I can hardly believe any of this. I can’t believe I’m standing here, in front of you, in front of our family and friends, as I honor you, my sweet-faced George, and our special relationship.
I promise to always be honest with you. And I will start now by saying that my current state of disbelief is likely due to dissociation. Sure, I’m here physically, but mentally I’m coasting on a faraway spiritual plane alongside my childhood dog Wendy. She’s marking her spot with the wild abandon she was never afforded here on Earth, and honestly — so am I. Some people will say it’s unhealthy that I’ve turned my mind into a museum, dedicated to the preservation of Wendy’s memories. But I assure you, George, you’re there too. In fact, you’re commemorated in the museum’s gift shop, where a picture of your face is printed onto a tote bag on sale for 75% off. You’re on a shelf next to a limited-edition calendar of romantic-style paintings of Wendy. Wendy as Medea, Wendy crossing the Delaware, Wendy playing solitaire. Everyone assumes dogs play poker in paintings, but Wendy was more of the solitaire type. I have more dependency issues than she ever did. She taught me that. She taught me everything.
Though I’m only 10 percent present at most, that tiny part of me promises to commit to you, George. I promise to give you my partial attention forever. Even though you’re no Wendy, I can tell that you are special in your own way. Or rather, I am aware that you are a specific man. What we have goes beyond facial recognition. I can recognize your voice, your body, the back of your head. I could pick you out of a lineup of men of your same build, if I really had to and if it was a low-stakes situation where nobody was rushing me.
I promise to play games with you — the fun kind where both of us are having fun. Like, when I take you to the dog park and throw my engagement ring as far as I can, and you try to retrieve it. I love that one. Though you’re far less athletic than Wendy. And much slower. But I guess, what’s the hurry when we’re both aging at the glacial pace of human years? Or how ‘bout the one when I come home after a long day, and you make it look like you’re busy, reading or cooking or something, when we both know you were waiting by the door all day. That’s a level of complexity that was beyond Wendy’s cognition. So props on that.
Of course, there’s no other living being who is both human and currently alive that I’ve met who I’d want to take long walks with. Sure, you don’t stop to smell anything, but you also don’t attack other dogs and that kind of temperament is rare in males. And not once have I had to pry your mouth open to remove poisonous trash. Unlike Wendy. She was a natural-born genius but her canine instincts occasionally got the better of her. Though you’re of average intellect for a person, you are a good boy, deserving of treats.
Finally, I promise to always look deep into your eyes. My favorite thing about you is that I can stare into your eyes for long periods of time without it seeming like I’m trying to assert my dominance. In fact, the more I stare at you, the more you seem to soften. Initially, I stared because I wanted to see if I could experience what Wendy saw when she looked up at me. But now I stare at you because I think you need it.
You are the blank space I always wanted to project memories of my childhood dog onto. You are the one I choose. You will never live up to Wendy, and I’m so thankful that you’re okay with that, George. I love you, Wendy. And George, you are okay.