I met up with Bonnie and Beth Abelew and their 14-month-old golden retriever, Neptune, at the benches outside Provincetown Town Hall. The sisters, who’d come in from North Truro, showed me photos of Neptune in imaginative costumes he’d worn to a bunch of social events while I struggled to get my old reel-to-reel tape recorder set up. My frustration was showing.
“Hey, man,” said Neptune in his soothing, massage-music voice. “Why so blue?”
“Pardon?” I asked.
Neptune put his front paws on my shoulders and stared into my eyes. “I see you,” he said.
“Oh, gosh, thank you, Neptune,” I said. He placed one of his soft, corn chip-smelling paws gently on my lips.
“I. See. You.” Neptune’s ability to maintain eye contact was impressive.
“Look at me,” said Neptune. I couldn’t look anywhere else. “A kind of magic can happen when sad people look into my eyes.”
“I’m not sad.”
“Would you like a blast of warm summer sunshine?” he asked.
“Um, okay,” I said. With the speed of lightning, Neptune’s tongue slid up my chin to my mouth, to my nostrils, and into one eye. When it was over, I was missing a contact lens. He sat back to observe me.
“Good feelings, yes?” he asked.
“Yes, very good,” I said. “How did you do that?”
“Only the universe knows. The important thing is that I’ve cured your depression.”
“I’m not depressed,” I said. “I’d love it if there were some place open on Commercial Street for lunch on a Monday, but I wouldn’t call that depression.”
“I feel your pain,” he said, dropping down and rolling over. “Wanna rub my belly for a little booster?”
“Don’t you ever feel the winter doldrums?” I asked.
Neptune seemed startled by the question. “Like, right now, I’m so busy I don’t have time.”
Indeed, I’ve never met a dog with a busier social calendar. Neptune goes everywhere in town, often in spectacular costumes. He lights up every room he enters.
“I like to go out as much as possible,” said Neptune. “Do you know Jonathan and Paulo? I went to their wedding. Have you been to Drag Race viewing parties at the Crown? Everyone knows me there. Are you a fan of Mike Flanagan? I try to hear him play as much as possible. In summer, it’s all about hanging out here in front of town hall, saying hi to people and passing on the sunshine to them all.”
Just then a man rounded the corner walking an amber-eyed gray cat on a leash. As they drew near, the cat took a wide berth around us. Neptune rushed forward until he was nose to nose with the feline.
“Would you like a blast of warm summer sunshine?”
The cat let out a vile hiss. Neptune’s jaw dropped. His tail descended between his legs. His brow furrowed and his paws began to lose their traction.
“Oh. My. Dog,” he said. “I am so blue.”
“That cat’s happiness is not your responsibility,” I said.
“Where did the sunshine go?” he whispered.
I put my hand on his breastbone. “The sunshine is in here, Neptune. It’s always been right here inside of you. You are the sunshine.”
“I am?” he asked. And in a moment he was himself again, his tail wagging, eyes sparkling, and that golden coat shining from within.