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Learning from Kern-Dog 

What a pet can teach us about love

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I've lost track of the number of times that Kern-Dog has gone to visit the vet over the years; today, the vet came to visit him.

We did it on the grass in Karen's yard, the place where Kern-Dog had spent countless hours laying in the sun, chasing squirrels, stalking gophers in the flower beds and, on one memorable occasion, getting his butt kicked by the neighborhood raccoon.

He was his adorable self to the very end—he lifted his head and almost (but not quite) kissed the vet's hand, even though he had barely lifted his head in days.

Soon the deed was done, and for the first time in 19 years there was nothing left for us to do. We needed to get out the house—that house that had been Kern's kingdom for so many years—so we went to Fradelizio's for an early dinner. As we sat reminiscing, I realized that Kern had probably been as much a part of our town as many people I know. When I used to play music at Fradelizio's, I would bring him in after closing time so that he could canvas the dining room floor for stray edibles while I packed away my guitars. He was more than willing to oblige, and I'm sure that it made the job of vacuuming the floors that much easier.

He'd been into all of the Fairfax bars countless times back in the day, and for a while there he practically lived on the doggie treats from Fairfax Lumber. Many is the night that Karen would furrow her brow in motherly concern because Kern had barely touched his real dinner. Hmmmm, I wonder why?

It's been said so often now as to become cliché, but what if we could all learn to love with the selfless devotion and reckless abandon of the beloved family dog? To love unconditionally and without limits, without fear of judgment or rejection, to love not for what we hope to get in return but for the sake of love itself?

Jack Irving lives in Fairfax.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write

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