Two Dogs named Bonnie and Clyde

Trevor Soderstrum

I am a dog person. And not just because having a dog allows me the “out” of saying, “I’d really like to stay around and be sociable. While nothing is more interesting to me than a detailed account of your kid’s soccer game, I need to get home to let the dog out. As much as I want a re-enactment of the Johnstown flood in my house, I need to get home. Sorry.”

I love dogs. They say that you don’t remember anything prior to the age of three. While I have flashes of memories like the Revolutionary War soldiers in their blue and red uniforms on the wallpaper of my bedroom, my earliest sustained memories are of my dogs.

Trevor Soderstrum

As soon as I could pick myself off the floor and stagger around like a drunken teenager on spring break, many an evening, after I had been put to bed, when everyone else had turned in for the evening, I liked to wander around the house. For some reason beyond my comprehension, finding their unsupervised toddler face down on the floor, asleep, covered in a gallon of melted ice cream, seemed to bother my parents.

They naturally turned to the family physician. He suggested putting a lock on the outside of my bedroom door. Thus, preventing my evening trips. There would be some pounding on the door and some screaming, but eventually I would figure out the fruitlessness of the situation and give up. They, probably because they were so sleep deprived, thought this was a wonderful idea. Oh, the good old days of flammable pajamas, because what could possibly go wrong? Well, other than a fire.

The lock was put on the door. The first evening it went just like Doc had forecast. I pounded, screamed, and no one came to my rescue. Not one to give up, I decided to treat my bedroom like I was the rock band The Who and it was a hotel. I trashed the joint. I was sure that would teach them a lesson. I had three older brothers. If you have had a little boy in your house, that is pretty much how your house looks on a good day. I am not sure, even to this day, if my parents even noticed the damage I wrought.

With a normal child, this is where the wisdom of this country doctor would be celebrated. He was an amateur. I was the big leagues. The door was locked. But there was still one escape route available to me, my windows. My windows opened up onto the back outdoor stairs. Underneath was the built in doghouse where our Golden Retrievers, Bonnie, and later Clyde, slept. I will give you half a guess what the last movie my parents probably enjoyed in peace and happiness before they had more children than the old woman in the shoe.

When everyone headed for bed, out the window I went. As long as I was able to pull myself up by the banister through my bedroom window before my door was unlocked, I was as good as gold.

We had a large backyard that slanted downward toward a creek and golf course. Oh, the adventures my dogs and I had running and tumbling in my own private adventure land. I was Tarzan leaping from trees. A cowboy ready to reach for his six-gun on the streets of Tombstone. A spaceman battling monsters of some strange, distant planet.

Exhausted, I remember one time lying on the grass. My dog next to me. The yard completely dark. I stared up at the stars. These are my first substantial memories. The cracking of a twig. The hooting of some strange bird. What was out there waiting to eat me? The sky so huge. Me so small. What am I in the great scheme of things? Fear? Terror? My heart pounding so hard I thought it would leap out of my chest.

Then the dog next to me sighed (and probably passed a little gas). For some unknown reason, I knew this creature loved me and everything would be fine. I wasn’t so little anymore. The world wasn’t so terrifying. I remember a warmth that overcame me.

Here is what is funny. I don’t remember which dog it was. You would think I would remember such a thing. It might have been Bonnie. It might have been Clyde. I just remember that feeling of security and love.

Every once in a while, something shakes you up, the death of someone you love, an accident, the pressures of everyday life. You get filled with that anxiety or fear about what is out there around the corner ready to swallow you whole, but if you find that love in those moments everything will be fine.

One hundred years from now, no one will give two hoots about two dogs named Bonnie and Clyde, not even that little boy staring up at the stars next to one of them. But that love and warmth will still be out there somewhere. Buildings, degrees, what the neighbor thinks about you, keeping up with the Jones, it all goes away. Love is the only thing that survives. Sometimes it is in the form of two dogs named Bonnie and Clyde. Sometimes it is in the form of you.