I should probably explain about Pootie. Pootie, who is currently in charge of our house, arrived here stowed away in a ribboned box on Christmas day, 1988. Although he is frequently mistaken for a bear, which doesn’t bother him, or a bunny, which does, he is a dog. Technically, a stuffed dog. But if his head is packed with lint, it only means he’s gotten the jump on the rest of us.
Pootie is a dog given to firm opinions and well-defined preferences, and from the early days it was clear that many of them aligned closely with Dave’s. For instance, he enjoys making a public spectacle of himself, he loves chocolate, and he adores basketball. Dave would consult with Pootie, listen carefully, and say, “Pootie wants to know”–the Poot would nod vigorously–“Pootie wants to know if there are any chocolate chip cookies left.” Or, “Pootie wants to know if there’s any reason we couldn’t turn on the Lakers game.” That was actually the only deviation, however slight, that Pootie took from the Dave canon. Although both man and dog were fervent basketball fans, Dave rooted for the Portland Trailblazers and Pootie was a die-hard for the Los Angeles Lakers. He had even begun to bald a bit on top, revealing a neat row of stitching, just like his hero, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We snuck the Pootster into the Blazer games whenever we attended, always eluding the security at the gate, to the Poot’s immense satisfaction. He always wore his own Lakers sweats, just to be provocative, and someone would always cheerfully offer to rip his head off.
Pootie gets to go everywhere with us, including seven consecutive trips on the Cycle Oregon bicycle tour, when he rode up front on the handlebars on his own personal Barkalounger sporting helmet and official t-shirt, courting fame and admiration. (“Oh, look at the cute bear! Oh, look at the little t-shirt! Oh, look at that helmet!” some admiring female would say; then, to me, “you don’t have any kids, do you?”)
Still, although Pootie is our constant companion, I was actually moved when Dave took him to watch the All-Star game. We were at our cabin, a space sanctified by the absence of television, on a snowy February weekend, when Dave asked if I wanted to pop into the nearest tavern to watch the basketball game. I didn’t. I had a book. So Dave took off for a few hours, tucking Pootie into his jacket, and inviting him to recline against the napkin dispenser to observe the goings-on. While he was gone I thought of what a special fellow Dave is. Many, if not all, men would be loathe to bring a (technically) stuffed dog into a tavern for the purposes of watching a sports game on TV, but it hadn’t even occurred to Dave to leave Pootie behind. More I thought of it, the more I was filled with love for Dave and his compassion for the little fuzzy people in life. I told him so when they came back. “You know, most guys wouldn’t have taken someone like Pootie to a bar,” I said, with a catch in my throat. Dave shrugged it off. It was nothing.
“Pootie,” he said significantly, “is a babe magnet.”