Lannie Cox

Calling for Mitch 

Sentimentality, not scraps, is what a Seeing Eye Dog’ll beg
from you, but I know just how far he’s from perfect
I have blindly scraped crap with nails from shoe grooves and regretted ever getting a dog.
Sometimes, his ever-present inconvenience takes everything out of me
When distraction comes: cat, squirrel, dropped food, it takes will to hold
him steady, and he doesn’t always come quickly when I call. 

Things change, you know. It’s been ten years since I made that first call,
from across the room, I hollered, “Mitch!” and then had to beg
not to be bowled over by the new mystery. He could hold
his own in our first play with the “Kong,” his reflexes were precision-perfect;
its irregular searching patterns were more like me.
It took twenty-eight days of surgery to graft in my dog. 

In summer ’93, I began the transformation: part-boy part-man part-dog.
Seventeen, I was the past trying to call
the future.  I grew Mitch’s fur and a first beard for me.
A month in New Jersey, a boy would beg
for this independence. I was anonymous, the perfect
environment to reform, working to change my awkward visionless hold.  

on the metal and leather harness with its alien telemetry, fashioned to hold
the world conducted into paw-pads, up antennae legs and translated into dog. 
Trusting someone is hard when you know they’ve eaten dirty diapers, judgment less than perfect.
But when you’re alone, there’s no one else listening when you call.
He makes serious mistakes. “I beg
your pardon.” He gets the praise, but the mistakes fall on me. 

Here’s an example: After a day of working out of town, Mitch walked me
to our hotel room. While I was on the phone, he nosed and nosed. “Hold
it!” He was obnoxious. It was strange for him to beg. 
He wined and walked into the tiled foyer and left a diarrhea mess, only a dog
can do.  I first smelled then felt the noisome clots, but who can you call? 
I cancelled dinner, ruined towels and a trashcan to make Mitch’s reputation perfect 

again.  I think about how the years have made him less and less perfect.
As he gets older, I get less from him and he takes more from me.
At night when I let him out before retiring, to get him back I have to call and call.
And when I get him back, I want to hold
him until he understands that I am the man and he is the dog.
As alpha male, I refuse to let anyone beg. 

But I beg him to be perfect.
Now, just a dog on a table, the secret tumors taking
hold of me and leading while the breath of machines and Dr. Roberson’s hand on my arm ask for the call.