Memories, Dogs, and Fears

I drew the picture above to accompany my 2003 online essay "Two Years, Two Wars, and One Dog Ago," which I posted on my web site as the second anniversary of 9/11 was approaching.

Now, as saturation coverage of the terrorist attack’s tenth anniversary descends, I find myself remembering the personal emotions from that week in 2001 that I was trying to express when I sat down to draw this image. Eddie and I were still living in New York City’s borough of Queens on the day the twin towers fell. Although Jackson Heights was several miles away from Ground Zero, it was still too close for comfort. After spending September 11 itself glued to CNN in a dazed and unbelieving stupor, I numbed myself by getting lost in the graphics grunt work required for an update of my web site.

Within view at all times was my portable television, which for days broadcast one horrific account after another of the disaster’s aftermath and rescue efforts. The window at my right provided, in grim counterpoint to the TV reportage, a view of the compromised blue sky over Manhattan, bisected as it was by a broad stream of smoke from the fallen towers that took a week or more to dissipate — smoke that was leaving, as we now know, the seeds of much bronchial distress and many future cases of cancer in its wake.

The orange dog who is peering out the window in my cartoon is Foxy, who herself died of cancer some months thereafter. Foxy made a habit of keeping me company while I hovered over my computer in those days, since her favorite chair was positioned immediately to the left of my workstation. Whenever I needed psychic respite I could reach across the back of her chair and stroke her belly, which she always flipped over to provide easy access to in the most wanton of ways.

Foxy had instantly adopted the chair when we first brought it into our Jackson Heights apartment, noticing that its size was perfect for a dog her size. It began as a "real" chair for humans to sit in, but so quickly and decisively did Foxy make it her own that we bowed to her will by sawing off its legs to make it even more dog-accessible.

Foxy was as central a figure in Eddie’s and my household while the 1990s were winding down as Lulu the Dalmatian is now. Foxy even made cameo appearances in a couple of my mock-autobiographical comic strips (see the panel below, for example, from "A Zoo Of Our Own").

Lulu hasn’t generated any cartoon doppelgangers to date, unless you count the cartoon/photo-hybrid rendition of her that appears at the top of her Lulu Page. Getting those spots of hers right would be really hard. Still, seasoned readers of my blog will attest that Lulu has been no stranger to this online venue. We here in Eddie-and-Howie-Land make a point of giving our canine family members due prominence.

And although Lulu and Foxy never met, they enjoyed successive friendships with Cloud (see below), a burly white dog in rural Vermont whom we always looked forward to seeing when we visited friends in Readsboro.

Anyway, meditating on dogs past and present is a lot more pleasant than remembering the day ten years ago when thousands abruptly met their deaths from a lethal combination of hijacked airplanes and political/religious fanaticism. The 1993 essay I referred to at the top of this blog is by now out-of-date in many ways, of course. For one thing, when I composed it I was still able to offer my hope that George W. Bush would not be re-elected in 2004.

So much for that dashed hope!

But one thing that still feels relevant is the essay’s overall sense of foreboding, since I feared then and still fear now that our nation is being propelled by the unthinking obsessions of a self-involved few toward a dark place that scares me more than hijacked airplanes ever will.

Above: My older brother and me on our father’s knee, at a time in our lives when it was still possible to feel safe and protected.
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About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
This entry was posted in Artifacts, Family & Friends, Home Life, Life & Art, Soapbox Break, Yesterday & Today. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Memories, Dogs, and Fears

  1. Talking about Foxy (and Lulu, although we haven’t met) is much more fun than talking about this day. Although I’m very happy that we’ve been friends for that length of time and longer.