So here I am, back in my native Morelia, in my grandfather’s magnificent house in the historic center of the city. I grew up in this house, surrounded by what I now realize were many factors that added up to an awesome, enviable childhood.
I went up to the roof to take a panorama picture of the view outside. I have spent many wonderful solitary moments in this rooftop just taking in the beauty of the city and thinking about the historical events that happened right here. Morelia played a very important part in the Mexican revolution: It witnessed the birth of the insurgency by the main characters in the revolution, as well as being the birthplace of revolutionary leader José Maria Morelos, hence the name change to “Morelia” in his honor.
Anyway, I was in the rooftop taking my pictures when I saw an old artifact just sitting in the rooftop leaning against a wall between an old bathtub and a rusted out dustpan: It was a tarnished “Best in Show” award plate made out of copper that one of our dogs had won on what feels like a lifetime ago.
To appreciate the significance of this award one must know something about our family: We were, for a couple decades or so, absolutely dog -crazy. There are pet owners, pet rescuers, and dog fans in this world, but we were absolutely dog-crazy. We would travel to the USA to purchase dogs we had scoped out and reserved months before they were born. We actually have framed pictures of dogs throughout the house interspersed with pictures of people.
We remember dogs as fondly as we remember close family members. You might hear a conversation around the house about our beloved old maid aunt Carlotta, who is rumored to have really still been a virgin when she died a couple years ago at age 95. You might also hear the same stories about dogs, such as Tiny’s (a Collie) extreme disdain of people wearing sandals. He would lunge at and bite without warning at anyone wearing sandals for some unknown reason. The psychological underpinnings of such sandal-hating tendencies have been the subject of much discussion in our family through the decades, and will certainly never be resolved. There are also stories about how Arthur, a huge Great Dane my uncle Jorge had. Which pure blood Great Dane is not huge? Anyway, Arthur was very playful, too much for his size. There was no leash to be purchased on either side of the border that could withstand Arthur’s lunge. There was no TV cable that could stand the excited swag of his tail either. If the TV signal was suddenly lost, Arthur’s tail was the prime suspect. We would go up on the roof and devise yet another way to keep the TV cable out of the deadly whip’s way.
There are also stories about another of Uncle Jorge’s dogs: Sam, a Siberian Husky. Sam was just crazy and over eager. Once he jumped to a neighbor’s property and killed all his chickens. We’re talking a lot of chickens. There is also the time he fell from the roof on top of a drunken guy walking by.
Also my beloved late uncle Alberto is fondly remembered in the family as were his most notable dogs: A pair of beautiful Afghan Hounds who required daily hair maintenance. We have a framed picture of those dogs too.
As for my mother and I, our most winning dogs were a pair of Kerry Blue Terriers, although we had several other breeds through the years as well. Yes, we have several framed pictures of those dogs as well.
And so on. One could make a list of my aunts and uncles and come up with several dogs each owned and describe the salient aspects of each (each human and each dog, that is!), and tell a bunch of stories about them all.
For a family with so many pure-breed dogs, dogs and dog shows were a way of life. Breed Standards were required reading done as the next purchase was planned and in preparation for dog shows. Maybe every other weekend on average we went to a dog show, no matter if attendance required eight or ten hours of driving each way. Nearly every time we came back with an award of some sort. In my mother’s house I even had my own display of ribbons and prizes won for handling show dogs as a child. If we had not moved to the USA thirty or so years ago, I would have most certainly maintained the family hobby. A great many things changed when we immigrated to the United States…
So back to the Best in Show award plate on the roof. By now it goes without saying that finding this maximum accolade of dog ownership abandoned on the roof was surprising. For all our dog show madness, I believe this was the only time we won a Best in Show. I believe it was won by Jack, our Kerry Blue Terrier.
The plate itself is deservedly large. It is a custom hand-hammered copper plate engraved with the heads of three dogs in the center, and the inscription of the event on the outside circular area. The fact that it’s made out of copper is of significance because it’s a natural resource found near here. The plate is very tarnished, though. It has obviously sat there forgotten for a long time. I am not sure why it’s not hanging in a prominent place inside the house.
I debated for some time whether or not to bring it in and clean it up. With the right liquids and an hour’s of scrubbing I know I can make the plate go back to its shining glory, making it new again, shimmering with pride as it is – after all – a Best in Show award won by a very dog-devoted family.
But the plate is also the past. The long-gone past. The only dog enthusiast in the family now is my cousin Omar but he breeds dogs and does not really show them.
The real choice to me was whether or not to try to make the past alive again by polishing the plate and giving it a more dignified location. But that past is dead, no matter how awesome it was. This house has enough memories of the past as it is. As I sit in the formal dining room in the pre-dawn hours writing this, I can hear the many sounds of the past, when this house was full of children running around, my aunts and uncles planning the next night out, my grandparents laughing and joking and having a drink with one of the ever-present visitors. The inside of this old proud house is filled with pictures. Those pictures are, in a way, attempts to cling to the past. So is this Best in Show award.
I decided to leave the plate where it was on the roof. I decided to say goodbye to the past, beautiful as it was, as if it were an old friend.
I know I will be back sometime in the future. I will go on the roof top again, and if I see that old award there, I just might sit next to it with a bottle of Tequila, just two old friends remembering a past that both love immensely, knowing that the past must be allowed to remain in the past.