Joel and I moved to Austin, Texas, from Chicago in 2006, and there were lots of things that took some getting used to. Being called “ma’am.” Sunday hours of operation for many businesses. A whole lotta bling on clothes.
We live quite near the Bull Creek dog park (and yes, it is pronounced “crick,” which is how I still pronounce that word), so for obvious reasons, we were frequent visitors. Plenty of swimming, ball chasing, and the occasional kindly soul handing out dog treats. (Woe to that person. If you handed out a dog treat even once, Muddy and Reba remembered for all eternity that you once had food and therefore might have some again.) Nothing new here: a tired dog is a good dog, and a good dog is one that sleeps through the night.
So, one glorious September afternoon, I took the dogs to Bull Creek Creek. As I pulled up, I was a bit surprised by the number of people milling around, especially as few seemed to have dogs with them. Was there a picnic? A family reunion? Both options seemed a bit much for a Thursday afternoon, and who would have a family gathering at a known dog park? Regardless, I was here to entertain my two dogs, so off we went towards the deep end of the creek as that allowed Muddy to take a running start before launching herself into the drink. As I chucked Muddy’s ball, I struck up a conversation with a woman busy appreciating the zen of the Muddy leap. “Are you here for the family reunion?” I asked. “Family reunion?” she said, “No, no reunion. These people are from my temple. It’s Erev Rosh Hashanah.” (Right. Erev Rosh Hashanah is the night before the Jewish new year. I knew that living near Skokie, Illinois, for so long would finally come in handy.) Right about then, the rabbi arrived, the congregants gathered, and everyone began singing. I drug Reba and Muddy further downstream to give them some quiet (Muddy cannonballing into the creek is not exactly respectful), and it was right about then that mortification struck. People opened bags of sandwich bread and began casting pieces into the water. Muddy actually dropped her ball, jumped in the water, and started eating the bread, or in this case, sin, as that is what people were doing: casting off sin. Reba didn’t even bother getting in the water. She just went up to people and started begging. I wanted to crawl under a rock but couldn’t as I was too busy hissing at the dogs to “Come HERE! Right NOW!!” to no avail. Fortunately, everyone was laughing and kept telling me that it was okay, that it happened all the time. That may be, but my dogs were eating sin! I knew many of their bad acts, so it’s not like they could afford additional sin. I wasn’t, but I’m thinking it’s more important that no one was offended. So there you have it: Muddy and Reba, sin eaters.
We lost both Muddy and Reba early in 2013, and I think of this story whenever I go near the deep end of Bull Creek. I wrote about their sin eating in our 2007 Christmas letter, much to the entertainment of those on our mailing list, and I was fielding comments for a long time about how people found this to be one of our funniest happenings ever. Very true, but I also know that Muddy and Reba had enough sins of their own to work off and that they didn’t need to hope that Saint Peter would remember all of their good deeds. As it is, they likely had to work the side-gate angle for heaven.