Nick Galifianakis draws conclusions about man's, and cartoonist's, best friend

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Nick Galifianakis
Friday, August 20, 2010

I loved my dog.

I can't believe how inadequate that is.

She was my best friend, my therapist, my tranquilizer, my daily affirmation that life is fundamentally good, and my muse.

It's the last one you know about already, even if you aren't aware that you know.

My dog was Zuzu, and she has appeared in these pages on a regular basis, in the illustrations that accompany Carolyn Hax's column -- usually delivering a message too wise to come from a mere human. She died last week, a week short of 13, rendering me more human than I had ever cared to be.

She was an American Staffordshire terrier -- a pit bull -- and a wonderful ambassador for her breed.

You all know Zuzu the cartoon -- blunt, wry, curiously self-possessed, intent on world domination. I lived with Zuzu the dog.

I got to know how she'd come greet me even if I'd been gone 10 minutes.

And how her body language for "good morning" was to have all four legs in the air.

And how she'd be in a park full of people and dogs, and look for me.

And how she rested her big, cartoonish head on my thigh.

How she let me rest my feet on her as she slept under my drawing board.

How when I rubbed her belly and grunted, she would respond with a grunt, and back and forth we went in a game I called "What I'd Say," after the Ray Charles song.

Her licking every inch of my exposed skin, like she was painting a canvas.

Her expressive eyebrows, particularly delightful to her cartoonist companion.

Her weight when I carried her up and down the stairs, after her knees wore out.

When I realized it was time, I held her for hours until the vet arrived at my home. People keep saying I should feel good about the great life I gave her, but I know I was the lucky one, because she so effortlessly filled my world and unleashed in me a bottomless supply of love. If you had asked me the day before what my last words to Zuzu would be, I would have said, "I love you."

But when the moment came, the words I said, before I knew I was saying them, were "Thank you."

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