Here’s a picture of Pascal in Prospect Park. Behind him, out of view, are hundreds of frolicking dogs: a boisterous, non-human civilization that emerges for a few hours every Saturday. I had been determined to bring Pascal here in his last few years. He grew up in the countryside of Ireland and Massachusetts, rarely meeting other dogs, and I thought Prospect Park would be his Elysian Fields. Maybe he would show some of his youthful spunk. Maybe he could die happier.
My dad brought Pascal down for the weekend, and we walked him to the park. He was happy but, with respect to the congregation of dogs, mostly indifferent. He sauntered, sniffed, and said hello to a dog or two but seemed only as pleased as he would have been walking on the Irish dunes. I felt disappointed. Why didn’t Pascal appreciate this paradise I had brought him to?
On Monday, my sister and I drove up to Massachusetts to say goodbye. Pascal was dying. He weighed nine pounds, half his normal weight. His ribs protruded; he couldn’t sit. He had tumors on his lungs. Yet, as my mom said, he was happy. When we arrived, he rose from his bed and eagerly sniffed us. We took him for his usual walk, and though he couldn’t make it back up the hill — unheard-of in his younger days — he insisted on following every scent to its origin. Too weak to play, he stood still while a younger dog introduced himself and roughhoused.
We’re always looking for the best, aren’t we? The fanciest, the fastest, the most attractive or the tastiest, the easiest — the Prospect Park of every endeavor. What Pascal tried to teach our family, I think, is to be happy with what we have: a tiny garden in Ireland or a fenced-in, familiar back yard. They’re just fine.