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As Long as We Remember...

March 13, 2007

Pushkin's New Season

Roy Meachum

By some reckoning, the English pointer in my life turns 72 in July; in human years that's nine. On our daily promenades through downtown Frederick his age and dignity show.

Pushkin has never been inclined to engage in the constant yapping that other dogs treat as entitlement. When their paws hit public pavement, their mouth music begins; it never stops until, presumably, they are back in the safe confines of what passes for "their" houses.

I have no idea.

This charming four-legged gentleman has spoiled me; he continues to display better manners than mine. He is very thoughtful and downright intelligent. Others seemingly agree, especially those who initially mistake him for his round-headed cousins who frequent the nation's firehouses.

More so than the configuration - the head's flatness and the bump he shares with Weimaraners and German shorthairs - his behavior sets him apart. The most frequent reaction: Well, he didn't seem as hyper. He's not.

Nothing applies, of course, to how he reacts to my return after an occasional absence.

Snoopy at his wildest seems mild by comparison; Pushkin's long ears can twirl and his legs jump about, much in the manner of the beagle from the Peanuts comic strip. He does not bust down the back door but woes betide anyone caught in his way.

There exists between us a bond I've never enjoyed with any living creature, which I suppose is the origin of the bromide about "man's best friend." He is. Our relationship doubtless benefits from the lack of conversation. Pushkin tries.

When asked to do something that cuts against his grain, mood or inclination, the boy pointer twists and curls his lips, in what can only be an attempt to summon up the power to communicate. When all else fails, he's been known to press his face closer to mine. It's his way of expressing urgency.

None of the incidents arise over anything serious, at least on my part. He's been known to object when asked to lie down in a spot not of his choosing. That's the biggest single complaint that provokes a momentary battle of wills, his and mine.

In a recent spell, he's decided not to eat. After brief worry, I ascertained there's nothing wrong with his appetite, as his friends and admirers among downtown merchants know full well. At the same time he turns up an elegant snout at the food poured in his kitchen dish, Pushkin gives every imitation of a starving waif; he greedily swallows morsels kept in their shops for his afternoon appearances.

While I was away to Texas last week, son Roy maintained the Pushkin watch. He reported that the English pointer apparently had eaten something that his stomach found disagreeable. That went on for some 20 hours, but only after browsing through the new product sold for helping "older" canines to maintain their weight.

Upon my return, I encountered the same unfortunate problem. During his daily airings he had absolutely no difficulty in retaining the treats offered by his adoring fans. At "regular" feedings it was quite another matter.

At any rate, nothing interfered with our mutual enjoyment of the arrival of spring. The calendar says the new season shows up late next week, I see. But after a long period of stepping around ice and jagged snow, Pushkin and I know better. We measure the sun's warmth and welcome the passing of a winter that was both cruel and erratic.

Those gorgeous, gorgeous days that popped up last month gave way to bone-chilling record cold. Snow shovels and de-icing compounds still litter the house and patio. My most valued plants stand dry and dead: the papyrus plant and carnation bush proved victims to my untimely absence. What a pity!

But when Mother Nature festoons herself with all her glitter and gold, as the most recent days show, she can be a fascinating wench. In the middle of an auto run Sunday I noticed the season's first pansies have appeared in trays, waiting for planting.

Although neither my best friend nor I can expect many more March suns, on a morning when even the bare earth offers a welcome, Pushkin celebrates the warming. And so do I.

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