Can it be true that my years in this world already number 12? Though mine is but a dog's life, I have always tried to live it well. Early on, I made it my mission to explore the neighborhood beyond my own yard, to appreciate nature and its many wonderful smells. I've thirsted for knowledge, learning in excess of 10 tricks and committing to memory the location of every rabbit hole within a quarter mile. I have minded to comport myself with dignity, keeping my coat shiny and clean through a daily regimen of rigorous licking.
But, alas, I am not proud of some of the things I have done. I have willfully disobeyed orders. I have, at times, been too quick to bark, and I have whimpered needlessly. I have gnawed upon things I never should have gnawed. Yes, I have even bitten others in anger. Not often, and only when I felt I had to, but now I see that turning to the tooth never solves anything.
I have been a bad boy.
What springs to mind now, though it pains me to recall, is the garbage-can incident. My owner had been gone for hours. I was restless. Perhaps I was even a little angry over being left alone. At any rate, I nudged the kitchen-cupboard door open and overturned the garbage can. I was drunk with the ecstasy of my ill-gotten power and, suddenly, there was garbage everywhere. As if some evil force had taken hold of me, I chewed apart an empty bacon package right on top of the good blue couch. When I heard the car pull into the garage, it was as if I had awakened from a dream. Oh, the shame! I retreated to the basement and cowered next to the dryer in the hopes of evading the vigorous shoe-whacking I knew I richly deserved.
This is not my only transgression. My lust for table food has driven me to commit many a gluttonous act. There was the time I ate two pounds of raw hamburger meat left to thaw on top of the basement deep freeze. That was wrong. Worse still was the time I chewed right through that wrapped box under the Christmas tree to get at the cheese-and-sausage party-pak that lay inside. At the time, I viewed it as a bold and wholly justified act of defiance—I was weary of Science Diet and felt deserving of more treats. But in my heart I knew. I knew.
It has always been a battle to suppress the demon urges welling up inside me. Even as I slid from my mother's womb into the cardboard box in the tool shed, I was already not without sin. Yea, I sucked greedily at my mother's teat, trampling my six brothers and sisters in my milklust. I burdened my master with my youthful exuberance, repeatedly scampering out of the box and forcing him to chase me down. I used my tender age as an excuse to live with abandon, jumping on anyone, nipping wantonly, licking those who did not want to be licked. I arrogantly believed I had no need to learn the word "down."
Greater still were the sins committed upon reaching adulthood, for they could not be dismissed as the indiscretions of youth. At nine months, I knew full well when to sit, when to stay, which chairs were off limits, and yet I still broke the House Rules. I drank from the toilet. I snatched the choicest-smelling items from the laundry basket. Oh, the things upon which I chewed! Belts, shoes, newspapers, telephone cords, chair legs, and, one terrible day, the video-game controller. These foul acts—all the work of this bewhiskered mouth!
I also regret my indolence. My purpose in life is to protect my master's home, yet all too often I let sloth chase this sense of duty from me. So many afternoons I spent stretched out on the sunlit floor, my eyes blinking heavily until I drifted off into dreams of giant rawhide strips and bouncing rubber balls. Then, the knock of the UPS man or the thud of the evening paper on the steps would jolt me awake, the harsh sound castigating me for my negligence.
If only it were true that my only sin was that of omission! No, the abuse of free will has led me to commit the most vulgar of deeds. Repeatedly, I have succumbed to temptations of the flesh. There was no spaniel, no beagle-lab mix I did not see as my rightful property, with which I was free to have my way. Last summer, in my most depraved moment of carnality, only the blast of water from a cold hose was sufficient to separate me from my shameful congress with Duchess, the West Highland terrier next door.
In these dozen years, I have experienced misery—the ear infection, my head getting slammed in the car door, the time I walked through that wet tar—but nothing equals the pain I feel when I think of the shameful disobedience I have shown my master.
O, Tyler Gregory, my benevolent keeper, my guide and my provider—you have been nothing but generous to me in spite of my hateful nature. You have loved me unconditionally, but without undue passion. You have corrected my errant ways, but with a gentle hand. You have been strong, but you have been fair.
It sickens me to look upon these four paws knowing they have committed such misdeeds in the face of your loving grace. I would gladly cut them off in penance—lay them across the very same railroad tracks that took the tail of the cat next door. But I know that such an act would only cause you pain, so true and selfless is your love for me.
My beloved master, great and giving one, my sole purpose on this Earth is but to follow at your heels, to come when you call. I beg not for a snack treat, but for something far sweeter and more satisfying: your forgiveness.