(Jasdev ⇒ Justin, 9/28/20)
On the subject of dogs: you’ve texted me a couple dog pictures of your own but I haven’t inquired much further. What’s your family dog’s name?
— Justin, in letter #18.
Her name is Misty — or Mist, Misto, Misterooni, and in practice, “my mom’s shadow.” She’s a senior citizen at 13 years in base-ten and 91 in base-dog. Here’s my favorite photo of the little grandma:
We got her back when my brother and I were in middle school and before then, our family wasn’t necessarily against having a dog per se but rather shied away from the added responsibilities, costs, and — to borrow your phrasing in the last letter — rogue indoor “eliminations.” This stance reversed after dog sitting our neighbor’s golden retriever, Ginger. Ginger won us over with a calm that relaxed shoulders and the fact that taking care of her was just…easy — a testament to the work our neighbors put into raising her and likely our leniency in the treat department.
When we made the decision, my mom researched non-shedding, hypoallergenic breeds with a lower-key demeanor (this level of specificity was anticipated from a mother who tried to sign my brother and me up for 529 plans before we were born). Havanese checked those boxes and a few weeks later we found a breeder in Maryland and my brother, mom, and dad trekked there from our Virginia home to welcome our soon-to-be astronaut.
Pausing as I write this, I better understand what parents mean when they say “they grow up so fast” for the umpteenth time.
Thinking about her from here in my New York apartment brings up so much.
The lilac toy she’d hold in her mouth when she had to go to the bathroom.
How she’d choose the hardwood floor when waiting for my mom to come home…
…instead of her green couch (I still have no clue where my mom bought this thing).
Misty being the undisputed
heavyweight lightweight champion of fall.
Also of the “layered look.”
When she studied C++ with me back in school.
Featured in my “Misty cheese stick challenge” vine.
And patiently audience-of-one’d my practice runs for presentations (I wish I had a photo of her perma-head tilt during these, anything beyond C++ was outside her doghouse).
In the same way that taking care Ginger was easy, writing about Misty is easy, too. There’s no thesis or narrative in her “journey,” if we can even call it that. Misty just goes about her days being Misty, the heartbeat at our feet.
Remembering practice runs with Misty is reminding me of a question I’ve been thinking on recently. My friend Nikhil Krishnan runs an event series1, Get Real, where folks give five-minute presentations on their topic of choice. Anything is fair game. From the art of a craigslist deal, to synesthesia, poetry, or the history of animation.
If you were to give a mini talk — in Letters to J form — on something you know way too much about (or a lesser-known arcanum), what would it be about?