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The Dog is Dead (and Other Things I Missed While at College)

December 6, 2012

The Dog is Dead (and Other Things I Missed While at College)
by Phillip Pennell

Thanksgiving is one of the most remarkable events I’ve experienced so far at CMC. It’s one last opportunity to take a second and breathe before exams bury us in books, and, for many freshmen, it’s also the first time they go back home.

For me, it was also the first time I realized that I didn’t quite know where home was.

When the school year starts, we all come pouring into our dorms and classes eager and ambitious, our hearts and minds set on the future and all that it can bring. Rarely do we have enough time to sit back and think about where we come from, and the consequences of finally leaving childhood for this intermediate stage do not seem relevant or important. 

We rush from class to class, collecting credits and accomplishments while we talk about the salaries we’ll all be earning as bankers on Wall Street. Nervous anticipation emanates from everywhere; it’s palpable, and the campus stinks of it. Like animals on leashes, we lament our captivity and salivate at the thought of finally showing the world just what we can do. It’s a culture I’m guilty of participating in. Why think of the past when I could be planning for the future?

Then I got home.

The first thing that went through my mind when I got out of the airport in Vancouver was just how bloody cold it was. I used to sail when it was snowing. Now, it was 40 degrees and I was running for the fireplace. When I found that fireplace, it was in a room I no longer recognized thanks to a particularly extensive renovation. While I always knew that nothing stays the same, I’d always imagine that it’d be just me doing the changing. I realized that in those few short months, however, I hadn’t just left the great white north. The great white north had left me. At least I could console myself with the fact that these changes were all minor, unimportant, and expected.  There was no true disconnection, at least not yet.

Jackson was a butter-beige monstrosity, the kind of dog you’d expect would tear you limb from limb. Neglected by his owners, he was adopted by the people on my street, who would feed him, take him for walks, and offer him companionship when he needed it most. He was, despite his appearance, a friendly dog, and like clockwork he’d be waiting for you to come home from work or school. He’d follow people all around the block, and strangers would go pale in fear when they first saw him; they would inevitably be shocked at how much love that angry-looking face was capable of. He was a cornerstone for the community, so when I stepped out of the car this time, I was confused by his conspicuous absence.

Jackson was dead. I’d never been that close to him, and I can’t say that I ever felt attached, so I was shocked when the news hit me as hard as it did. Turns out he mattered more than I thought. He was something that had been a part of my childhood. I’d returned with hope of slipping into a life that was still there. Jackson showed me that the second I stepped on the plane going to Los Angeles in August, my childhood had begun to erode. When he left, he took a part of my old life with him. I was so occupied with what to do in the future that his departure had gone completely unnoticed. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to enjoy what little shreds of childhood you have left.

We’d all do well to remember that every step we take into the future is an irrevocable step out of the past. While it’s important to look ahead, look back and savor what you have right now because, if you don’t, you may someday turn around and find that it’s completely gone.

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