gall and gumption

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Theory of Misha

You have to think very hard before you get a German Shepherd. Misha, who is probably three-quarters German Shepherd, is seen here hiding from ghosts. Well, that's what my father called it once in one of his sudden little bursts of tenderness for this wretched impossible dog. Added to the challenge of being a German Shepherd (all emotional controls turned to maximum hysterical intensity), she has suffered abuse that really hurt her self-esteem, and she now has a problem with seizures. In her seizures she sees things and snaps at them, and when it gets to be too much, which it does sometimes even with the drugs, she crawls into a small dark space, this one, and gets a little peace. She is really more sensitive than is altogether compatible with most forms of dog happiness. Outside, she is nervous and watchful all the time except occasionally when she gets on the trail of a squirrel or when she plays the Growling Game with Sweetie as we head for home. Other than that, you can tell that she's just overwhelmed by all the stimuli, her ears are back, she's guessing at what to do or suddenly possessed by some utterly idiotic impulse, she's making it up and it's all a bit much and she can't wait to get home and get fed a treat and maybe flop down on the floor and have her belly rubbed.

Sweetie is recovering from abuse, but it took place in her first year, she was rescued, and life has been pretty much an uninterrupted picnic since then. As my old roommate Rob says, "Some of us have to pay up front." But she still has the ways of an island street dog: skulk about shamefacedly near the rum shop and someone will toss you a couple chicken bones or swing a kick at you, or both. If a human bends down to pick something up off the ground skitter away quickly, don't wait around to see if it's a rock or if it's intended for you. When you go somewhere you've never been before, mark your trail with scrupulous care. Bury your poop (if she has an accident at home she buries it by putting my underwear or my father's socks on top of it). She makes her own decisions, you can see her sizing up situations. I don't say she does this well. I find myself saying to her, "Sweetie, maybe you just shouldn't try to think." What trouble she and I have had over our four years together has always come from her thinking and her attempts to deal with what she regards as problems, using her remarkable street smarts and her sense of duty to the pack which is me and her. But also she just has weird ideas.

On the windward coast of Nevis was a beach I used to like to go to with the mad Englishman. We'd walk along and collect driftwood or go and play in the rather rough waves. There was one area of it where this high, dome-shaped spit of land stuck out into the sea, overhanging above some rocks. The water was shallow there and you could walk under the overhang almost. Goats, grazing in the area, would sometimes fall off this dome onto the rocks and die. So there were lots of goat bones there and among the things I gathered was a goat skull, which I had plans to draw and which I also hoped would deter burglars because they do look a bit satanic. It was clean, dry, no stink. I took it home and left it outside on the retaining wall until I was ready to draw it at some distant date. Well, over the next several weeks this goat skull became the subject of a quiet and genial political struggle between me and Sweetie. I would come home from work and find the goat skull in the middle of the paved area of the back yard, or in the middle of the driveway, or in Sweetie's Project Staging Area, the place where she brought her plastic containers and bits of road kill. For days it would just stay there, then I would tidy up and put the goat skull back on the retaining wall. Within 24 hours it was back in the Project Staging Area again where she never actually did anything with it. It didn't move from there until I moved it, but when I moved it, she moved it immediately back to wherever she thought it should be. Then when she began to flirt with Mike, the Canadian guy who lived in the apartment downstairs, she would prance around with it and break off bits of it just so show off. And so with all of that she pretty much won the whole Battle of the Goat Skull.


At 1:21 AM, Anonymous leslie said...

Now I know why I have always liked German shepherds.

At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Norman said...

Yeah, but can Sweetie do yoga? "German Shepherd Takes Up Yoga in India"

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Kia said...

She has a couple of interesting stretching routines but no, I can't see her doing yoga. I wish I could get Misha into a class though.


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