The Kansas State Fair II
Bill Long 9/11/05
A Run through the Fairgrounds
And so, four or five days a week the three of us, Lynn, Jim and I, would meet to run along with our three golden retrievers, Murphy, Sadie and Rusty, with Bud and/or Lisa occasionally joining us. We would keep the dogs leashed up until we hit the Fairgrounds and then let them go, and they would go cavorting over the vast grounds as we puffed along behind. Week after week we did this. Not only was I getting in good shape but I enjoyed the company and insight of Lynn and Jim. In April my family and I acquired another dog, Molly, a West Highland terrier and I toyed for a moment with the idea of bringing both dogs along for the run but, deciding that one dog was enough for me, I just ran with Murphy.
Murphy and Molly
Murphy never really liked Molly even though each was the dearest dog you could imagine in her own way. Murphy, born in 1991, was a faithful and affectionate golden retriever, plopping down at my feet as I read, perching before me as I was in conversation with others, leaping over couches and jumping up in the bed next to the children whenever the slightest sniffle seemed to slow them down. Murphy even made it into one of my books when I was trying to illumine the meaning of Emily Dickenson's poem "Hope is the Thing with Feathers, That Perches in the Soul." By 1994 Murphy had gotten over her rambunctious puppy stage and was an energetic and curious companion on the run, stopping to sniff everything and catching up to me before I reached the end of the next block.
Molly joined our family life in April 1994 when she was two months old. She took to everyone in the house immediately and would dart around the house with reckless abandon, tearing down the uncarpeted stairs, skittering along the newly buffed hard-wood floors and always wanting to be the center of attention. On one occasion she dashed across the living room floor but mistimed her leap onto the couch next to one of the kids; she bumped into the cushion and unceremoniosly fell to the floor. Undeterred, however, she picked herself up and tried again until she was nestled close to my daughter.
Molly really loved Murphy and would sidle up to her, getting far closer to her than she should, and Murphy would indignantly push her away, bark at her or otherwise try to warn Molly not to come into her space. Molly was apparently oblivious to Murphy's feelings and would always cheerfully lie down right in Murphy's face, as if she thought it the most distinct privilege a dog could enjoy to be lying next to her "big sister."
Early in April, then, after we had just gotten Molly, I went out on my morning run with Murphy and the other guys and dogs. We walked to the Fairgrounds as usual, let the dogs go as usual, and two of the three dogs took off as usual playing with each other and dashing around the grounds. But not Murphy. When I took off her leash, she quietly walked away from me and continued walking until she was at the fence of the Fairgrounds nearest the entrance, where she pushed herself up against the fence, sat under a small bush, and huddled into a small ball. I called to her, but to no avail. I told her I had a "treat" for her, but she wouldn't budge. Even when I walked over to her to try to coax her to come with me on the walk, she didn't even raise her eyes to look at me. But she really didn't have to say a word, did she? I heard her loud and clear. She was saying, 'If you want a replacement dog, well you can just ignore me. I won't be a bother. I will just curl up here in the corner and you can continue on with your life.' All my exhortations, my protestations of love, my offering her things she liked failed to convince her that we were not trying to get rid of her by getting Molly.
For the rest of her life, then, Murphy would at best tolerate Molly and at worst ignore her. Molly even tried to imitate Murphy in several of her gestures, including the way she stretched and her manner of putting her face directly on the hard-wood floor when relaxing. Molly never tired of trying to express her love for Murphy and was visibly affected when Murphy died of cancer in 2001 in the middle of our painful divorce. It was as if Murphy had tried everything in her power to keep the family together but ultimately could not do so and so she gave up her life after probably absorbing a good deal of the poison of the divorce process.
Molly gradually assumed the role of the sole dog in my family which, with my daughter away at college, consisted now of me and my son Will. Molly followed Will wherever he went; he couldn't come downstairs to get a glass of water without Molly dutifully following two feet behind him. Her affection followed him and me until Will went off to college on August 19, 2005.
After Will went off to college, Molly moved in with my ex, who by this time had gotten remarried. But when she moved in, she found that there was another dog, Maggie, who was living there. Maggie was younger than Molly and fawned all over Molly, welcoming her into her home like a long-lost cousin. But, if truth be told, Molly really didn't like Maggie and her show of affection, a kind of poetic justice that certainly is lost on Molly. We will have to see how this new relationship pans out but, in the meantime, I am grateful for the sounds of "Home on the Range" from the Kansas State Fairgrounds today for bringing these stories back to mind. Kansas, I think, will never fully leave me.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long