gall and gumption

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dog Query

I really don't know what's up but Sweetie, my dog, is suddenly on a chewing binge. If you don't know Sweetie's history, she's the dog I brought back from St. Kitts with me. A veterinarian gave her to me, she had rescued Sweetie from the neighbors who were mistreating her. She delivered her to me one night at Mr. X's beach bar, this slender dog who was in a state of helpless dread. But Kelly, my friend from Texas, took one look at her and said, "She's a good dog." Which she has certainly turned out to be. She is what I call a Third World Economy Model Street Dog, lean and very shrewd and quick. She looks like what you might get if you crossed a Doberman with an Italian greyhound, and moves like what you'd expect from such a cross too. She is very fast on her feet and unbelievably vain about it.

For the first few days of course terror was still her main state of emotion, then one day when she realized that no harm was coming to her, just regular meals, she showed signs of a sense of humor, her first steps at what has come to be known as The Dance of Joy. But it was much much later, after we had moved back to the States, that I discovered that she really likes toys. Squeaky fuzzy toys. She seems to regard all squeaks of squeaky toys as personally addressed to her in some way. She likes to play with a ball, too, likes to toss it in the air and pretend to run away from it.

There are quirks. She is wonderfully respectful of my property, only chews up the possessions of other people in the household. She had a shoe thing for a while and everybody had some losses except me. You know how people say, "Oh my dog so-and so thinks he's a person?" Well, Sweetie has never thought of herself as a person. She thinks of herself as a dog. And she just tries so hard to be a good dog by her little lights. All her good deeds come from her very doggy nature. They are her contributions to the welfare of the pack, however it happens to be constituted at the moment.

When we left the paper in Sebastopol Jim gave her this splendid toy, virtually indestructible, a stuffed bear with rope arms and legs and a squeak. It's still holding up. About a month ago I bought her a little fuzzy squeaky squirrel. She has been recovering, the last couple of days, from what appears to have been a slight cold. With the recovery has come this new chewing mania. Chewing corners of low tables, chewing the windowsill, chewing the toys of course (she has just about demolished the squirrel) two pens, a pencil, a roll of scotch tape.

My theory at this point is that for the four days that I was away she got a little less exercise than normal. But I've certainly made up for it since I got back, and as I type this she is just shredding that old torn-up squirrel.

Misha meanwhile is sitting in the recliner, she's fallen asleep looking out the window for my father, who went off to New York for the night, for a mystery date..

Misha is in love with my father. This is, so far, her most attractive quality. She is a fat neurotic dog with secret fantasies of dominating the world through passive-aggressive methods. Or sometimes just aggressive methods. She's been through a lot that a dog should not have had to go through, and she's recovering, but I think she was probably always a bit of a nut. To look at her you'd think, "Well, I'm glad she's not my dog." Which I think now and then, unkindly. But the one absolute conviction in her life is that my father is the most wonderful being on earth. She is pretty much constantly focused on him when he is in the house. She always wants him to take her out on dates. A date could be a ride in the car to nowehere in particular, say the gas station, and she will guard the car and warn off with loud hysterical barking anyone who threatens to approach too close, which is to say anyone who is walking within sight. Sometimes I take them on walks that I've prearranged with my father to meet us with the car. When he arrives she is of course frantic to get into the car and when she finally does she seems to take up the whole front seat. Sometimes I'll decide after this to just walk home with Sweetie anyway, as she (and I) need a lot more exercise than Misha is willing to go for. I look back at the car with Misha and my father in it and she is in the front seat, utterly besotted with happiness. A date might be a little stroll up to the dumpster in the bitterest cold of the dead of night, just to see if maybe someone left some pork chop bones there like they did this one time a while back. Sometimes, to be fair, she really has to go pee or poop, so you can't be sure, which is nerve-racking.And of course, you know she is the kind of dog who undertakes those functions with the absolute maximum of fuss and solemn ceremony, pacing up and down looking for just exactly the right spot -- why? why? -- etc.

Sometimes she just flops down at his feet and makes this ghastly noise which means he is to rub her stomach. If he doesn't rub it this noise occurs, repeatedly, until he does. Other times she will climb into his lap (she weighs not less than 89 pounds) and lean against his chest. Other times still she just sits at his knee and gazes at him with her mouth hanging open and this slightly imbecile look of expectation on her face.

In all of this she is sort of a hog, a drama queen. I don't doubt the sincerity of her attachment to my father, but her methods of expressing it seem a bit vulgar. The frequent demands to be taken out on dates fret my father no end, especially in winter. Occasionally he gets exasperated and makes threats at her, Jamaican-style: "Misha, I going claat you in you head if you keep up this foolishness." Or, when he is really exercised by it, "I'm just going to take her to the pound, I can't take this any more." She doesn't understand what he's saying, she's just so happy he's talking, her big and, it must be said, beautiful limpid brown eyes just taking it all in gratefully.

They are both exquisitely considerate in one respect. If Misha has to take a crap while I'm out and can't hold it any longer, she does it as far away as possible from where my father likes to hang out -- which happens to be my bedroom. Sweetie, on the other hand, out of a delicate regard for my feelings, leaves her little occasional accidents as far away from me as possible. Which usually means in my father's bedroom or under his desk.


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