Bustah Ain’t Afraida No Ghosts

There is a certain amount of freedom in being a dog. My dog, to be specific. Bustah is a 3-year old Boston Terrier I acquired from a NASA scientist who had just had a baby and was apparently concerned the dog might mistake the child for a tater tot. Though I have grown to love Bustah despite his eccentricities, I really wish his former owner had been clear about the fact that he is actually an alien. I’m still not sure if all NASA employees are involved in some kind of alien adoption program; all I’m saying is, it would have been nice to know.

(ssshh. he’s looking right at me. I think he knows I know.)

Alien or Earth-born canine, I envy dogs their freedom from fear. Oh, Bustah might fear common things…like bees or former President Bush. Or the fact that everyone who comes to visit me might not LIKE being peed on. And therefore I might have to scold or even spank him from time-to-time. Or maybe he fears ticks. I’m not particularly fond of them either. But dogs have no fear of death. Actually, I don’t even think they are aware of death even when they are themselves dying. And that’s an amazing thing, to me.

When I was 11, a neighbor’s 4-year old child was run over by a truck. Curious, I asked my parents if I could accompany them to the funeral home. I suppose my mother wasn’t real comfortable with the idea, but maybe they figured it was time I learned about mortality. In any case, I went…and the experience changed me forever. The neighbors were from a different part of the country, and of a different ethnicity, so the way they dealt with this overwhelming loss was very different from the customs of my own family. The boy’s mother took me by the arm and–at least this is how I remember it–dragged me up to the coffin. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to do, and I think it may have crossed my childish mind that she was going to make me lie down next to him. I know that’s horrible, but give me a break. I was 11. Of course, I’m sure she had no idea that I was struck dumb with fear and dread and would have gladly chopped my arm off to get away from her. In her mind, she wanted to share her loss with me, and probably she wanted to show me that there was nothing to fear.

I remember looking down at that boy in the box, dressed in Wrangler jeans and a western-style shirt, with his arms around a Fozzie the Bear doll that had been laid in the casket with him. I was overcome with fear. I have never gotten over that fear…and it’s doubtful I ever will.

Bustah, on the other hand, knows no fear. Whether due to his alien psychiatric make-up or just because he is a Boston Terrier, it doesn’t much matter. He lives his life free from worry about when it will come to a close. That seems to me to be a very precious thing.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Bustah just knows something I don’t. Maybe he realizes that when it’s his time to go, a big UFO will beam him aboard and he’ll return to Planet Snoop Dogg. Who knows? But it occurs to me that being more like Bustah is a good thing. Every meal is a feast, every walk a vacation, every poodle his sniffs is the love of his life. And that sounds pretty good to me. Well, everything except the poodle part.


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