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It's Nelly's World

In Medias Res

alec vanderboom

There was no way to ever guess I would one day have a dog small enough that she could fit her entire tongue up my nostril. I am not a small dog person. Just as I am not an Italian driving moccasin person. Or a golf person. These are the things that make you who you are, or who you'd like to think you are, which is more to the point. These are code, or a military uniform, which you do not don to serve a government with which you do not politically agree.

Small dogs used not to occur to me as dogs, really. I could never say this out loud, but I would think it of those rodent-like creatures whose hair mopped the floor and whose tails were a counterbalance for the face end, if you could even tell them apart: Freak, I would silently mouth. A dog, on the other hand, was a minimum of forty pounds, and you could see their eyes (nor were rubber bands with little bows on them required to hold back their hair so you could do so). A real dog did not squeak. It was not an ankle-biter; if it wanted, and you deserved it, it could reach a far more critical piece of body farther north. A real dog was like Lassie, or Rin Tin Tin, but was even better if it was not a ward of the AKC. A real dog was my Mercy, who had up and died on me and ripped out my heart in the process.

Which is why, when I got Nelly (not as a replacement; there could never be a replacement), I kept waiting for her to get bigger. When would she hit twenty-five pounds, thirty? Goodness, she was coming up on a year and she was still under twenty! Clearly, I needed to feed her more. Finally she grew so wide, though no taller, that the vet issued stern commands. Nineteen and a half, and no more. That was Nelly. She was going to be, resolutely, who she was--and who might that be, o eternal mystery?--and no other. She was going to make me change my mind. About a lot of things.