It's been a hell of a ride with the scruffy man. Over thirteen years of constant companionship on my watch; non-stop tail wagging, one-way fetching, countless moments of bad manners, a rain-forest's worth of tree marking, more face-lickings served than McDonalds done customers, and about 6,000lbs of food eaten -- not all of it his -- and every moment of it all fueled by the unmistakable joie de vie gifted by man's bestest friend.
I experience my world in a very tactile way. I'm a dirtdog. I like tastes, touch, sounds, smells. I used to constantly grab Demo and nuzzle in close. Nutty ears I remember the most and his coat always smelled like a stuffed animal's. I remember very clearly when he was five years old, pulling him in while watching TV and holding tight, trying so hard to etch a permanent memory of the moment in my brain -- something to remember in the future when he was gone. Dog's bodies don't live forever, and knowing he was five, I couldn't help but think his life might be half-over. A 65lb Pit Bull can expect to make it to 10-11 years on average, certainly more, but who knows? I remember trying to soak the moment in, and hoping and asking the universe, "Just give me 10 more years with him."
A few years later the project that became Demo: The Story of a Junkyard Dog was hatched. Charles Schulz had died. To me Snoopy was the essence of dog presented in the most innocent of ways. I adored Charles Schulz for having created such terrific characters -- all the peanuts. Strangely, and to this day, still inexplicably, my mom has always referred to me as "Charlie Brown". Her reasons are forever unorthodox, but the connection is appreciated. Snoopy always felt like my dog in my child's mind.
Demo was my Snoopy and I wanted him to become Snoopy for a few others. Time will tell what the book's legacy will be. The shift in cultural perception of Pit Bulls is well underway and I felt like the book was the right one at the right time.
In his quiet moments, Demo was a haunted soul. The runt of the litter from a junkyard mother, he was forever looking for the teat that he had missed out on. He would often grow restless in the house and whine and pace, seeking something he could not find. He'd grab a t-shirt or sock and ball it up and suck on it. I would often comment to people that he was a spirit that had no master. He just truly seemed to be in searching of something beyond what I could provide.
In the lower east side of NYC, on Ludlow St, Demo was a celebrity. Out on the walk, he was gregarious and handsome, an unstoppable force of love and slobber. He wanted to say hi to everyone and everyone wanted to say hi to him. People adored him. Within that energy exchange this dog shined brightest.
I remember one late night back at Beauty Bar so many years ago, I was going to pick up my girlfriend at the time and brought him along as I always did. There was a guy hanging out who upon seeing Demo enter got down on his knees to give an unabashed hello to this strange, handsome dog -- expecting the same in return. I had Demo on the lead, and told the fellow that I'd let Demo go, but Demo was going to probably tackle him in the process. The guy didn't care. So I cut Demo loose and he knocked the giggling fool over, pinning him down and raining slobber all over his face -- to the guy's delight.
I think all Demo really wanted to find was love. Don't we all? Some crave it more than others, prioritize it on a higher rung -- and a dog's sense of it is different than ours, no matter what anyone says. But it's there. And Demo searched for it. Sometimes he found it kneeling down on a bar floor at 4am (hey, who hasn't?) and sometimes he couldn't find it no matter how hard he tried.
My dedication to him knew no bounds. Loves came and went, homes changed, friends faded into memories, but this dog stayed by my side, whether he belonged to me or not; we both belonged to the journey.
Six years ago Demo came as close to dying as a dog can get. His entire head became paralyzed and he could not move any part of it, except for his tongue. Poetic, and fortunate. I was able to feed him blendered food with a gargantuan syringe, squirting it into his gaping, slack mouth while his tongue did all the rest. You can imagine the mess. Especially when he shook his head. While all the muscle in his head shrunk away, and his body wasted from fighting some unknown cause, I did everything I could with my girlfriend's help. His tail still wagged and his eyes still shined. I refused to give up on him. His spirit was alive, even if his body was betraying him. Theories came and went as to exactly what was going on, and how to treat it. Everyone except for my closest friends thought I was a fool.
Then, after three weeks, he started to slowly come back. It took many months, but he made it back. Bit by bit his jaw started to move. Bit by bit, his eyes that couldn't blink, started blinking. Bit by bit, his nose started sniffing. He came back. Muscle and weight returned. He was damaged, missing an eye and wobbly but relatively whole. Together we did it. Our partnership now complete.
Demo had never been a good listener. I took it as partial evidence of his detachment and "masterless" ideology. While commands never bent his ear, there was a shift over time after his sickness. He seemed to develop a bit of an inner peace, maybe an understanding of something fundamental. His whining faded away, and whenever he went looking for something, it was usually me.
After all those years, my search too had completed. I could finally see that he was my dog. He had found me. Maybe it just took a while for the two of us to realize. Maybe the conversation was begun that day over10 years ago. Maybe when I was holding tightly asking for 10 more years it was Demo who did all the listening.
Godspeed good buddy there will never, ever be a dog like you.