The guardian

Always ready.

This is Wilson.

We met Wilson on the street. He was alone, flung from a stroller perhaps, right in the middle of the sidewalk. I’m sure he wouldn’t admit it now, but he looked bewildered. You would be, too, if you were fallen and unclaimed. You might wonder a bit about what the future might bring.

Hilary had just completed a long course of radiation, and she’d begun oral chemotherapy. The treatments made her tired. She liked to push through it and take walks anyway. She’d been warned by the doctors not to pick up objects on the street. So after she dusted Wilson off and placed him up on the fence so that anybody looking for him could see him, she hand-sanitized.

The next day we had an appointment with the oncologist. We spent the evening in the city and returned home exhausted. Hilary slept in, or tried to. The drugs gave her intense physical sensations that she found difficult to describe. She didn’t feel up to a walk. I decided to go to the store and get her a few things she wanted.

On the way back from the grocery, I passed by the spot where we’d walked two days prior. To my surprise, there was Wilson, still on the fence, still staring out toward the street. I admitted that I’d quite forgotten about him. We fell into conversation. Wilson asked if I was in need of a quality guard dog. I told him that I would consider it. Overhead, the skies were darkening. It was going to rain. I went home.

Later that day, Hilary steadied herself and got up. She folded the laundry and read her book, and made something to eat. She checked in with the hospital and filled out their daily survey. Then she opened the door. There in the hall was Wilson. He was reporting for duty.

As guard dogs sometimes do, he’d gone ahead and assigned himself a tough case. Using context clues, he’d determined to his own satisfaction that his talents were required here. We invited him in. We were both a little too wiped out and worried that day to be effusive, but I recall that we were overjoyed to see his fuzzy face.

We initially feared that a watchdog, squared away and regular as they are, would have a hard time acclimating to our peculiarities. I am sure that Wilson found us eccentric at first. But if he was never a full participant, he soon he became an enthusiastic observer of our customary fun and games. He quickly realized that he’d committed to guarding a house where playful activity was the rule, and as such, he was here to guard us as we played, and make sure we were always as safe as we could be under the circumstances.

Wilson has now been with us for over a year. He has had work to do, hard, scary work. But he has never once complained or shirked his responsibilities. He was the first one to greet Hilary after her second surgery, up on the hospital tray table, examining her for signs of distress. He was there through the convalescence, presiding over the medications, making sure we never took too much or too little, always as exact and precise as we needed him to be. He has peeked between the straps of Hilary’s bag during every doctor’s appointment, and listened carefully to each recommendation, even at times when we’ve both been too tired, confused, and apprehensive to pay close attention. Wilson has watched over us during many sleepless nights when comfort has been hard to find. When I have been frightened and helpless and ready to give up, he gives me a hard stare, and I catch myself, and I find my footing, and I carry on.

I recently asked Wilson whether he could ever have expected that our recovery would be interrupted by a pandemic. I meant it as a kind of joke, bleak humor to break the tension. But Wilson, true to form, told me that a guardian takes all threats, small and large, as seriously as conditions warrant. The world, he tells us, is always changing; it has sharp edges, and a good guard dog must stand ready to blunt each one of them as they approach. Right now, as I type this, Wilson is on duty. Hilary is baking a banana bread. He’ll watch out for the peels.

It is not in the nature of guard dogs to seek publicity. They do what they do because of who they are, not because they expect a reward. If Wilson knew I was writing this, I think he’d be awfully embarrassed. But our watchdog has reinforced the lessons that tweepop taught me long ago: tenacity is never a matter of physical strength, and guardianship of that which is precious is always worthwhile. When they have to be, the plush are often the most ferocious. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the… well, you know the rest.

The vigilance of our guard dog has been unwavering. His comradeship has been indispensable. We are grateful for our good fortune. We’re so glad he found us.

Thank you, Wilson.