By Clarissa Bullmother
MINNEAPOLIS — For years, neighbor dogs and cats barely took notice of the strange golden retriever in their midst. Without color and apparently without definite gender, the dog was considered a freakish outsider. It was neither golden nor a retriever in any recognizable sense, and yet for some unknown reason it was referred to—at the rare times when anyone mentioned it—as the golden retriever; or, in jest, as the ungolden retriever.
“Its appearance was so strange that we just decided to stay away from the thing (we sometimes called it the thing),” said Robert Cocker, a conventional spaniel attached to a conventional human family living in Edina, a leafy and well-to-do though conventional suburb of Minneapolis. “It was just so different from the rest of us. Everyone in our group was either brown or black or yellow or tan or…anything but white with pink eyes. And we were either girl or boy, no question—anything but a blend of girl and boy in the same animal.”
Then the albino transgender retriever went missing. No one knew exactly when it disappeared because no one could remember the last time they’d seen it. But the dog had been gone at least three years when, two weeks ago, on May 29, it returned to its old neighborhood, and not alone but with a throng of devoted followers: dogs, cats, birds, frogs, turtles, lions, elk and moose, even a lone hippopotamus with a squirrel on its back. The squirrel in turn had two honeybees and three ladybugs riding on its back.
“We felt a certain amount of shame but then relief at seeing—really seeing, for the first time—the strength and beauty of the retriever,” said Susan Black, a conventional Labrador who lives on the same street as Cocker and who went to an expensive though conventional dog training school. “I think now we understand a little better the importance of accepting outsiders and making them feel welcome. We’ve learned that the outsider—the creature who seems most different from us—may actually be a prophet, may even be God. But I guess we sort of knew this all along, or should have, considering that it’s the crucial story in our very own Bible.”