There’s an old Simpsons episode (Season 6, Episode 22) where Lisa meets and befriends an old Jazz musician named Murphy Kenneth “Bleeding Gums” Hibbert (bet you didn’t realize he actually had a full name), better known as “Bleeding Gums” Murphy. The two share their love of Jazz and bond over music. Unfortunately, “Bleeding Gums” dies, leaving Lisa heartbroken. Homer, being Homer, attempts to console her by saying, “We’ll get you a new Jazz-man.”
Homer meant well, but the message was lost in translation from the idea to the words.
Anyone who’s ever lost a friend can attest to the fact that it’s an extremely painful thing. It doesn’t really matter if that friend is tall or short, fuzzy or furry, or has more or less than the requisite number of legs. A friend is a friend and it always hurts to lose one.
My Child, the Doberman is about a Doberman Pinscher that a friend of mine in Chicago adopted from a family in Texas. Like so many Dobermans, Baron had a rough early life. He was likely trained as a fighting dog and tossed in a dumpster when he was of no further use. Michael Sherwin (who, to be fair, I’ve known for years) and his wife Nykol DeDreu (who, to be fair, I’ve never met but she seems nice) adopted Baron and set about being his new pack.
The text of My Child, the Doberman plays out as a series of conversations between Michael and Baron as they go about their days. We see Baron experiencing his first Chicago winter, a first spring, playing and cavorting and generally being friends. The friendship comes with a tragedy, though, and I won’t lie to you; the last third or so of the book is beautiful but really hard to read. I think my dining room had a lot of dust in it, if you know what I mean.
At times the text is fanciful, other times funny, and often very poignant. It’s a playful – and incredibly creative – story of meeting a new friend, learning about each other, and ultimately losing a friend to cancer. Yes, dogs get cancer, too; we lost our pit bull to it last year.
Sherwin’s not afraid to enjoy the playfulness of his text, to breathe life and a sense of humor into Baron’s responses.
“B: Does it ever strike you as funny that you around a bag of my poop?
Me: No, it’s part of being a responsible person.
B: YOU ARE CARRYING A BAG FULL OF POOP!
Me: Yes, I’d rather carry it than step in it.
B: You may have thumbs and control the food, but remember you’re the one who carries the poop.”
Anyone who’s ever lost someone special knows you can’t just go out and get a new Jazz man, or a new Tina, or a new Baron. That’s what makes them special; you can’t find off-the-shelf replacement pieces. But just like Lisa got to experience “Bleeding Gums” Murphy and he likely changed her life forever, so to did Michael and Nykol get to experience Baron.
“Me; What are you looking at?
B: The world.
Me: The whole world?
B: Yes; it’s beautiful.
Me: I agree.”
And those experiences are what you have to hold tight to.
And, of course, one last picture of the author and Baron.