The title of this series (in case I hadn’t made it clear before) is gleaned from the fact that in the unfortunate event of a house fire and in addition to my wife and daughter, there were three dogs and nine cats that the fire department needed to find, save, give mouth-to-mouth to and, if necessary, defibrillate before returning to retrieve my by then dry-roasted, one hundred percent third degree burned, completely blackened and yet still considerable carcass from the ashes of what used to be our home. Sadly, since I posted the first in this series, we lost a beloved dog (see Angus); on a brighter side, I’ve moved up to number fourteen on the list, and as a result may well be found only just barely burned beyond recognition, medium well if you will, and with the seventeen remaining teeth I have still available to help identification.
I find it important to note that in not a single one of the many introductions of animals into my home over the years has my vote been counted; I feel like the lone North Korean cabinet member who said “What? Not the kid – he’s dumb, creepy and weird.” In each case, Not This Time Man, standing proudly with chest thrust forward, hands on hips and cape snapping in the wind, was mere show at best; his superhero weakness was gullibility, and so was repeatedly placated by promises of “fostering” that were never meant to be kept.
It is my intent to introduce each of my four-legged tormentors to you, and do so in relatively quick fashion, as there are many of them. For today’s post I will mention only the two remaining dogs, Scout and Harper; the former belies any cursory description, because she is far and away the most vexing animal I have ever owned or met.
Scout is a big bitch. That is to say she’s a large female, weighing over fifty pounds, though the word as it is generally used to describe certain women would certainly be appropriate for Scout as well. She is part Belgian Malinois (a breed often used by law enforcement) and part cattle dog; consequently, she is always sniffing out my drug stashes and herding all the animals in the house. She likes no one the first time she meets them; despite assurances that guests are welcome, she refuses to extend the same courtesy and any attempts to ingratiate one’s self to her are met with growls, baring of teeth, and in the case of the truly insistent idiot, a quick nip or bite. It takes many visits for her to accept anyone, and even they are greeted at the door, and for the next five minutes, with her loud, incessant barking.
She is incredibly smart, certainly by dog standards. Though she lived with my in-laws for only a couple of days (they decided, brilliantly, that she would be too much for an elderly couple to handle), she loves them both dearly and is thrilled when they come to visit. She learned to get the paper in one day; she learned to keep the paper until she got a treat the very same day. More than once she’s run up threateningly to a pedestrian on my street, her bark muffled by the newspaper in her jaws. Fortunately, because she is unwilling to let the paper go, the walker is spared a bite and I a lawsuit. She can open doorknobs, and does so maddeningly every time you close a door behind you. We installed a baby gate in our hallway to keep the dogs from the back bedrooms; she learned to open it within days. She’s also an amazing athlete, able to catch tennis balls, frisbees and bits of food from considerable distances.
Maddeningly, she is the world’s most neurotic and retentive dog. If the newspaper is wrapped in plastic, she will tear it to shreds. If you try to take out the trash, she will tear it to shreds. If you make it out the door with the trash before she sees you, she will howl as though her leg was stuck under a truck tire. If you try to replace the bag in the trash, she will tear it to shreds. If you stop playing fetch with a frisbee or tennis ball, she will tear them to shreds. She pulls socks from shoes, holds them tantalizingly close to you, then absolutely refuses to let go of them if you grab on. If you let go, she will tear them to shreds.
She has to be the first out the door; more than once I’ve been dropped like a clipped linebacker when she tried to bolt past me on the way outside. She is desperate to go for car rides, then sits sideways, her cheek pressed firmly against the seat the entire drive, as though too concerned for her safety to look out the windows. (Granted, she has driven with my wife on several occasions). My daughter and I took her camping with us once, and she spent both nights trying to bury her leash. (She was hooked to it). When she decides she wants out, she will cry incessantly and refuses to stop, no matter how many times you swing at her (…um, theoretically), until you let her out. Then, if you don’t go with her, she’ll either refuse to go or will bang on the glass door as soon as it’s closed behind her. So annoying.
And yet I like her. Why? Because she loves me, head over heels loves me, no matter what I do or say. She follows me everywhere, wants to be with me no matter what, even growls at other family members if they get too close during what she considers “our quality time”, and I know she would defend me to the death if I were attacked. In a nutshell, I love her because of her exquisite taste and character judgement.
Harper, a lab/pit bull mix, is technically my daughter’s dog. She rescued him from the pound, and took him back to her apartment; he was eternally grateful. Then she moved home for a time, and he with her. She moved to Colorado over a year ago for a graduate internship and we agreed she should leave him with us. Since then she’s married, returned to Colorado and lives in a place that won’t allow pets. In all, he’s lived her over two years; I still have hope that she’ll take him someday, and I know she feels the same way.
Harper is a charming, good-natured dog, and likes most everyone. Say anything to him, and his tail will thump uncontrollably. His puppy-dog stare will melt even the coldest heart. Had I met him twenty-four years earlier, his penchant for stomping inappropriately on vulnerable body parts would have destroyed my contributions to the family blood lines. Though innately sweet, he is a proud and willing defender of home and those he loves. I pity the fool who enters my home without permission or lays a hand on a family member; he is eighty pounds plus of muscle, unbelievably strong, and his fierceness terrifying. He and Scout are best friends, and I’m grateful to him for wearing her down a bit every day.
Still, peace is one of the best products of a happy home, and these two have taken most of mine from me. When they play, their grunts and growls drive me mad and things get knocked around. On rare occasions they will fight; I get to break it up – water works best – and I get to clean up the water afterwards. Their sudden, ear-shattering barks have defibrillated my already beating heart dozens of times; if I don’t make sixty, I have them to blame for it, and not a lifetime of poor food and recreational choices. When someone comes to the door, sheer and utter chaos ensues; most people don’t end up coming in, and the ones that do invariably head straight for the bathroom. I don’t remember anymore what it’s like to have a home without dogs, but a big part of me says I’d be willing to try.