In the midst of many scary things -- bombs in Boston, poisoned letter in the Capitol, hateful talk on the radio -- our dying dog jumped in the fountain. The fancy fountain with the curly ornaments in front of the expensive condos at the other end of the courtyard. The clean fountain with the water freshly chlorinated for the season. The fountain near the newly-painted benches for the condo owners to enjoy.
His stomach now nothing but a big sarcoma, our dog looked like a starving horse on an arid desert -- bones protruding, a heavy coat sagging around his neck. Why he was still alive after not having eaten a bite of solid food for ten full days, we couldn't know. He took only small amounts of water when we sprayed it between his lips with a plastic pump. On rare walks, his gait was slow and shaky and we feared he would fall into the street. He was pitiful. He looked pitiful when dry, that is; he looked frightening when he got wet in the fountain.
But that was no excuse for the stiff lady with the clipboard who appeared out of nowhere almost as soon as the dog -- incredibly -- ascended the ledge and jumped with all fours into the water. He who would not eat or drink was lapping big dog-tongue laps of the refreshing liquid when the lady's stern voice commanded that I get him out of the fountain. Oh, to pull a dying dog away from the first thing in two weeks that seemed to give him pleasure!
Just as unexpectedly, two young men -- plump and pimply-faced, smoking cigarettes -- stepped out from behind the lamp pole to cheer our wobbly dog along the stone path back to our end of the courtyard. Through the haze of hurt feelings, we could hear them calling to us: "Yea, dog! Good job! You can jump in that fountain whenever you want."
And so it was that the dying one went home to our make-shift hospice, a wet heap on the kitchen floor. Was the fountain a last hooray? A baptism? Hallucination? Trespassing? Call it what you want. I call it What's Important. An audacious jump for joy in defiance of many scary things.