Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Theme Songs

EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US has a theme song. Some of us, if we’re lucky, have several. A theme song is a melody or a set of lyrics that does something. Something that may not be described in mere words. A theme song is not simply heard. It is absorbed. Like air. It is breathed. It affects the heart. It affects the soul. It affects the eyes. Specifically, the tear ducts.

In the classic movie, Casablanca, Ilsa Lund asked Sam to play “As Time Goes By.” Clearly the music and Dooley Wilson’s singing of it was something that Ilsa absorbed more than any other popular numbers of the day. Conversely, when Rick, Ilsa’s lost love, heard the tune, it enraged him as it kindled something deep inside that, at the time, seemed better left buried. Therein lies the crux of, perhaps, the greatest love story ever filmed.

I HAVE SEVERAL THEME SONGS. I’ve collected them over time. They vary by incident and by memory. About twenty years ago, my daughter wanted a puppy. We’d never had a dog as a family and I didn’t relish the idea of cleaning up after a dog. Or the barking. Or the fleas. Or the fact that owning a dog from puppydom is an eight to ten year commitment.

When I was a kid, one of my dad’s old hiking buddies had a dog named Jovanna. A Boxer. A good outdoor dog. Friendly. Obedient. Good companion and hiker. So when it came time for me to get a dog for my daughter, I first wanted to look at Boxers.

Sadie was the runt of the litter. She lay curled alone in the kennel away from her mom and the other stronger pups. She was three weeks old and soft as an over ripe peach when we first saw her. But she was a little one and we were told we could have her when she was seven weeks old, “if she made it.”

Daughter Jessica had picked up Sadie first among all the others and would not hear of a bigger, stronger or, seemingly healthier example.

We left, hoping that in the long, intervening weeks, Sadie would not die.

I LIKE SWING MUSIC. I like big bands. I like music I can sing to. You know: songs with melodies. And great lyrics. George Gershwin. Cole Porter. Harold Arlen. I like to sing songs to my wife, my granddaughter and, yep, even my pets. One of the great lines from my theme song for Sadie matched her blunt little face perfectly. It goes: And that laugh that wrinkles your nose, touches my foolish heart. And I would laugh and gently massage her snubby little muzzle from when it was jet black until, fourteen years later when it had turned snow white.

SO IT WAS that one Sunday morning, after a few weeks of “idiomatic seizures,” probably brought on by just being an old dog, Sadie collapsed on the way to her food dish. Her once peach-like fawn colored fur was all white and gray by now, and her once firm and athletic body was a swarm of uncontrollable tremors. Her deep warm eyes stared up at me and I flashed on fourteen summers of romping through meadows of lupine and poppies and fourteen winters of curling up in front of a fire place at my feet.

Her eyes asked for rest.

I stroked her head and sang to her as we carried her to the car and headed to the vet.

“Would you like her on the table, or would you care to hold her?” asked the pretty young lady vet who was on call that Sunday.

I wouldn’t let go.

“She may have an involuntary reaction and, well, defecate on you.”

Didn’t matter. I held on.

Sadie looked at me with those deep, now distant eyes. The doctor slipped in the IV ever so gently.

Sadie’s eyes flickered a brief spark as if to say, “Thanks,” and I began to sing.

Our theme song. Hers and mine.

Some day, when I’m awfully low; when the world is cold; I will feel a glow just thinking of you…

© 2007
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. I was afraid to read it, but it's good and very touching! I have a 13 year old pup that is getting white faced and has shaky legs. - Caitlin Brown (Oakhills - K)

  2. Sadie RIP. With the right hand Mr. B. - R. Boek

  3. Wow, that was good. Is that song always tearjerker, or only when you sing it about Sadie?

  4. The song was never a tear-jerker until that night at the Junior High when the kids were singing it. It was then that I realized Jerome Kern and Dorothy Field combined on the music and lyrics because they knew what would happen to Sadie would happen to Sadie - some seventy-five years in advance. Go figure.