I am not a big fan of cats. Most cats that I have met and owned are finicky, aloof and act as though they are doing you a favor by existing. I'm also allergic to cats, so that has always put a strain on our relationship.
I find fish fascinating and can spend hours staring at an aquarium. It's soothing and relaxing to watch them move gracefully, effortlessly through the water.
I had pets (cats, dogs and fish) growing up, but I don't think I'm completely comfortable around animals and certainly don't have a need to have one in my life.
Until I met Winston.
Winston is a beautiful Weimaraner that belongs to your dad's friend, Edwin. Edwin adopted Winston from a Weimaraner rescue in Los Angeles and we were lucky enough to get to know this amazing creature last April when we dog sat over Easter weekend. I fell in love with Winston. I fell in love with this dog's sweet nature, kind eyes, and overall curiosity. He was protective of me and my seven month pregnant belly (AKA you!) and even though in a new environment (not by choice), within hours, it was as though he belonged. It was a highlight of my year (2009: A Year To Remember).
Shortly after our weekend of walks, treats, tricks and only what can be described as pure joy, I read the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This unique novel is told from the perspective of Enzo, the family dog.
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.
This book made me angry, sad, helpless, hurt, frustrated, grateful, hopeful and happy. What more can you ask from a book? Enzo's Buddha-like observations will stick with you long after you lend it to a friend or put it or your shelf of favorites: "That which you manifest is before you."
I could not have read this book at a better time in my life. We had just spent an unforgettable weekend with an incredible canine and the phrase "man's best friend" all of a sudden made perfect sense. Maybe it was my "nesting" taking over or motherly instincts kicking in, but
Winston's stay with us made an impact on me and whenever I think about him, I smile.
Last night, my friend and true animal lover, Nancy and I got the rare opportunity to attend a speaking and book signing by Garth Stein at Warwick's, one of my favorite independent book stores in La Jolla. He was everything that I wanted him to be...adorable, charming, funny and working on his next novel. :) It was such a treat to get a glimpse of what the author went through to create The Art of Racing in the Rain and the struggle to have it published.
The best is yet to be and I see a family dog in our future.