There is a wonderful sequence in "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" where
Aladdin has won riches, a kingdom, and the love of his princess with
the help of a genie who resided inside an old, battered lamp. An evil
wizard dresses up as a street vendor and offers new, shiny lamps as a
free trade for old ones. Aladdin's princess has no feeling for the old
lamp and all it has done, so she hurries out and trades it for the
new, improved model. The evil wizard runs off cackling - the power of
the lamp is now his. Horrible events ensue until Aladdin is able to
get his old lamp back and make the world right again.
An acquaintance called me the other night to talk about the new dream
home he and his wife are completing. In their 11 years of marriage,
they have celebrated the births of two children, developed careers,
and shared the good times and sad times with their small family.
Through all of it, a little cocker spaniel named Daisy has been there.
She was their first gift to each other and has guarded each of their
children's early steps, warned them valiantly of strangers
approaching, shared their tears and laughter. Daisy has always been in
inside dog, kept within the walls of the home, the heart of the
family. Daisy is getting older, has problems with bladder control, and
is losing her teeth. She doesn't want to play with children anymore,
preferring to sleep at someone's feet and feel their hands patting her
gently. Daisy has turned into the old lamp.
My acquaintance alluded to this as he quietly asked me if I would take
Daisy. Their new house has carpet, dog accidents stain, and frankly,
Daisy smells at times. Daisy would not be happy as an outside dog, it
would be too cruel to put her to sleep and my acquaintance was
"shocked" to learn that turning her over to the local shelter means
she would be put down. The old dog had no room waiting in their new
house - would I take her so they could get a new younger one for their
New dogs for old - the wizard would be pleased. In a just world, their
new house would crumble, they would lose their jobs, the kids would
get boils, and their rag-covered forms would crawl the earth looking
for Daisy to bring back home. In a just world, Daisy would have the
option of trading in the old family for a new one.
I swallowed my pain and tried to educate him, letting him know how
Daisy would suffer without her family, how bonded she was to them. He
let my words fall off his complacent armor; my pleas fell irrelevant
around his expensively shod feet. I suggested doggy diapers, vet
visits for medicine, a room at the house with a cool tiled floor and a
soft dog bed. I whispered that he could grant her the mercy of going
into her final rest in the arms of her family. But nothing touched the
part that hurts in him.
So now I have a new dog, her name is Daisy, and the pain fueling her
bleeding heart is slowing fading into acceptance. She wets my floors
and yes, she smells, but her head feels good on my feet as I write
this. And I picture that couple old and alone someday, incontinent,
unbathed, and patronized by children who consider the house an asset,
the parents a liability, leaving them with strangers at a nursing
New lamps for old.