All's well: Spags is on patrol

by Nick Clooney, Cincinnati Post, July 12, 2002

Spags and I were working the night watch. We have specific sections of Augusta to patrol each evening. All of Frankfort Street is our beat. Half of Riverside Drive. All of Bracken Street. Every second day, we check out Sycamore Alley. The alternate days, it is Upper Alley.

At random we might look over Third Street, Second Street, Main or Elizabeth. Spags believes it is wise to vary our route to keep the Mafia or other evildoers off balance, not knowing when we might show up to foil their attempts to disturb the piece of our community.

Nina and Spags take the morning patrol and cover the rest of Augusta. Spags also believes it is important to have a regular, visible enforcement presence so the citizens can breathe more easily knowing she is on the job.

Now that life has changed for our family I must admit I wondered how all of us would feel about our standard homely tasks, such as these walks. Such as cooking, eating, driving to work, saying hello to friends, picking up milk at the grocery, all the rest of it.

It would be improper for me to claim that my work has gone on as usual this week. It has not. I have done my best, but the columns have been perfunctory and so has my contribution to my morning radio show. Even Nina's matchless ability to focus has been compromised.

Spags, necessarily, has a more gounded view of the world. She is, after all closer to the ground.

She loved my sister Rosemary and Rosemary loved her. In fact, Spags has a hand — paw — in Rosemary's decision to quit smoking — alas, too late. One of the things Rosemary looked forward to on her frequent Augusta visits was the enthusiastic welcome of Spags. The little ten-pound ball of energy would slip the leash and hurl herself at Rosemary, snuggling in by her side -- Except when Rosemary had been smoking. Spags would ostentatiously sniff Rosemary's clothes, then her breath, then snort disapprovingly and desert Rosemary for some other family member. That got to my sister in a way all our suggestions did not. She quit. Nina, Dante and I wished Spags had been around 20 years earlier.

Back to our evening patrol a couple of nights ago. Spags checked out the children playing in the school yard. Not a desperado among them. There was that new puppy on Third Street that had displayed definite criminal tendencies. Seemed to be settling down.

An obligatory visit to Cheeps and Toby, the odd couple of duck and German Shepherd who are best friends. Their relationship has now lasted twice as long as an Enron promise.

The walk I had been avoiding is the one Spags was pulling me toward. Riverside Drive. I didn't want to go there. Our cabin on Riverside was the place where we had our farewell gathering for Rosemary one week ago today.

Three blocks west was Rosemary and Dante's house. Spags always loved to walk by there. She would pause at the wrought-iron gate and look up at me. Are they there? Will there be extra laughs tonight? Good food, a few drinks, tall stories and a treat or two for Spags? That's the house where she got her name. The day she adopted us, Dante was making spaghetti — which he called "spags" — for dinner. In fact, in the nine years Spags has let us live with her, I don't remember a time she did not stop at the gate and look quizzically at me.

At last, Spags pulled me down to Riverside Drive. A turn left would take us past Rosemary and Dante's house, where one week ago, there had been a candlelight vigil, flowers covering the stoop, wreaths on the fence and a banner saying "Our Love Is Here To Stay." Maybe I wasn't up to Spags's affectionate and invariable routine. Not quite yet. We got to the gate. Spags paused. But this time she didn't look at the door and she didn't look at me. She pulled me on.

On to the corner park. On to tomorrow. On to whatever our remaining days may bring. On to the park bench, where I sat and she jumped into my lap and licked my face.

Did I mention?

Spags likes salt.