The term ‘Miracle’ can have many meanings especially when you’re talking about a puppy; the first pee on newspaper, the first poop outside or when it’s a Pyrenees, the first paw.
But for me and Malcolm it meant blankets.
I’ve had chronic back pain most of my adult life due to an injury sustained on a job and then a subsequent car crash in Corpus Christi when, on my way to a deep sea fishing expedition, a Dodge Ram driving 50 MPH slammed into my rear end rupturing a disc.
For as long as I can recall, beds made it worse but couches made it tolerable.
Back in Castroville, I slept on the living room sofa while Malcolm was asleep all Superman style on the cold corridor tile, and even though we were close in proximity we still seemed worlds apart.
Then one morning, after what must've been a fitful night, I awoke and found Malcolm sleeping not in the tiled hallway but right next to my couch.
“Why hasn’t he done that before”, I wondered? And then I realized that at some point my blanket had partially slipped off me onto the floor upon which he lay.
I tested that hypothesis the very next night.
After I retired to the couch, I deliberately took half my blanket and draped over me and the other onto the floor and closed my eyes pretend like.
Moments later, sure enough, Malcolm plopped himself down onto the blankets and fell soundly asleep.
It wasn’t my notion of ‘snuggling’ or even what I wanted or expected out of a puppy but that night I realized something I’d never ever thought possible from a dog. He was trying to communicate with me.
But about what? Are cold tiles giving you piles? Is Timmy stuck in the town well?
Hell, I didn't know. And at the time, he didn't even have a name.
You’d think a creative type wordsmith like me would have no problem at all naming a dog but even after months together nothing came to mind. And it wasn’t due to lack of diligence. I researched mythologies from around the world and the only name I came close to was Loki, the Norse God or mischief, which seemed fitting. .
Still, I remained uncommitted until my brother, Mark, came into the living room one night and spoke the name ‘Malcolm’.
“That’s it”, I said without any hesitation and up until now, I never understood why I pulled the trigger so hastily.
To the extent of my recollection, I’ve never known anyone or anything named Malcolm and couldn’t find any personal, historical, emotional, or grand significance to it either.
And maybe that’s the reason.
I didn’t want this dog and maybe giving it a name that I had no attachment to meant I could get rid of it cleanly and easily.
Or maybe even then I had absolutely no idea what I was up against and it was still so foreign to me.
Over the coming months Malcolm would accrue many nick names.
One of the rules I had set forth on our first day together was I absolutely refused to ‘cutesy-tootsy baby talk’ him like girls do. Southern men just don’t do that
But Malcolm had a way of breaking down my preconceptions and down and outright bigotry towards dogs.
One morning in our first winter together, I was taking a long soak and he nosed the door open to the bathroom and I started singing the ‘Rubber Ducky’ song to him but instead substituted the name ‘Chubby Bubby’.
Other names followed; Smiley Britches and then later on, Snow Monkey.
And I loved singing to Malcolm as he listened to me with rapt attention, whether I sang Queensryche, Emmy Lou Harris, or Luciano Pavarotti.
From nicknames to sing songs to finding any and every excuse to picking up a new chew toy on my way home from school, the little feller was growing on me.
Malcolm rarely left my side and I his. With one exception. Church.
One Saturday morning I was headed out to worship at the Alsatian Golf Club, the only church I knew at the time. As I suited up and strapped my bag on my shoulder, Malcolm got all excited as though he was coming with.
“Oh, no”, I said patting his head. “This is a man’s sport and no dog’s allowed.”
Unconvinced, he sidled up to me with a sweet expectant look. Whether I was spent from the constant battle between us or resigned to the inevitability, I said to the little wedge shaped head dog, “Fine. But I’m driving the cart.”
“And don’t bark in my backswing.”
Malcolm didn’t. He turned out to be an exceptional caddy, riding shotgun in the golf cart, spotting my errant balls, and chasing the geese and gophers from the fairways. And although he couldn’t keep score so good, his card always erred on my side.
I think then and there on the fairways of the old Alsatian course, I was entering into a new chapter of my life. Malcolm had become my mate.
But my naive misconception of the true nature of our relationship almost cost Malcolm his life several times over and I had a whole helluva lot to learn.