Thursday 08 Dec 2016

The Other Dog
AJ Robinson

I’ve seen many animals react differently to seeing themselves in a mirror. As a kid, I always found it funny to watch the “Winnie the Pooh” cartoon where Tigger sees himself in Pooh’s mirror and thinks it’s a strange animal in striped pajamas. Well, that’s how Rex, my first dog, reacted. She just couldn’t believe it was herself. The mirror was in my parents’ room, and it hung on the door to their closet. The first time Rex got into the room, and moved around to where she could see the mirror, she reacted!

She raced up to the mirror and touched her nose to it. Obviously, she was confused at the fact that the other dog didn’t have a scent; although it did have a nice cold nose. Moving closer, she stood alongside the mirror and gazed at the other dog out of the corner of her eye. After that, she walked away from the mirror. Taking a few steps, she stopped, looked over her should, and saw that the other dog had done the same. She took another step and repeated the process. No matter how fast she was, the other dog was always just as fast.

She was amazed.

After that, a visit to my parents’ bedroom became part of her routine. Each visit went down the same way. She’d come around the corner of the bed, catch sight of the other dog and be surprised. She’d bolt toward the mirror, slam on the brakes at the last second and sniff. Never any smell, nothing. Then a rub-up came against routine for a few seconds and then the walk away. Sometimes I’d lie on the bed and watch her antics. The walk away bit was always the best. Every time she’d do it, she’d vary how many steps she took between looking back, trying to catch sight of the other dog before it turned its head.

She was never able to do that, and goodness knows she tried!

Then, finally, came the day when Rex came into the bedroom while the closet door was open. As she came around the bed, she just about jumped in surprise – the other dog wasn’t there. She raced forward, stopped at the open door and then slowly made her way inside. She sniffed around – the scent of shoe polish was so strong even us poor humans could detect it. Making her way inside, she searched and sniffed, checking the entire closet.

She never did find that other dog.

After that, I noticed a distinct change in her demeanor toward the other dog. She didn’t race up to the mirror and touch noses as fast as she used to and she most definitely did not rub against the other dog. She still made an effort to catch the dog not looking back at her, which was always fun to watch. Yet, the magic of the moment seemed to have been lost. Once Rex knew that the dog didn’t live in the closet, she seemed to lose interest. I guess once she’d “peeked behind the curtain,” so to speak, she wasn’t quite as interested in the other dog.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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