Saturday, July 26, 2008

Good vs. Evil


I am glad I have the dog I do. But sometimes I look at other people's placid labs and shepherds, plodding along next to them as if that human were the only interesting thing on earth, or lying quietly in another room during dinner, and I go, Damn!

I've ended up with a flying monkey out of Wizard of Oz. She is one place one second, an entirely different (and unpredictable) one the next. She launches herself out of the house into cars, out of cars into parking lots, out of windows into whatever is on the other side, and onto picnic tables and you know why. Other people shake their heads at me: This person does not know what she's doing.

May I get a small dispensation for having a "difficult dog"? This would be the kind Kim the Trainer (I'll be back soon, Kim, I hope . . . Phase II of life is to begin soon!) calls "the dog you need." It's mysterious, indeed. Did I need this difficulty? Apparently so, apparently so. You're supposed to think about it for a while, deeply, and then you'll uncover the reason.

Jolanta tells the story of how, when she got her first dog, the incomparable Izzy, she congratulated herself on being an incredibly good trainer: Izzy was so well-mannered! Then Jolanta ended up with Juni, too, and that's when she realized (as she will tell you) she knew absolutely nothing about dog training. Izzy was just one of those easy dogs that make you look good. But Juni burst that smug bubble in a hurry. Jolanta had to educate herself, or else. Now she has a second career as a trainer and behaviorist--as well as accomplished proselytizer for the Way of Kindness: positive reinforcement training. I guess that's why she got Juni.

I'm still puzzling over why I needed Nelly.

Put this under heading of "Nuff Said." After our rail trail walk yesterday, Janet was kind enough to chauffeur Nelly home so I could switch gears and go wrangle children instead of dogs. Nelly jumped right into Janet's car--as why shouldn't she? It's the Dogmobile, with comfy pillows and always a jug of cool, refreshing water. At the end of the trip, at Janet's house, there is often a plate of fresh-cooked chicken livers. This, my friends, is the canine Ritz.

Then Nelly saw I was getting into the other car. She stood up on the arm rest and pressed her distraught face against the glass. Nelly is one of us "I want my cake and eat it too!" kind of beings. I realized that if the window had been open just another inch or two, Nelly would have clambered up somehow, lit the fuse, and shot out in one detonating second. I remembered to later e-mail Janet about the need for caution when transporting the Devil Dog.

Me: >She can squeeze herself, like a mouse, through
incredibly small openings.< Janet: Charles Manson was good at that, also.

Do you know now why I love her so? Not Nelly--I mean Janet. A friend with Saharan wit is a joy indeed.

(Plus, in addition to treating Nelly with kindness and understanding, and having seen me through the worst year of my life, she saves the New York Times for me so I don't have to pay for it. It doesn't matter that I get it a few days late--I'm lucky if I can find the time to read the paper two weeks later. It's all fresh news to me!)

Remember how I mentioned my friends remarking on a vague whiff of good karma they felt was emanating from my new house? Tell me what you make of this, then. The Verizon technician who came to attempt to give me telephone service in that frustrating first week without a phone told me that many years ago, she used to come riding here when they had horses. (My unpacked boxes sit waiting in the unused barn now; I seem to specialize in living on former horse farms, alas.) She told me, yeah, they used to take in farm animals, too, in the winters from a sort of zoo in the city. And apparently did to them what people usually do to farm animals. "You know what your house was?" she asked. "It was the smokehouse."

A thirty-year vegetarian, living in a former smokehouse. Is that karma? Maybe. And, maybe, it's just inexplicable. Woo-woo.


2 comments:

Dustydoggy said...

Melissa,
Never really comment, never really even read a blog before. I felt compelled to visit my local library today (no 'puter) and try and let you know that I read 'Underdogs' last night. Your recounting of 'Nelly' brought tears to my eyes (again). I understand the realization that "they're really gone" and this cute little guy in front of you may look and play the part but is not now nor ever will be anything else but himself. My Nelly, "Caesar" passed this past May 1, @ 6:22 PM. I 'accidentally' found him in a dumpster while I was looking for my very first dog. Karma? Fate? God? Good luck? Who cares! He was sooo cute and turned out to be very smart. At his peak he knew 128 words and phrases (although I couldn't even begin to recount them all - we made a list one day and were amazed), hand signs, intuitively knowing what I wanted before I asked and was by ALL accounts ... perfection! Never barked, chewed, ran off ever ... perfection. If he had thumbs he could do your taxes, short form yes, but he could have. One day, I too looked at ol' Caesar and realized that I was now watching the love of my life slowly die. With his head in my lap after his third or forth stroke, the dementia, neurological issues and generally being just worn out, I fed him water with a baster for he went through the motions yet 'forgot' how it all was to work, the appetite stopped save for the tasty morsels I hand fed him as he contently laid motionless in my pantry for what ended up being a week or 10 days, only venturing out when I left for market as if he were embarrassed that he could no longer walk with out leaning on the wall for support. One day he fell and never got back up. I know some would say that I "waited too long" but I know in my heart that I would have carried him everywhere for two more years if I could have and after all, the first time I can't rise from a chair without assistance, I'll be damned if I'm going to have to miss the next sunset! He was alive 15 years, 9 months, 28 days. I loved, protected, cared for him and was honored to be rewarded with his company for 15 years, 8 months, 25 days. Ultimately he was suffering from "too many birthdays". As the needle slid in he looked up and gave me a kiss (he never ever kissed me unless he was trying to get that last tasty morsel that was his anyway or was asked to) as if to say thank you and good bye loyal friend. I lost all composure and my vet just stayed quiet and said he wasn't a dog he was a phenomenom and told me that I didn't wait too long. I know that is what we pay them for but it's nice to hear anyway. He had fallen down on a Monday and was gone 72 hours later. Even the angels cried, as soon as he was gone, clouds rolled over the mountain and it rained for three days ending a month long drought and spoiling my plans to sit with 'CC' once more at sunset before preparing him for his final ride. I did sit there with him on the back of the 'Mighty Dodge' as we have hundreds of times before and cast a teary eyed gazed toward the cloud set of his being. We traveled cross country 5 times (4 to "the canyon") in a Jeep CJ, logging 265,000 miles of travel and at least that amount going with me to work as a stone mason everyday. No more. I too expected to grieve (unprepared for intensity), mourn and then move on, possibly even look for an eight week old puppy born on May 1, because he would never abandon me and leave me here all alone, would he? I could spot him with out those perfect lines, it's all in the eyes, the window to his soul. This would all work out right? It'll be fine, I'll be OK, I'll get him back I'll start looking soon. I'm too sad now but as the saying goes "What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly". Instead of 'CC' the wundermutt. I again accidentally found what I guess I needed all along and found 'Brutus', a name I had chosen months before as an homage to 'dark humor'. Wrong age 8-9 months, identical in appearance, looks like he has bright eyes. Pawsforlife? Maryland? That's 300 miles! Game on! What do you mean that you already have a commitment? That's MY dog! So I had to beg, bribe, cry, exagerate and even lie. I will have that dog! 5 days later I'm driving a truck that shouldn't go out of town let alone 6 states away, and all to pick up a dog I've seen once in a picture because he must be fated to me, he must! So there's no radio or A/C, that hole in the floor under the gas pedal wont get that hot, diesel fuel isn't that expensive, tires aren't that bald! Afterall I'm just going to get my dog, MY dog. Brutus. I'll even give the woman a nice bottle of wine as thanks for 'giving in' to the dozens of emails and phone calls from myself, friends and associates who all believe that is my dog. Yes, a thank you for, the very first time ever, allowing an adoption to be reversed and giving in to the pleas of a stranger. The dog will in no way be expected to be Caesar, only Brutus. I will posssibly always compare yet never judge. I will, however always love, always, cherish and always remember Caesar and hopefully in another 15 years post another comment on another seemingly obscure blog at another time of greif and sorrow to thank someone else for writing something that made (allowed) me to shed my 'macho' facade and cry in the dark over a love many know yet few comprehend. Thank you Melissa. I too am sorry for your loss. You have Nelly this and Nelly that and out here she will endure forever. I only had a few tons of stone and a giant red oak tree to plant over 'my son' in a public memorial park (Shhhh!). They all last forever, Nelly, Balto, Shep and Caesar. Thank you again. Dusty :-)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Dusty, sorry for this late reply to your moving story. What do they call dogs like Caesar? "Soul dogs," I think. You may only know one of them per lifetime. I had one, before Nelly. But Nelly is my shadow, my help, my company and love. Thank you for sharing this. I'm sorry for your loss. I know what it feels like. I know, and I wish I didn't. But the gift will stay with you. Richer, that's what you are. And us, too, for hearing about it. Brutus is lucky. May he make you lucky, too.