The consciousness of those with Korsakoff’s psychosis–historically an illness of alcoholics with thiamine deficiency–is cheerfully biased. So it was with my friend Herbie, a dog who passed to his rewards a few months ago. Sure, he would cower in his corner of shame, even before being scolded, after a countertop sortie. Chocolate, aka theobromine, food of the gods–he left us with no doubt that this was to die for, worth the guilt. I remember bringing him to the vet, stuporous and tachycardic after one of his cocoa binges.
Though poisoning was his occupational hazard, scavenging was a survival instinct that ultimately brought him to me. And from his first arrival, hurt-me cute at 7 weeks, Herbie had a way of positively spinning the moments, with his hyperbolic tail, and his 4 footed rumbas. Surely these gestures were also known by his ancestors, comrades of Labrador fisherman in their dark chilly camps. Three dozen dog generations ago, Herbie’s brethren were cadging fish-heads, telling jokes, and pretending to retrieve things on rocky maritime shores.
Herbie could empathize, and knew when you were fretting. “You need some comfort. How about some tawny ears of velvet and a golden dome to rest your hand on?” And it always worked. He would wear himself out just to be with you, and always came over to listen to my Sunday morning dining room songs.
Most of the un-leashed, commensal dogs of Yerevan have a more reserved affect, which I assume suits their urban niche from a natural selection point of view. Some are Corgi types, sans Queen, and there are a variety of grayish, retiring characters with sparse, wiry fur who may catch your peripheral vision as they doze in a doorstep.
There is the occasional leashed canine on the scale of Herbie, smiling no more than their masters. To me their lives are a secret, while Herbie’s was an open book.
On Herbie’s last day, I am looking at this portrait of a horse at the Matenadaran museum. My neighbor Dan could talk about horses like this, knowing every bit of their surfaces, like I know that old dog.
Looking at this picture, I feel a hollow in my right palm, where that furry occiput, Herbie’s yellow head, fit so nicely, and I remember a fellow creature who was wired for joy.