Milo was quite annoying at times. He constantly wanted attention, and if he came up to you and you didn't pay attention to him, he went and sulked. Sometimes, for reasons unknown to me, scratching his head would prompt him to start licking his lips noisily. We tried to discourage that by holding his mouth closed, and he got the message, so sometimes his tongue would just out and quiver as he visibly strained with the effort of not doing it. Why? Sometimes when I walked him, he would move behind me to my other side, so that I had to spin around so the leash wasn't behind me. When I could tell I was about to do that I would stop walking, and he would stop too, and we would have a brief stalemate. But even at the height of annoyance, it never obscured the feeling of love that was always present.
Milo's love was not unconditional, but was predicated on the right conditions. I fed him, walked him and lavished affection on him, and in return he loved me. So I had to do something to deserve that love, but nothing excessively difficult or arbitrary. I kind of like that even better than unconditional love because I don't see why I should feel particularly good about a love that would be the same if I were Hitler. This kind of love convinces me that I'm a good person but that I'm not expected to be perfect. I also felt my own love for Milo more overtly than for anyone else ever. I'm sure I love my family more, but that's more of the subdued taking-for-granted kind. Anyway, George Gordon Byron long ago expressed how I feel better than I or probably anyone else could.
Epitaph to a Dog
By George Gordon Byron
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808.
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below:
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour’d falls, unnotic’d all his worth,
Deny’d in heaven the Soul he held on earth:
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas’d by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on, it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one—and here he lies.
When I look back on the first few weeks, though, and how awful they were and how I was able to endure minutes that felt like hours and fixate on the occasional silver linings and happy things, I see how God sustained me through them. It didn't feel like it at the time, but in hindsight I marvel that I ever made it through that, and it becomes obvious that He was there. I even drew closer to Christ as my dread of going to work made me reflect on how He must have felt before accomplishing the Atonement. But now that's not enough and that indicates to me that it's time to move on to something better, hopefully for my career path as well as my - I was going to say sanity but I've never had much of that to begin with anyway. My Christianity, I guess. I've said so many naughty words and made so many rude gestures at the phone that probably none of my co-workers would guess I'm LDS. I did get better at abstaining from that during the last little stretch. I should have tried harder to emulate my co-worker Sarah, who literally says "Naughty word" instead of a naughty word.