Casper first came to us in the pocket of my mother's raincoat. He was a little pale wriggle, a plaintive look. We took him back to the island where he promptly became the sidekick dog. Always there was another more interesting dog who took the lead - leaping gracefully off the wharf into the water while Casper belly-flopped, disappearing mysteriously one day never to be seen again, being quite mad, being sleekly beautiful, stealing all the shoes. Quite a few dogs, when I think about it. Lovely black creatures, shining bright and brief ... and fat blonde Casper. Even the cats were more remarkable than him. Even the temporary chickens.
But you know how these things go. Casper outlasted them all. He got so round and dozy by the end, he could barely walk. I used to sweep him with the broom in lieu of a proper dog brush. I was a kid when he came, an adult living on my own when he left. All those years with two moons in my life - the rock in the sky and that pale round pup.
I hate how so many authors use animals as plot devices rather than real characters. I guess they know how much we love our furry friends and so we'll relate when the protagonist is spurred into furious action by the loss of their pet. But it seems like such a failure of empathy to treat animals merely as a tool for the stories of humans. All the years Casper lived with us, he was going through his own life, his own story. He had a relationship with each brief black dog, and mourned their loss. He had to adapt to different environments as we moved from the island to various other places. I wonder, did he miss the sea? Did he dream of forest, of running along the sand with my brother, of being tucked inside coat pockets?
No one, not even a dog, is the sidekick in their own story. And everyone is living their own story. Every person, every animal - I know, it's a lot to think about. So much empathy needed, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. But it's only that way if we consider ourselves the sole heroes.
Soundtrack for this post: a lovely little song by Cat Stevens.