Jony, Joan and Didion

by Cathy Arden on November 9, 2012

Actually, my first dog was Jony.  Jony was a stuffed animal.  Jony was a boy, even though his name was Jony.  When I was a little girl, I thought all dogs were boys.  But I admired a little girl in my dance class whose name was Jony.  So – I named my favorite stuffed animal Jony.   And – truth be told – Jony saved my life back then in ways that I expect real dogs rescue their owners.   However, I did rescue all the stray cats in the neighborhood.  But later about the cats. Their stories, and the love and ringworm they brought into my home, deserve a slot of their own.

I’d put Jony down at my feet, under the covers, every night.  I’d make sure his ears were not flopped down over his eyes.  His eyes had to be open.  Watchful.  Protecting me.  Jony had to stay awake all night.   I’d let him sleep during the day. I’d take him out from under the covers, rest his head on my pillow, and cover his eyes with his floppy ears.  Jony slept by day, and was on the job all night.  My father – the one I refer to as my biological father – was the person I needed rescuing from.   My biological father, the one I lived with until age 15, had a violent temper.  And although I was only physically harmed once, his fit of rage resulting in my bloody nose, once was enough.   That’s when Jony came into play and became the father I didn’t have then, the protector.  It’s also when I started writing.  “Dear Diary…”  That little plaid diary was my soul mate.   It’s also when I started praying.  “Dear God…” I figured I had nothing to lose.  This is also when the light switches began to beg.  I’d have to switch them on and off dozens of times to get the magic right, to cast the spell that would keep me safe.  Jony, the rituals, the praying, the writing – and yes, the rescuing of the stray cats — it was a magical combination that carried me through my childhood.   The curtains on the windows of my childhood bedroom had a design of cats and dogs with umbrellas in the rain.  It rained green cats and dogs throughout my childhood as I switched the lights on and off, and Jony kept watch.

My current dog, Didion, doesn’t have Jony’s burden.   Didion was named after another Joan.  Joan Didion.  Thanks to the work of Joan Didion, I began to recognize, in my early adulthood, that I was a writer.  Jony saved me as a child.  Joan saved me as an adult.  Which is why I was able to rescue Husband Didion, and not the other way around.

This is how Didion looked on the day I adopted him.  You can see that his left blue eye could light the way through any dark place.

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