For starters, I expect snickers, snorts and eye rolls, and I’m prepared to be corrected, though I won’t concede without some back and forth.
That said, I’ll present my case directly: The two most powerful agents in the world are babies and dogs. By agent I don’t mean James Bond. No, I’m thinking of dictionary definition #2: “a person or thing that takes an active role or produces a specified effect.”
As with many of my convictions these days, the Coleman’s foxhound Sherlock Holmes is to blame, along with grandson Gavin. Since Sherlock first met the now six-month-old, he has been smitten. Unless daughter Elena pauses at the door for 10 seconds of sniffing, he won’t let her in.
If the Gav-ster—as Pop calls him—is left on the floor, Sherlock will circle back to take in nectar for his nose, over and over. I promise, I’m not trying to put a schmaltzy shine on this routine.
Sherlock Holmes has a variety of smelling modalities. There’s his hunting mode, which involves frantic zigzags to track a scent and plenty of hoops and howls. The boulevard’s squirrels rouse in him the full ardor of his breeding.
Then there’s pat down mode. When Rhodesian ridgeback Al or Gracie the greyhound or Milo the Dalmatian shows up at the dog park, everybody gathers round. The new arrival has to submit to the standard way dogs size each other up before play can resume. This mode is agreeable enough to Sherlock, but it’s perfunctory. Same goes for what dogs do when new friends come over for dinner. Can a single visit pass without Fido goosing an unsuspecting guest? But, again, this is innocent frisking.
Hydrant mode needs no description, since everybody is familiar.
Finally, there’s baby mode, which is different than the others. Sherlock is tentative and tender. He doesn’t give kisses, but he sniffs as if he suspects that Gavin’s cheeks and peachy head might be sacred.
Yes, I know, sacred isn’t in a dog’s vocabulary, but if you’ve ever breathed in baby smell, you know what sacred is. You understand as well that my Holmes and your best friend may not be able to talk, but they recognize wonder when it touches their nose.
As for adult bipeds, a swaddled infant can bring us to our knees. And here I come back around to my case that Gavin and his comrades in diapers rank first among powerful agents.
Seriously, what is power? Is it the ability to control others with a boot ground into the throat? Domination is one kind of power, I admit, but what a bitter, toxic force that is. Only the darkest souls crave it. Even mindless bombs can bring people to heel.
Or is power—the best kind, anyway—the ability to make people forget themselves and compel them to love?
You’ve seen how folks get with babies, right? We go giddy. We say “coochie coochie coo” because no real words match our joy. All we have is blather.
In fact, just the other day Elena told me about “cute aggression,” which is affection verging on berserk. National Public Radio quotes psychologist Katherine Stavropoulos, who describes a lovey impulse that takes a scary turn. A “flash” goes through people’s minds that they want to “crush,” “punch” or “squeeze” their sweet little punims until they “pop.”
Now that’s power, not only to render human beings nonsensical, but also to give them criminal thoughts.
Dogs do almost the same thing. I saw a video once of a young woman who found a yellow Labrador pup in a cardboard box at her front door. Birthday present, maybe. She cradled little Louie and said through tears, “Oh, my God, I’m going to eat you.” See?
I won’t parse the strength Sherlock exerts on the Colemans, but, then, I don’t need to. If you’ve had dogs, you understand. They can be persistent, monumental pains, but they’re always saying, “Here I am. Love me, please. If you’ve got any love to spare, give it here.”
When Holmes says this, I hold his face, rub my nose and lips on top of his head and kiss him between the eyes. I say he’s my best buddy, the best pup ever, my “Sherlock Squirrel-lock Merlock Girllock.”
He probably hears only “coochie coochie coo,” more or less. No matter. I can’t resist telling him what he means to me.
From my balding scalp to cracking heels, Sherlock and Gavin reduce me to love. I’m no match for either one.
And now, unless you intend to call witnesses, I rest my case.