There is this wonderful sequence in “Aladdin And The Magic Lamp” where Aladdin has won riches, a kingdom, and the love of his princess with the help of a genie who resides inside an old, battered lamp. An evil wizard dresses up as a street vendor and offers new, shiny lamps as a free trade for old ones. Aladdin’s princess had no feeling for the old lamp and all it had done and been for Aladdin, she hurried out and traded it for the new, improved model. The evil wizard ran off cackling, the power of the lamp was now his. Horrible events ensued until Aladdin was able to get his old friend back and make the world right again.
An acquaintance called me the other night. He and his wife are completing the build of a new dream home. In the eleven years of their marriage they have celebrated the births of two children, developed careers, shared the good times and sad times with their small family. Through all of it, a little cocker spaniel named Daisy has been there. She was their first gift to each other and has guarded each of their children’s early steps, warned them valiantly of strangers approaching, shared their tears and laughter. Daisy has always been an inside dog, kept within the walls of the home, the heart of the family. Daisy is getting older, she has problems with bladder control, and her teeth are falling out. Daisy doesn’t want to play with the children anymore, she wants to sleep at someone’s feet and feel their hands patting her gently. Daisy has turned into the old lamp.
My acquaintance explained all of this as he quietly asked me if I would take Daisy into my sanctuary. The new house has carpet, dog accidents stain, and frankly, Daisy smells at times. It would be too cruel to put her to sleep in their eyes, Daisy would not be happy as an outside dog, and he had been “shocked” to learn that turning her over to the local shelter meant she would be put down. An old dog had no room waiting in their new house, would I take her so they could get a new younger one for their kids. New dogs for old, the evil wizard would be pleased. In a just world, their new house would crumble, they would lose their jobs, the kids would get boils, and their rag-covered forms would crawl the earth looking for Daisy to bring back home. In a just world, Daisy would have the option of trading in the old family for a new one.
I swallowed my pain and tried to educate him, let him know how Daisy would suffer without her family, how bonded she was to them. He let my words fall off his self- esteemed armor; my pleas lay as so much discarded irrelevance around his expensively clad feet. I offered the ideas of doggy diapers, vet visits for medicine, a room at the house with cool tiled floor and a soft dog bed, offering her the mercy of going into the final rest in the arms of her family; nothing touched the part that hurts in him, everything made me scream behind my eyes.
I have a new dog, her name is Daisy, and the pain behind her eyes is slowly fading into acceptance. She wets my floors and yes, she smells, but her head feels good on my feet as I write this. I picture that couple old and alone someday. Bladder control will go out the window; bath times forgotten and their kids will eye them. The house will be an asset, the old parents a liability, and uncaring strangers at a nursing home will ignore them. “New Dads For Old” would make a great title for a story.
© Carol M Chapman 2004
(This story was published in The Front Porch Syndicate 08/25/04)