A few months ago, it became a running joke that I am a Labrador. I had been asking around for adjectives that I could use for a rec letter write up, and Labrador seemed to fit best, though unfortunately couldn’t use it for my rec letter. Call it confirmation bias, but since then a number of comical little similarities have cropped up. Dogs are wonderful, so I’ll take the nickname as a compliment.
I began to look for Labrador similarities in other people and characters, and I found a few. I believe we love dogs so much because they represent the closest thing I’ve ever seen to unconditional love. They may have been abused in a previous home, they may be hungry, they may have not seen you all day, but goddamn are they happy to see you because you’re you and you’re there. That is enough for them. You are there. They wag their tails and cover you in kisses/licks. I remember crying my eyes out at one point, and a friend’s dog licked my face so much I almost laughed. I’ve never owned a dog, and I know there is more to owning a dog than just that, but I’ve always wanted one because I envy those moments.
I now see a Labrador archetype: people who refuse to be beaten down by the nihilism of the world, who can take a freaking beating by circumstance and still look around and smile. They, like dogs, love without hesitation and run towards whatever joy they can find. Even if they discover a bee or a porcupine, they still chase the next butterfly that flits by. Nihilism is a word to them and nothing more, because they don’t care if it’s true. There will always be another butterfly, there will always be a human, there will always be another ball. What else really matters?
Murph was a Labrador. Even if it hadn’t been said in the beginning, I knew he would die. The Yellow Birds shook me, rattled me to the core. It broke the butterfly, forced enough perspective upon me for just long enough to consider the possibility that chasing butterflies may be pointless. I refuse to accept that. I discovered that my very soul is founded upon the assumption that the butterflies will always be there. They always will be. Murph chased his butterflies, as did the medic. They both died without any real answers to the questions of their cruel deaths. This book dredged up the darkest parts of humanity and forced them to the front and center, giving only the resolution that we continue to live and time dulls the ache. It is a picture of the world that leaves the Labradors searching for nonexistent butterflies. It is a picture of the world in which Labradors are tiny, winged, and yellow.
I refuse to believe that butterflies are gone, that they are a figment of my imagination. Labs can still chase their tails if the butterflies truly are imaginary. They may be. I don’t care. Long live the Labradors.
*Murph is from the book The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. It is an extremely powerful book thematically, but it was extremely difficult to read due to its content and place as a piece of war literature