One of the many reasons I have never been, and never will be cool is that I love to get excited about, or invested in, things. Caring is the opposite of apathy, and for this hamartia, any chance of social acceptability to others is naught. I am Lisa Simpson in that .gif one can easily find, where Marge is leaning over her solicitously, yet condescendingly, asking, “What’s the matter, sweetie? Is one of your book characters having difficulties?”
YES, MARGE. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A DICK ABOUT IT.
[GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS FOLLOW]
In the penultimate episode of the first half of the final season of Game of Thrones, Viserion, one of Daenerys’ three dragons, was casually murdered by the Night King—and later resurrected as a terrifying, blue-eyed, ice dragon. It was insane. It happened so fast, it happened so effortlessly. Of course we should have seen this coming, Cersei and Qyburn devising their monstrous Scorpion contraption and showing us that the dragons could be harmed in the previous episode. I don’t even want to think about this as a plot twist; I feel base helplessness when I think about it. I hear the awful, wretched wail he made and feel a web of tension bloom across my forehead, thinking about how his body sank under the frozen lake.
Honestly it doesn’t matter if you don’t even watch or like the show. Everyone has someone or something they love that much.
My friend Rose bought me a tank top a while ago that says MOTHER OF DACHSHUNDS in the Game of Thrones font. It’s a great fucking tank top. And I am a mother of dachshunds. Like Daenerys’ three dragons, my husband Will and I have three dachshunds. I don’t know if you’ve spent a lot of time with dachshunds yourself. They’re willful, stubborn, intelligent, fierce, loving creatures. They, like dragons, are improbable. Their legs are so short and their bodies are so long, they’re hilarious and they don’t make sense, even though they were bred for specific purposes. Two of our dachshunds, Rollo and Heidi, think they’re people. They often sleep on their backs with their paws folded neatly above the covers, in between us in bed. Or they try and co-opt our pillows when one of us goes to the bathroom. They are deeply insulted to be fed dog food every day, although we spend too much money already on fancy, meaty food for them. They genuinely think every visitor to our home is there for them. They are big sluts and whenever we have an overnight guest, they abandon us for them, making the poor hapless guest (sorry, Mom) think I am special! This dog loves me more than their own parents! Wrong. This dog knows they can get extra cuddles and attention, and maybe even human food or to drink out of a glass.
Rollo is the eldest, and Heidi is the youngest. In the middle is Rory. While I think Rory is dashingly handsome, he is objectively the most awkward looking of the three; he has long spindly legs and GIGANTIC ears that inflate when he’s excited or nervous. He has a little gray on his chin, and gets deep wrinkles across the top of his head when he’s worried. His front feet are turned out and his back feet are turned in. He wags his tail like the velociraptors in Jurassic World. Rory is a rescue. When we got him, he was a few months old and weighed four pounds. He was smaller than a Chipotle burrito, with three parasites and a collapsing lung. Our vet examined him and explained, If you choose not to treat him, he will fall asleep on Thursday night, and not wake up Friday morning. And even if we did decide to treat him, we might fail.
He didn’t have a name for the first week. By the first weekend, I bought him a little green collar and insisted we give him a name. Even if he didn’t make it, I wanted him to know that he had a family and we loved him. And besides, he was starting to think his name was Hello—as that was what we said every time we came into the little room in our then-apartment where he was quarantined. We had to routinely hotbox him in a duffel bag with human grade medicine and a borrowed machine that pumped medicine into his lungs, lent to us by the vet so we could treat him at home.
Because I am a sentimental nerd, I named him after Rory from Doctor Who, the last centurion, who waited a thousand years.
Rory is a skittish little fellow. He wears a yellow coat on our walks that says PLEASE GIVE ME SPACE in big block letters, and it is not a joke. Most of the time, people are very respectful and they get it, and sometimes they say, Me too, buddy! He needs space at home too. He has a little cave bed that he tucks himself into. He also puts himself to bed around ten every night, huddled up, a neat nose-to-tail crescent under the duvet. When people come over, unlike his big slut siblings, he lurks in corners and skirts around the room. You can’t come to him, you need to wait for him to come to you. When he does, everyone says it’s the most meaningful—he’ll suddenly appear on the couch beside you and rest his head on your knee, or drape himself like a scarf across your shoulders. He’s not a big kisser, but he’ll sniff you very intensely and touch you with his nose. It is love you have earned.
You can see where I am going with this. Rory is a little land dragon with a huge barrel chest and tiny tummy, and dragons are sky pups that bark at the door when the Postmate arrives. I would do anything for this dog. Really for all of them, but Rollo and Heidi are princesses who have never known adversity and I think Rory remembers us willing him to live.
After the previous week’s episode of Game of Thrones, when Daenerys took Drogon to battle and destroyed a lot of the Lannister army, we were out for a walk and I heard someone catcalling. Not to me, but in general. And I imagined myself with long and very braided hair in a fabulous brocaded gown-coat, hissing, “Dracarys!” (or something), and Rory’s big brown eyes lighting up and his little jaw opening, and him spitting a lot of streaming fire. “SMASH! THE! PATRIARCHY!” he would roar. “BURN! THEM! ALL!”
Whether Will and I choose to have human kids or not…whether you think Daenerys will have human kids or not, our families are who we are called to. Sometimes, the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb–I have awesome parents but not everyone does, and Daenerys grew up without hers. The dragons would do anything for Daenerys, and she would do anything for them; our dogs would do anything for us, and I would do anything for them. It’s like those magnets you often see on cars, shaped like a neatly illustrated paw print, and reading, “WHO RESCUED WHO?” After Drogon’s wing was injured, I cuddled my babies close and promised them I would never let anyone hurt them. After watching the most recent episode, I got up from the chair where I had been pretzeled up into a ball of nerves and stress, and went to our habitually unmade bed. I felt the lumps in the duvet until I found Rory, who had, like clockwork, put himself to bed, and cuddled him nose to nose. “If the Night King so much as looks at you,” I muttered. He started awake and licked me.
NB: In my dog-walking fantasy, Rory TALKS! LIKE! THIS! because that’s how Lily the dachshund talks as a puppy in Steven Rowley’s amazing and heartbreaking book, Lily and the Octopus, and even though Rory is five and definitely very soft-spoken, he looks and feels like a puppy to me, still.