Tad Witucki

The only one from your generation who currently shares your in-utero surname is a black Labrador with floppy ears who, unlike his entire breed, hates the water. He was born on March 7, 2004, and he came into my life on June 26, 2006. He has now spent more than half of his life with me.
My urge to portray him for you surprises me, because I can’t sit down and portray a human to you this way. Even Carolina, who died during the earlier stages of your forming, whom I regret you will never meet, I can’t portray to you somehow, though not for lack of wanting. The only way I can remember her to you, over a month after her death, is through Tad, a creature Carolina was sure had the love of Jesus in him. I’ve tried to separate out the relevant aspect of love from the less relevant—for me—aspect of Jesus, to pull love away from the character in order to understand what she was getting at. She would insist to me, as she came to Tad with a treat, that she was waiting to give it to him until he showed her love, so she knew he was not just there for food. No other treat giver has insisted on his giving something so impossibly intangible, and I’ve laughed at her saying, “Ok, he loves you, but he knows what you have and still wants it.” After she died, I sat upstairs in Tom’s house, a place which is more comfortable than but which is about as familiar as a hotel to me compared to the house in which I grew up, making the requisite phone calls to coworkers in my department, while Independence Day barbecuing was happening downstairs, and Tad sat in the doorway, perhaps longing to make a permanent exit toward the food but attending to my vigil. Once in a while, he would trot off, but he would return shortly after to sit there again, checking in. I wasn’t crying, but he knew.
Just as he knew that he needed to sniff around the tumor which was growing on Susan’s dog’s jaw the week before she died.
Or that when I was crying, in the aftermath of a difficult hospital visit, he should flop on his back in front of me in complete, goofy Tadness.
In our earliest days of getting to know each other, I cried in front of Tad, too, and that time, he walked around in circles crying along, then flopped into my lap. He has done this lap-flopping less over the years, which fills me with combined regret and relief, because I can’t hold 65 pounds of dog for very long. But his expressions of affection have not diminished; I have known two other dogs over my lifetime, but I never had such an expressive dog—or at least I never paid attention to their expressions before. Tad is usually a clown, even when he is completely earnest in his clowning.
His job is to be singularly attentive to me, unlike Jesus’s, of course, and he can but doesn’t always show that singular attention. As I was getting at to Carolina, he is not divine, or at least not only divine. He is a mere mortal with mortal yearnings. His passion for food cannot be rivaled, not even by his passion for attention. He has no enemies, except, perhaps, for dogs which surprise him on our walks. All humans are friends, and all friends are long lost kindred spirits. He does seem to have a different, deeper, more excited affection for those he knows, and he knows everyone. He’s the quiet extrovert, the kid who plays with everyone on the playground, who gets universally excited about everyone and shows it in small individual ways which are as varied as the individuals he meets. For me, he actually shows a calmer emotion than with other friends. If I reappear after being absent, he moves around wagging, but he never jumps on me or even near me. It’s almost as though he thinks, “Oh there she is,” instead of, “Look who’s here!” Reassurance instead of excitement? I’ll take it. When I returned from my first absence of a few days, he slept on my foot for hours.
In October, Tad had a gigantic scare. He has had little scares, of course, but this one was different. He was riding in a van with us when a part fell out from underneath it. It didn’t hurt anyone, but he began generalizing this panic to other vehicles. For months, I thought it would get better; then I gave in and called the Seeing Eye. They sent out an instructor who helped him recover at least 50% of his calm, if not more. Food bribery is particularly helpful in this situation as well. But the thought of his retiring to live with one of my friends, probably either Betty or Damien, fills me with dread. I’ve started and then postponed an argument with your father, which I hope you won’t hear someday in a few years, as I’ve told him that we can keep the old guide dog, the new guide dog and the kid or kids! No problem!
I’m excited that with the little boy on the train, Tad was so calm. I wonder what will happen when he meets you, and I hope someone in the room will have a camera on hand to visually document that meeting. Your Uncle Chet will drive up here to take him off my hands while I’m in labor, so that as it gets more painful and messy, Tad will not have to witness it. Legally, he is allowed to be everywhere with me, including in labor and delivery, but I feel as protective of him as I would of a toddler. I can’t show him that bloody unfurling, even though he has seen the entire range of my emotions, because his only fears reside in the physical.
My terms of endearment for Tad include: Tadli (spelled li instead of ley, because in Swiss German, li is a diminutive), Tadster, Thumper, Sniffer, Squeaker, Sneezer, Mister, Dog, Buddy, Boy, Goofy, Dork. Your father calls him Buddy Boy and Tadster. I wonder if I can adapt any of those terms of endearment for your arrival, but most of those words are related to action. While Tad’s actions will not change much over the course of his adult life, yours will change tremendously. You were “a real kicking dude” in another (unpublished) entry, but someday you’ll be walking and then running. And thinking and falling in and out of love and learning. So who knows how we will name each other in the years to come?

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