There were the animals of my childhood -- Rusty, Sundance, Clackers, Putty, Prince & Prince, Huntley & Brinkley -- then there was The Animal, the God Dog, that kingly presence called Mauka, the grand Newfoundland, who flew through my life on his shaggy black angel wings for far too short a time. A few eloquent years, then he was gone, back to the universe on the other side of the mirror. I cried all night after he died in my arms with one last heaving operatic dog breath; then I listened to Erik Satie piano music for the rest of the week. Ahh, but he was to come back. He actually withdrew from this vale of tears slowly, delicately, coming to me in the dark of night several times over the months following his passing, sleeping in the room where I slept, throwing himself heavily to the floor as was his habit, snoring, turning and pawing the carpet until the sun started to hit the blinds. I still see him sitting in Tomales Bay, neck deep, just sitting there letting the waves gently massage him. Many memories, of course, but perhaps this one paramount among them: We are walking single file across the vast field at Millerton Point, a mesa that sits above Tomales Bay, a shimmering, pristine finger off the Pacific. Just ahead of me I see a snake, basking in the midday sun. I step over it; it's motionless. But as Mauka goes to step over this stick, it moves. He starts, grabs it with his mouth. "No," I say. "No, no, drop it." But this is a game of course, a game that requires running, so that I cannot grab the stick. And off he goes, galloping through the golden palomino grass, head held high, 3 foot long snake writhing and wriggling in his mouth. He looks like the image on an 18th century flag -- Don't Tread on Me. I see him now so clear, running into the sun, his massive black form racing through the blonde grasses and the serpent curling into the light and the sky.