Chunkie Monkey

A description of a wonderful dog I once owned

        There is a dog. He is standing on his hind legs looking up at the camera his heterochromic stare is unnerving and reminds me of the imperfection of life. There is no warmth in his gaze and the ground around him is dead and cold. His coat is white.  He is unattainable like frost on a window pane that forms beautiful patterns and vanishes in the warmth of the sun.  He stands solidary trapped in the silent world of a photo.  The skin around his eyes is red rimmed and seems to droop downward reminiscent of a past connection to the sad eyed bulldog.  His chest is broad and strong, his head is wide and his strength encompasses the entire photo. Two strong legs disappear into the edges of the frame perhaps wrapped around the waist of the photographer proclaiming his ownership.   His eyes are distant and it is impossible to pick which to look into to, the cold blue stare or the soft dark brown gaze.  The brown eye is comforting and familiar and all the more touching in contrast to the emptiness of the blue.  It is his apology.  A large black nose sits in the middle of his face; from the bottom of it two black lips descend and encircle his mouth.  It is a mouth besieged with angry inflamed cancerous pustules, the sun’s gift to his rare recessive gene pool and it drips with tiny droplets of saliva. He is magnificent and proud, ignorant of the appalling shortcomings dealt to him at birth.  He is hard like the ground surrounding him, he is winter.  He is the unattainable mixture of power and weakness used by God to blend creation and kept hidden from man’s inability to understand.  He is dangerous and soft, tempting evil to use him and compassion to set him free; he is unable to separate himself from a world that placed him into a life of service. He gloriously mocks the color film that preserves his image, his one blue eye it’s only advantage. He is more than just another dog; he is a sentry standing guard over a magical world.  Steadfastly he refuses to give up his secrets yet silently he invites us closer to discover them for ourselves, if we dare.

       The dog in my photo was born deaf; he became a member of our family at five weeks old.  Having taught sign language to other deaf dogs, I took “Chunk” home knowing the road would be a long one. He was a sweet loving puppy who grew into a rambunctious teenager, he was always eager to please and we grew to love him very much.  He adored his family, loved to chew on sticks and play in the water hose.  I think he knew he couldn’t hear although I don’t know how, he paid attention to our hearing dog “Grace” and was quick to react to anything she noticed.  At one year old our sweet little puppy had grown to be a 120lb dog with a broad tongue eagerly waiting to plant big wet kisses on the first available face.  He was clever and quickly learned most basic hands commands, it seemed to us we had succeeded.  But somewhere in his third year something changed; it was as if someone had reached into Chunk’s head and flipped a switch.  He became very aggressive, attacking our other dog multiple times. It was horrible and terrifying.  He never turned on us and we were convinced he was not truly mean; but out of concern for my safety it was agreed that I would no longer be alone with our dog. So I would watch from the other side of a door or fence as my husband worked day and night with him.  But Chunk never came back from the darkness.  Despite all efforts and after three different Veterinary opinions, it was explained to us that the only way he could ever be considered safe was to be muzzled for the rest of his life.  My husband and I felt our dog had been trapped enough in his deafness and could not face taking away his ability to chew on a stick or enjoy life as a regular dog, so we put our beloved pet to sleep.

       Kimmelman writes, “Sometimes art works that way. It appears unexpectedly.”(Kimmelman, 44), this picture of Chunk shows him as he was at the end.   Looking at it is uncomfortable, to see my once beloved pet in such a distant and cold perspective.   His image reminds me of the unforeseen inner demons we all fight, the never ending battle of good versus evil.  It speaks of the emptiness of ending a life. Unlike all the pictures of him lazily stretched out with a toy or jumping through the water hose, here he is the essence of the remote inner world only he knew. He was a magical creature, perfect in his imperfection fearless in his pursuit of his imagined enemies, and when he could no longer face fetching another ball; his disdain was the last thing he dropped at my feet.  There is almost some deviant sense of pride as I think I once ruled this formidable beast; I was his Hercules and he like Cerberus refused to be brought into the light.   His one blue eye so like the light azure hue of my own haunts me; an eternal reminder of the life I could not save.  There is a song by Don McLean about the artist Vincent Van Gogh and it says, “For they could not love you, But still your love was true, And when no hope was left inside, On that starry, starry night, You took your life as lovers often do, But I could have told you, Vincent, This world was never meant, For one as beautiful as you.”  ( Vincent,  from  the Album “American Pie” by Don McLean, 10.24.1971) 

    This is a simple picture of a dog that changed a life by living his.


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