have to dip into the dog's college fund. I have a heart murmur now, I can't run the way I used to. I'm getting a little fat. I get pizza every Friday night when my dog and I watch TV together. I call it movie night and the dog eats my crusts. It never makes it through a home movie.
He falls asleep with his nose against my knee shaking as he dreams. And when it's time to move from the sofa to the bed, I have to call to him to stay calm. And he does. He only comes, I finally realized when I use his real name. And here's Tim's second essay published seven years later in 2019, she wanted a man with a good job who is nice to animals. Stay here and guard the castle. I would say to my dog, Dusty, every time I left our condo.
Over the years, his eyes, one blue, one brown, had become washed with gray, his sight was failing and his hips were becoming tight. He was hardly a guard dog. When I came home, I no longer greeted me at the door, but would raise his nose and welcome. I gave him peanut butter for his bravery, sometimes with painkillers to help with his hips. Eleven years earlier, I adopted Dusty Dange Dog, his full name from the town like animal shelter in Austin.
Since then, he and I traveled the country in my bumper sticker Toyota pickup, visiting twenty eight states by putting 290000 miles on that truck. During our years in Austin, Dusty became a local legend, helping to raise thousands of dollars for non-profit organizations such as Austin, Batcave and the Fusebox Festival for a monetary donation to the nonprofit Dustin. I would take someone's dog on a special date and I would write an essay about it for the donor. This raised a surprisingly large amount of money for this, Austin's mayor proclaimed August 17th Dusty Danger Dog Day, citing Dusty's meaningful contributions to the city and the people of Austin with volunteerism, fundraising and four legged ambassadorship for the arts, environment, education and health.
On a personal level, Dusty became the manager of my life. He got me up in the morning with a lift to my face. When he ate, I ate in the middle of the day. He forced me to turn off my computer and go for a walk. I enjoyed the sun on my face and the smell of wildflowers. We shared sandwiches and pizza and watched comic book movies together, Dusty never cared if I changed my clothes. I would read him from my favorite book, The Little Prince lines like you are responsible forever for what you have tamed.
I had those words tattooed to my arm. Dusty told me everything I needed to know about life, but over the years there'd been something missing. My friends Ben and Rachel insisted I join a dating app to expand my horizons, that's how they met. But I loathed the idea. Why would I want to expand my life? I had a dog, a place to live, a pickup truck smothered in bumper stickers. But out of curiosity or God knows what.
I humored them. I created a Tinder account with a picture of Dusty as my profile picture. No one matched with me until Rachel explained that I was swiping in the wrong direction the first time I swiped. Right, I matched. On my date with Ilsa, we had salad and calamari. She was shy, lovely, and as a person with diabetes, checked her blood sugar when food came. On our second date, we drank wine, called at a speakeasy and talked about Dusty and her cats, Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde.
On our third date, Ilsa held my hand. And shared that she had been assaulted in New Orleans in June. Years ago. As a result, June makes her sad and so does New Orleans. A town she loved and lost and Dusty and I had come to love in our travels. As a landscape architect, she works with plants and water, she doesn't like comic book movies and watches the Hallmark Channel. She makes me eat Brussels sprouts, which are surprisingly tolerable on pizza.
With the dusty, everything was safe and there was never a compromise, but with Ilsa, I had to listen and negotiate. He also knew how to manage her life, and she made me change sometimes she made me change my clothes. After a year of dating, Elsa began pushing for marriage, an idea that terrified me. I'm not afraid of commitment, I'm afraid of divorce, a failure. And I was also afraid of losing Elsa. She said it's difficult for an entrepreneurial woman in her 30s to find love with someone who has a good job and is nice to animals.
We had a back and forth like playing chess for every argument I made for not getting married and giving up my perfect life. She had a better counterargument. She used words like us and ours, words I had previously reserved for my relationship with Dusty. One evening, Elsas said, if I wasn't going to be with her, I had to let her go so she could find someone else. As much as I love my dog and my perfect life.
I didn't want to lose Ilsa, especially knowing I was about to lose Dusty. Whose health had deteriorated to the point where he could barely walk. The next morning, I told Dusty, as usual, to stay home and guard the castle. I was driving to the University of Texas at San Antonio at five thirty a.m. to lecture about subjectivity and causality. When I was hit from behind by what I think was a drunken driver. Collision launched my truck at 70 miles per hour into a cement barrier, it was ripped to pieces.
The force of the impact peeled two of my bumper stickers from the tailgate. If it weren't for the air bag, I would be dead. The paramedics cut me from the truck. All I said was take care of my dog, take care of my dog, take care of my dog. In that moment, coughing from air bag dust, I thought none of this was worth anything unless I had something more to live for. So I designed an elaborate weeklong wedding proposal that included a writing class, rock climbing and a party at an urban winery, after Elsa said yes, she moved into what is now our condo, bringing her cat story, who became fast friends with dusty napping together and sharing food.
My goal was to marry in June, so we also could reclaim that month with a fond memory. I asked Dusty to be in my wedding party. Maybe he can tie my tie. I thought. Ilsan, I registered for small appliances and dishes. Everything changed. Two weeks before our wedding, dusty court is pulling the rug as he tried to get up from his nap with Dorie. He hit the floor hard and whimpered. I held him. And gave him peanut butter with painkillers.
He looked at Elsa, she stacked wedding gifts in our office. And then he looked at me. His eyes said. It's time. I took Dusty for one last walk so he could feel the sun on his nose. We had treats and watched a comic book movie together. The vet gave him drugs. Dusty died at home in my arms. Only days before and I got married. As he closed his eyes, I whispered. Hogarth Castle. We wrapped in blankets.
Placed him in a basket. Within minutes, I was lost, pacing the living room, looking out the window for the white van to come back, hoping the vet had made a mistake, wishing everything could return to the way it had been. It was asked if I wanted to hike or swim to take my mind off Dusty. All I ask is you smile for pictures, Ailsa said as our wedding approached. We had been taking classes for our first dance to Wilkos, California stars, the song we first danced to in my kitchen.
I could hardly shuffle my feet. When I went to pick up dust his ashes at the funeral home. They also gave me wildflower seeds to plant in his name. I placed his urn in the back seat of my new car and belted it in. We drove by our favorite pizzeria, our favorite parks, our favorite everything was in Austin, and as we drove, I thought I saw dusty shape and a cloud. I knew he would always be with me.
On the day of the wedding, I led a team of true believers to Town Lake, not far from where I adopted Dusty to plant those wildflowers. I bought kazoos and we gave him a twenty one kazoo salute. Five hours later, after my groomsmen had tied my tie. Said, I stood before friends and family as my best man read from the little prince ending with you are responsible forever for what you have tamed. I thought I had been responsible for Dusty, but really he had been responsible for me.
And now he was passing the torch to Ilsa, my new partner, for smelling the wildflowers with the sun on my face. I said, I do you. Hi, Tim. Hey, how are you today? I am good. How are you doing? Fine. So how long have you been married now?
A year and a half. Wow. And how's it going so far? It's going great. Going into lockdown actually was something that really helped the relationship out because our work schedules before we had to go into lockdown were very different. I get up very early in the morning and Ilsa would be at work until eight o'clock at night or something like that. We actually have to talk with each other and see each other. We're more than just one or two hours out of the day and she's pretty nifty.
I think I did OK. Aha. So it's been good.
I mean, for a lot of relationships, this is has not been a positive, a net positive, this being trapped together. But for you it has been.
Yeah, it's especially for the first year of marriage. It's a lot of listening as well. Huh. And we've had a lot of time to listen to each other. So it's it's been a positive year.
So do you and Ilsa have a dog together now?
Funny you should mention that since Dostie has passed away, several people were trying to hook me up with a dog. And in early August, I was contacted by a rescue group that said, we have a dog in Lockhardt, Texas, that we think you'd really get along with. And so I told them one day I said, I'm going to drive to Lockharts about 30 miles away from Austin. And it's a small town that's known for its barbecue. It's really like a barbecue capital, if you will, of Texas.
They are for classic, truly great barbecue places.
So there are other reasons to go there. Oh, yes. Well, on Monday, I drove down and I interviewed a dog, if you will, and got some brisket, came home. And then on Tuesday, I brought Ilsa with me to have her interview the dog and we got some brisket and came home. And then on Wednesday, I drove down and I picked up the unnamed dog. We decided to name brisket and now lives with us.
That's funny. And Brisket has been with us for almost three months now. We're currently training her and we had to get a dog together. It wasn't just something that I could do by myself. Yeah. It had to be a dog that we could both clearly get along with. And she made a very good first impression.
And how does Elsa like the dog is slowly but surely, I think that brisket is becoming more of Ilse's dog. Really? Yeah, they do a really good job of snuggling. I'm more of the the person who has to take her for a walk and stop her when she wants to go after a squirrel or something like that. Brisket is really learning how to snuggle up in bed with her and for various kinds of scratches and ribs and whatnot. And they're getting along really well.
Going going back to Dusty, you talk about this garden of wildflowers in Dusty's memory.
Is that a place that still exists with those flowers?
And is that a place you go back to?
I do go back every once in a while. It's it's on a trail that I hike often. The Texan Hill Country wildflower situation in April is gorgeous. They're all over the place, and when I do see the bluebonnets every spring, I think we still have a lot of pictures of him rolling around in bargains. Well, Tim, it's been great talking to you. Good luck with everything. Thank you for having me. Take care to take care.
Modern Love is produced by Kelly Prime and Hans Butoh and edited by Sarah Sarasohn and Wendy door music by Dan Powell.
This week's essay was written by Timothy Brown and read by Eduardo Ballerini. Special thanks to Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahima Jalani, Laura Kim, Bonnie Wertham on Streamy Sam Dolnick Parker and also to Ryan Wagner and Kelly Rogers at Autum. The executive producer for New York Times audio is Lisa Tobin and Dan Jones. And I'm merely thanks for listening. We'll be back next week with more modern love.
You want to hear that video of Ricoh howling one more time? Oh, no, not really. Man.