Nosmo(a book in preparation)
This book opens with Chapter One, "Arrival of the Magical Corgi," and begins like this
Nosmo King did not teach in words. He taught us by what he did, and how he did it. He taught us by redirecting our attention. He taught us by who he was.
Our task was interpretation.
Here is one of his teachings:
At the vet’s you may throw yourself onto your back to resist being taken into the examination room, but afterwards you feel better.
We pondered that lesson.
Upon reflection, one of its meanings seemed this: a calamity, if you survive, can improve you. Perhaps it gets you thinking in new ways, or thinking about new things.
Something like that happened to us. A cataclysm wrenched us. But just as it struck, Nosmo King took up residence in our home. And he helped us through.
He arrived mysteriously. After all, it is usually the people who choose the dog. But with Nosmo it was the reverse. He chose us.
One afternoon, he appeared.
We live in the hills north of a small New England town. Our windows look out on no other houses. A little waterfall splashes into a pond. Beyond lie meadows and forests of sugar maples and white pines, and a glimpse of the Green Mountains. Sometimes a fox trots across the lawn on a business trip. But we have few unexpected visitors.
So it startled Joyce that summer afternoon, as she worked in her downstairs office, to glance outside and see the most beautiful Welsh corgi in the world. He stood on our deck as if he owned the place. He looked expectant.
Joyce rushed outside. Hands on hips, she stared gleefully at the corgi.
"What are you doing here?" she said.
The corgi stared gleefully back.
Richard, meanwhile, ran down from his upstairs office, fearing an intruder. He found Joyce delightedly regarding a blond-and-white corgi, with permanently perked-up ears. And the corgi stared delightedly back. Our visitor had the usual absurdly short corgi legs, but he was twice the typical corgi’s size, with a broad white chest. He was of the no-tail Pembroke variety. He grinned with irresistible charm, handsome as a movie star. But it was not just outward good looks that made this dog radiant. His eyes, black and sharp, were aware. And he gazed at you so delightedly it was like sunshine. He seemed to glow with self-confidence and high self-esteem. He looked at us, strangers, never doubting that we would love him. He seemed to say: "Here we are together, smelling these smells, seeing these sights, feeling this joy."
Joyce announced: "God sent this dog!"
Because the corgi wore no collar, we had no way to identify him. But he was clearly well fed. "He belongs to someone," Richard said.
Joyce remembered, reluctantly, that a year before she did see a corgi like this at a neighbor’s house. It was a large, new house, just up the road, set back in the woods at the end of a long driveway. Joyce dutifully telephoned. She hoped that this dog was not theirs.
But it turned out that Joyce had found the corgi’s rightful owners. She despaired. She felt this dog was supposed to live with us. She felt he had not appeared on our deck by some mere whim of wandering. She felt sure he had important work to do with us, which we could not yet discern. And so, as we drove up the road to the corgi’s house, she felt despondent. Meanwhile, in the back seat, the corgi sat like a potentate.
His name, his owners told us, came from a "No Smoking" sign they had seen, printed across a restaurant’s swinging doors--"No Smo" on one door, then "king." So their new puppy became Nosmo King. It seemed to us an unfortunate association for so self-possessed and personable a creature. We suggested Nosmo might actually be a Hobbit name from the Lord of the Rings trilogy?Bilbo, Frodo...and Nosmo. They told us that "corgi," in Welsh, means "dwarf dog."
Having exchanged pleasantries, we left the magically handsome dog with his owners and drove home. And that seemed that.
You do not think a dog might become your teacher.
Sometimes, as the months passed, one of us checking the mailbox would look up the road and see a mystery animal silhouetted atop the hill. It seemed too small for a bear or coyote, too large for a fisher, too robust for a fox. This unknown animal would gaze fixedly down the hill, then turn and disappear. Only later did we realize the identity of the creature contemplating our house so fixedly, almost with longing. You can only guess what a dog thinks, but clearly Nosmo King was thinking about us.
One afternoon, Joyce looked up from her work. Outside her office’s sliding glass door stood the corgi, back again, staring intently at her.
Let inside, Nosmo sauntered through the house, with the air of a gentleman inspecting his new quarters. Outside each room he paused before going in, to look at us over his shoulder, checking the local regulations. After his tour, he sat on the kitchen floor and looked at us jubilantly.
After that, as if something had been settled, Nosmo visited frequently. We could not predict his visits. Apparently, whenever he could get away, he trotted down the road to our house. It was a country road, but a dangerous road, and our visitor faced death by radial tire.
Our household divided into factions.
Joyce yearned for this dog. She felt, inexplicably, that this was her karma dog. She felt this animal had been assigned to her by fate.
But an anti-dog faction opposed her. Richard had vowed no more dogs.
For one thing, a dog’s life span is short. So, inevitably, you must deal with loss. Our last dog had died of extreme old age. And Richard did not care to witness any more dog deaths.
Also, our work required considerable travel, and experience had proved dogs could be a problem, especially dogs skittish of spending weeks at a time incarcerated in a kennel. Joyce argued that we could find dog sitters. But it seemed dubious to Richard that we always could find a dog sitter, just at the time we needed one, especially for extended periods. He believed a dog would curtail travel, leading to fewer assignments and less income.
Nosmo disregarded the factional differences. Later we interpreted that as one of his teachings: if you know what you want, sometimes it is best to ignore uncontrollable obstacles. Just go for it.
So he went for it. Every few days, Nosmo risked death to scamper down a quarter mile of paved road to our house. That he survived these expeditions seemed in itself a sign of higher powers at work.
One morning a car pulled into our driveway and an agitated woman got out. "I almost hit this dog!" she said. "He was sitting on the yellow line!" In the back, her toddler sat in a baby seat. In the front seat sat Nosmo, looking bright-eyed and pleased with his latest social encounter. It was becoming clear to us that, in Nosmo’s mind, everybody loved Nosmo. But now we constantly worried that Nosmo would die in the road.
Nevertheless, he began coming almost every day. It became a routine. Nosmo arrived in the morning and climbed onto our deck and stared at Joyce through her glass door, waiting to be let in. Later, on our way into town to run late-afternoon errands, we drove our visitor home. Through his big house’s glass front door he would watch us drive away, looking bereft. And we pieced together why he might be seeking a new family.
Nosmo lived in a large empty house. Both his mistress and master worked at demanding jobs, with long hours. Evenings they left to attend meetings. With the family's children grown and gone, Nosmo found himself alone hour after hour in that large house, and corgis are gregarious dogs. He lived only with cats. And he did not care for cats.
So, whenever he could, Nosmo escaped to our house. He soon acquired his own water dish and food dish. He would curl up in Joyce’s office while she worked. Or he would wander upstairs to visit Richard, still ignoring all factional issues. Sometimes, looking out the glass walls in Joyce’s office, he would bark at mallards or mergansers or otters in the pond, a bark louder and deeper than seemed possible for so short-legged a dog. He began teaching us games, such as the long meadow walk to sniff out fox trails, and wrestling on the rug, and Frisbee fetch, and tug of stick.
But danger lurked. And behind that danger lurked more danger....