Monday, September 23rd, 2013
It was more than twelve years ago that my youngest son, Samuel, and I discovered Bamboo in a large cardboard box at Pet Rescue, a store-front animal shelter in Winnipeg. There were five other, almost identical, puppies in that box—each one cuter than the next—but somehow Bamboo and Samuel had an immediate affinity for one another. Lucky for me as it turned out. Teenagers have lots to do—places to go and people to see—and not much time to take care of pets. So that job, if you can call it a job, was mine by default.
In retrospect, I think Bamboo took care of me. At the time that we met, I was just at the age when some of my contemporaries were beginning to slow down, were becoming a little slothful and maybe preferred a martini or two to anything vaguely resembling exercise but Bamboo wouldn’t permit that. She kept me on the move. She took me for long walks every day, no matter what the weather, and she steered me to places I would have never thought to go—Maple Grove, Little Mountain, Charleswood, Bourkevale and King’s Parks plus our favorite, the trails that meander through the Assiniboine Forest.
Over the years Bamboo and I established a routine and she insisted that I adhere to it. It wasn’t only about going on walks. She’d lead me upstairs when it was time for me to go to work and down again when we were due to take a break. You would swear she could tell time and maybe that was so. I can still picture her at 5:30 on a given afternoon, standing at the door of the TV room and grunting, to remind Barbara and me that it was time for the PBS News Hour.
But I don’t want to give the impression that Bamboo was my constant companion. In a way she was fickle. The sounds of Barbara puttering away in the kitchen or the smell of cooking wafting up the stairs invariably were temptations that could not be denied. So if Bamboo was not by my side I knew where to find her. And when it came to food, Bamboo had a comic sense of thievery that made you laugh in spite of yourself. Like the time that twenty-four Welsh Cakes mysteriously went missing or when the round chocolate cake sitting on the counter top inexplicably got transformed into a semicircle. But those acts of pilferage didn’t hold a candle to Bamboo’s pizza maneuver. Barbara was in the kitchen blithely tossing pizza dough while the seated Bamboo, hidden from Barbara’s view, was taking bites out of its bottom edge as it passed her by. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Bamboo had the audacity to turn and grin at me when I caught her in the act.
Yes, I’m certain of the grin. I’d seen it many times before and not just when she was pulling a fast one. She’d grin in delight when people she knew came to the door, grin when she ran into old pals on the street or in the forest and just grin for the hell of it because life pleased her. She was into life full force with never-ending gusto and insisted that I join in the fun. I don’t know what I would have done without her then but the best I can do now is to try to live up to the expectations that she had for me.