Mary Marcus: Golden Calf/Golden Dog

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I’m more than halfway convinced the golden calf slain by Moses was really a golden dog. An effigy of the tribe’s favorite dog, the one who wagged his tail, laid his ears back, stuck out his tongue and smiled—and made everyone worship him. Of course the golden dog is male. As in the sacrifice of Isaac, the prized object, be it animal or human is always male.

When Moses destroys the golden calf as he does in the bible story, (he’s a cat person) it’s meant to be the beginning of monotheism—and the emergence of Judaism as an intellectual philosophical force. Down with polytheism (all those sexy female deities!). Up with an-eye-for-an-eye and the one and only male God.

I’ve been thinking along the lines of the golden dog ever since we got Henry and began to worship at the universal church of canine, probably the largest single group of true believers on earth.

My little golden idol is presently curled up at my feet. It’s a hot day, the first hot day since I arrived on Long Island a couple of weeks ago. He’s lying across the quarry tile floor because it’s cool there and he’s hot after barking his head off at the guys who were blowing leaves outside the windows. You can’t get away from the leaf blowers. And their evil fumes. Though here where there are trees and a relative lack of air pollution, the noxious fumes dissipate quicker than they do in Los Angeles. And for that I and my sinus cavities are grateful.

I’ve just spent the past hour helping my friend pick up her beloved golden dog (actually a white Samoyed named Natasha) who has been in the deep freeze at the vet’s since last winter. For the past week, L. has been digging a hole in her back yard for her dead pet. Every morning when we meet very early at the beach to let the dogs run, she tells me about the hole. “It’s two feet by now,” she says. “It’s at least three feet.” This morning she said it was “up to my waist.” And could I go this afternoon to help her carry Tashi from the car to the backyard.

I could.

All the way over on the drive to the vet, L told me something I’ve heard from other worshipers of the golden dog, that “Natasha is in heaven.” Also, the bizarre and beautiful fact that Natasha chose to die on the same day in December her brother Stoli had also died some years ago. “Three hundred and sixty-five days and why would they both go on the same one?” L mused.

You get to know all the names of the dogs who people have worshiped. The living and the dead. I never met Tashi, who has been too ill to come for the early morning walk at the beach. Nor did I meet Stoli, the brother who died on the same day, or Hammer, the American Bulldog who weighed more than I do.

Frozen Natasha, who we carried in a plastic cradle, (I thought as we were lugging the thing of Hiawatha’s linden cradle) was wrapped in a white cotton blanket. Underneath the blanket was plastic, the body bag where she’d been stored at the vet’s office. When we got back to L’s house, we lugged the plastic cradle to the back yard. And then we lifted Natasha’s frozen body onto the grass. I’ve never understood how all these dog lovers eat meat. Tashi certainly felt very akin to a large frozen roast. But no one would think of defrosting her, studding with garlic and perhaps some rosemary and cooking her at 360 degrees, a little pink in the middle. No one I know anyway.

“I’ve got to make sure they didn’t give me the wrong dog.” L said with a little laugh, and gently tore into the plastic. “It’s not gruesome, don’t worry.”

And it wasn’t. I saw a bunch of white hair, a little face, and my friend bending over the dead frozen dog, who would no doubt, soon be defrosting on the first hot day of the season. And kissing her.

Is it the golden calf/dog or is it just love? I don’t rightly know. But it’s a beautiful thing to see that kind of love. It’s what unites man, woman and beast and makes the humans among us, more human.

Mary Marcus

Mary Marcus is the author of The New Me and the newly released Lavina. Visit her website for more.

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On June 19, 2015
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