Cheeko the pet Boxer Cross
My Dear Friend,
When we saw each other again last month, you made it clear that you remembered me. I wasn’t sure you would. I’ve thought of you every day since we last saw each other, but I’ve not known if you’ve ever thought of me. However, whether you’ve thought of me at all is beside the point—it’s clear from our reunion that we’re on the same affectionate terms, even after the passage of time. Your voice greeting me, the way you sat close to me, the way you held your head just so, and especially your kisses—these things assured me of our continuing mutual affection.
I’m not certain that you recall, my dear, how we came to know each other. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll recount it here. It ultimately makes no difference to our relationship, but some day you might like to hear the story told, for it helps to draw a picture of our past.
When you were just a lad I had arranged to spend a summer’s week at a house on the Finger Lake that I call Skinny Atlas. If I may sidetrack my story for a moment, that was before I’d learned, on a cruise of Seneca Lake departing from Watkins Glen, the names of all eleven Finger Lakes, west to east. The captain of the pleasure boat was determined that we passengers learn all the names, but I believe I was the only person who did. With a little practice I went on to name the lakes east to west as well, and, ultimately, alphabetically backwards and forwards. All this is not to point to my superb intellect—for indeed I have no superb intellect—but to indicate my abiding interest in the Finger Lakes, as well as in letters and words. It wasn’t long before I took out my acrylic paints and produced my own map of the Finger Lakes. Later I had an image of that map printed on coffee mugs and T-shirts, as if I need more prompts to remember the Finger Lakes.
Oh, how you would have loved that boat ride, my dear!
But what happened at Skinny Atlas that would bring me to Seneca Lake and Cobtree and, at last, to you? It was a fluke, and I don’t mean the fish, which is of course what you might think of when you hear that word. I had planned to stay for a week in a rental house on Skinny Atlas Lake, but the house was not up to my standards, which, I’ll admit, are high, but which I doubt anyone would argue with when it comes to finding things like moldy grounds in the coffee maker. Now, you and a few of my other friends might find something like that very interesting, and as well you might not be put off by a dryer without functioning controls, or light bulbs that had gone missing from their sockets. These things did bother me, though, so I spent only one night at that house, not even getting into the bed, and I was gone from it shortly after daybreak the next morning.
My dear, I wish you could have seen the blackbirds writing their signatures in the sky last week as I drove north from Virginia toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge! Do you often see blackbirds on the wing in Geneva’s autumns? You must, and I imagine they give you at least the delight they give me. At our garden feeders this week, we’ve had both nuthatches and black-capped chickadees, and seeing the two birds side by side, the nuthatch in its curious upside-down attitude, gives me a better appreciation of the differences in their colorings.
You too notice nature’s designs, even though you see colors differently from how I see them. Color is one of my passions, and it pains me that I can so poorly share it with you. Still, it makes me aware that when I send you a photo, on your birthday card, for instance, that I pay special attention to the colors. Yellows and blues I understand you see well. I have software for processing photos that can give me pictures with certain colors made more prominent. I’ll try that for your birthday card this year. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?
But I’ve swerved from what I was telling you about, dear heart. You are always patient with me when I get sidetracked. Indeed, Patience is one of your many endearing qualities, along with Loyalty, Steadfastness, and Gentleness. Oh, you are precious to me, Cheeko!
That Sunday morning five years ago, after sleeping sitting up in the Horrible House, having learned from the estate agent that there were no other houses available on Skinny Atlas that week, I pulled my trusty AAA tour book from my bag and combed through the offerings in the Finger Lakes. That, in a nutshell, is how I found Cobtree! Robert answered the phone when I called, and his accent made me think I’d accidentally called across the Pond rather than across several lakes, and he and Jane and you were waiting for me when I arrived a short time later. We formed a bond of friendship then that has lasted through these years—years that have had their share of joys and hardships for all of us.
But you, sweet Cheeko, you are the one at Cobtree to whom I’ve sent a birthday card each year. You are the one I most long to see, with apologies to your humans Jane and Robert. Your home at Cobtree is filled for me with sky-blue views of Seneca Lake, dandelions going to seed in pastureland, the whistle of trains passing on the tracks that run along the lake, but mostly of you, my friend—of you and Jane walking side by side on your way to the Cobtree mailbox, or for your evening constitutional; of all of us in your house as you’ve sat at my feet awaiting a promised treat; of your sweet face, your graying hair, your black-tipped ears. For me, my darling, you are the face of Cobtree.
Oh, Cheeko, my canine friend, how good it was to see you last month—and how I miss you!