Today, we give our thanks to the best friend we lost unexpectedly, sending him love and gratitude for enriching our lives beyond measure. From food to music to movies to books, he influenced us in untold ways. To our children, he was uncle and friend, mentor and chef, connoisseur and world traveler par excellence. He was an incredibly private person and would be mortified if I spoke too much about him. Instead, let me tell you how Lady Hershey and Old Dog Basil bring us gentle warmth at difficult times such as these. He would like that. I know.
Neil’s dog Basil is no longer a pup. Not quite geriatric but getting up there in age. He now has more grey hair on his face than Newt Gingrich has on his head. He sleeps most of the day and thinks long and hard about going up and down the stairs, weighing all options before committing himself to the herculean task.
On my recent visit, he greeted me by jumping from sofa to bed to the floor and then refused to use his front left leg, probably because he stepped on himself in excitement. Afterwards, he hobbled on three legs with a pained “What did you do to me?!” look until food was served in his bowl, at which point he made a proper dash on all fours! When we dragged him in freezing rain to Ipsento, the nearby coffee shop, he looked at us incredulously and his squinted eyes screamed, “I will do my business because you are forcing me to but then IMAGONNA REPORT YOU TO PETA!!”
On the bright side, Basil waits for you to get cozy on the sofa under a blanket and then burrows his way to your side to stay warm. Watching a movie cuddled next to him is pure joy!
There is no doubt that Basil is emotionally needy. Personally, I think he would do well with a service dog. With the family, he is the most affectionate being we have ever encountered. He comes up to you, nose in the air, ears stuck back, gently blinking and forgiving us for all our trespasses. He lets us flip him, pet him, grab him by his tail, pull his ears - anything that brings a smile to us.
But hell hath no fury like a dog in his territory. The hair on his back sticks up. His bark becomes deeper and he cranes two inches taller. He revs for a full-throated growl and delivers an awkward, squeaky beagle wail that sounds like he has laryngitis. Sometimes he surprises himself with his voice! If there was a “dwitter” he would woof on it about other dogs till he was blue. I am sure.
Taking him out in the misery called Chicago winter is nothing short of a major production. One person has to flip him in their lap while another puts on blue booties, making sure his nails are not stretched. How the dog walker does all of this single-handedly is truly befuddling. Here he is all bundled up in his trendy coat and booties on the walk to Ipsento.
Our own dog Hershey was precious to us. She was very independent and didn’t depend on us for confirmation of her existence. She was an elegant lady. Basil, on the other hand, is street smart without an iota of sophistication. He is cute in a different way and overwhelms us with affection and affirmation. I would not trade my time with Hershey and Basil. They have taught us about life’s chief ingredients - resiliency, persistence, exhilaration, drama, loyalty, mischief, and hunger!
I have no doubt that the dear ones we lost this year - my father, my aunt, Tarun's cousin, and our friend - are all being comforted by Hershey at this very moment, egged by "winterized"Basil from the base station!