The Canine Collection of Poems

New Lamps for Old
Carol M. Chapman
Hitchcock, Texas

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 kids?

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 home.

New lamps for old.

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