Okay before we even get started, you need to know that I am not going to adopt Cheech, Cheech being the dog you see in the photo. This is not going to be one of those stories where a grumpy old man says he doesn’t want a dog, but then a cute dog thaws his frozen heart and they live happily ever after together. That’s a great story. I wish I could give you that story, but I can’t.
Seriously, I’m not adopting Cheech. You gotta let go of that.
So who is Cheech anyway? She is a chihuahua. Her ancestors were apex predators on the frozen tundra until forty generations of fell human engineering produced a dog whose primary instinct is snuggling. Cheech was left here in La Mancha a year ago and no one ever came back for her. The regulars at the Fang & Feather say she is a “chill dog” because she will sit quietly in your lap for as long as you let her. A friend with a lap seems to be what Cheech needs to be happy. Cheech lives with Joe and Indigo, but she and I hang out sometimes, go for walks, and keep each other company. That’s how I would describe our friendship. And I don’t understand why people at the Fang & Feather keep asking if I’ve finally given in and taken her home to live with me. Cheech and I don’t need your labels. We don’t need to know who owns whom. We’re doing just fine.
But I did have this thing happen with Cheech that I want to tell you about. Because I can’t tell this to anyone here in La Mancha. I would never hear the end of it. Sometimes I pretend you readers are my friends, and you’re just sitting across the table nodding and looking at me with serious and compassionate eyes over your cup of coffee. You’re exactly the right person to tell this to.
So I had this thing that happened with Cheech.
Sometimes Cheech and I walk over to Tuscan Hall because it has the most beautiful landscaping in all of La Mancha. Tuscan Hall is Joe’s baby, and he takes special care of it. We walk over there and lie in the grass together watching the clouds through the trees. Last week Cheech jumped up on my chest, circled once, and plopped down for a nap. She inched forward until her nose was tucked under my chin. She took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. I could feel the warmth of her breath on my neck. And then I started crying. The tears came out of nowhere, and I didn’t even know why I was crying. Cheech never moved. She just breathed on my neck while I sobbed. And she licked my chin a couple of times.
And then, God help me, I got scared someone was going to see me crying with a chihuahua. So I dried up the tears and pushed the pain back down below, deep into my underworld. That’s how vintage, twentieth century men deal with things like this. I held Cheech in my lap for a few minutes, then took her back to Joe and Indigo.
But I keep thinking about it. I keep thinking about that powerful exhalation under my chin. Cheech pulled all the air she could into her lungs, and then let it go under my chin in a single blast. Her body inflated and then went limp atop me. She filled herself with what she could hold, and then let it all go.
And that’s when I let go and the tears came.
I feel like I have a strange connection with this tiny creature. Her simple psychology reminds me that I’m not that complicated either. When she is near me, my psyche seems to lighten and shift and simplify, bringing long dormant things gently to the surface.
This little dog and me. I wonder what will become of us. Will someone adopt Cheech, or will she remain in limbo, owned by no one and cared for a lonely writer? I live here now, but I have no idea what the future holds beyond that. Cheech and me, we don’t know what’s coming next. For now we share the warmth of our bodies and the smells and sounds of our breath and skin. We share my lap and we walk together down Meadow Lane on Friday nights, when the regulars are arriving for Happy Hour.
We love each other, this little dog and me. That’s good enough for now.
I suppose Future and the Fates will decide what is to become of Cheech and Gordon.