Friday, July 20, 2012

A Gift

I have been walking a Jack Russel mix this summer because his owner is heavily occupied in taking care of his wife, who is in hospice care for late stage cancer.  His dog had never had a dog walker before so I report to Mr. Smith (the names here are changed) his various achievements and events.  Hoping to amuse Mr. Smith and, perhaps, his grieving family, I wrote the following.  It seems to have succeeded in adding something sweet to a most trying and sad time.  I'm up to my eyeballs in dogs and deadlines, so I thought I would post this for you.

The Adventures of Hody
A Friend

I came to know Hody in the heat waves of July, 2012.  His Male Human calls him a Jack Russell but conversations with other interested parties leave me thinking he is part border collie as well.  Consider his coloring: it is the border collie’s white with black splotches and freckles, like an exceedingly good portion of Oreos ice cream.  And his ears do not stand at constant attention as he walks, which a terrier’s do.  On the other hand, his demeanor is all terrier.  He is determined, quick, stubborn and larky.  Then, too, he is as huge as a Jack Russell and as playful.

In fact, most of Hody’s day is marvelous play or delicious naps.  In his profession of playing and napping, he has proven himself an ambassador, comedienne, man of medicine, gourmand, hurdle racer and lover.

My acquaintance with Hody is mostly in the context of out-of-doors.  He makes a fierce noise when I pick him up, sometimes for joy and sometimes because he likes to pretend I am a robber and should be warned sternly away from his home.  His Male Human prefers to put him in his halter because Hody is so soft and glossy to the touch.  When I perform this maneuver, I place the halter on the floor, then pick up his paws and place them inside, praying he doesn’t decide to dance in the seconds it takes to click the halter closed.  Then we snap on the leash and out we go, in a stately manner, as far as the threshold of the building, when he bolts into the broader space of the sidewalk.

Sometimes he has a bodyguard or two waiting for him.  He is thrilled to see who is waiting and bolts over so that they can perform their Maypole dance of butt-sniffing.  My own dog, Daisy, is always one of his regiment of protectors and they see each other at least once a day.  Still, they have to inspect each other’s orifices in case one of them is really a cat or a squirrel that is in Daisy or Hody disguise.

With the leashes untangled, the time has come to make a most crucial decision: where should Hody pee first?  Recycling bags (from which odors are neither absorbed nor washed away) are ideal, but so are the fringes of grass and ivy poking out of fences and tree railings.  The only thing that is better than recycling is recycling with another dog’s piddle on it.  It is an ecstasy of ownership.  This place is mine, Hody grins as he trots off the next stop, his black ears bobbing like a baby’s hands waving.

But I forget myself.  There is one thing that exceeds even peeing on pee on recycling.  That is peeing over his bodyguards’ pee on recycling.  When Daisy and Gertie escort Hody out into the world, I have to pause a long time for this business because Gertie must co-sign each of Daisy’s signatures and then Hody trumps them both.  They get in line behind Daisy and are quite impatient to prove themselves as worthy a gusher as Daisy.  What the black and yellow Labradors produce in quantity, however, Hody exceeds in frequency.  Sometimes he teases me by sniffing so seriously at a spot that I’m sure and event will occur, only to shrug his little terrier shoulders and continue his bob-bob-bobbing along down the street.

“Hod,” I say when he is, near the end of a walk, as I confess I call it, shooting blanks.  “You’re yanking my chain.”

“Walker,” he says back, “there are only two important things in life: what is in front of your nose and that you leave as much behind in this world as you find.  And if all you can do is go through the motions of giving yourself away, that’s enough.”

“Did you acquire your knowledge of philosophy at Harvard?” I asked him recently, but he only grinned and climbed a stoop to be adored by a man watering the geraniums in his window box.

Because I live nearby and have a dog as well as walking other dogs, I have a large acquaintance in the neighborhood that Hody has been delighted to share.  He is now a notorious Lothario, having no use for boys but a healthy desire to get to know any girl he meets.  He is especially fond of Sophie, a mix of hound and some other beautiful race, who appears (but is not, in reality) to be about three times as big as Hody.  She bows to him and he crouches to her, then pounces so that they meet in an embrace of rapture, his legs hugging her waist as hers rest momentarily on his shoulders.  After this greeting, it is time to get serious again.  There is another Maypole dance and then Hody mounts her.

“That’s my boy!” his Human Male crowed when I told him of Hody’s dalliances.  “A true Smith.”

A few days later, I extolled Hody’s exploits to his Human Female Family Member.  “Oh, no,” she lamented in horror.  “What will people think of the Smiths?”

I looked at Hody, who wagged his upright tail complete agreement with his Human Male’s pride, which is only proper for a dog of great heart.

In this way, Hody has become acquainted with Grace, a bull dog, Talullah, a Bassett-Rottweiler mix, Sandy, a golden retriever, Lucy, a gray poodle, and numerous flings.  So far he has shown no interest in his bodyguards but this is perhaps professional discretion on his part.

I have introduced him to Schuyler as well.  Schuyler is a whippet who is used to being picked on.  He is so fast that other dogs chase and chase him and sometimes, when Schuyler decides to rest, those dogs gnaw on him as a piece of prey.  Schuyler is, therefore, a suitable young man for Hody to play with because he dodges behind his Human’s legs while Hody snarls and lunges, then comes out to bow when Hody gives up on his objections.

They can play this game forever.

Hody’s only true enemy is a German shepherd.  He does not like that German shepherd at all.  I have a rule about the dogs Hody dislikes and I am forced to remind him of it at least once every other day: if the dog is too big to eat in one sitting, he must desist from attacking.  His Humans do not have refrigeration space for a German shepherd, you see.

In his role as ambassador, Hody has welcomed Spanish, Italian and Dutch visitors to these American shores, as well as tourists from Out There Where There Are Yards.  Many visitors come to his Promenade in order to photograph the fence that keeps us from falling into the fascinating but frustratingly forbidden rushing cars below.  Daisy patrols the benches in advance, making sure there are no crackers or hamburgers in Hody’s way, and Hody follows, looking for a hand and listening of the kick-kick sound that dogs know Humans think is Dog Talk.  Ears are good, butt is best, and in this heat wave it is always pleasant to sit under in shade under the bench in order to beg to be released from the persecution and sadism he receives from me.

There is a last piece of business Hody must perform outdoors.  We will not delve deeply into it but suffice it to say that it is very exciting when it involves leaping over a tree railing, pacing around and around the tree so that my arms are wrapped around the trunk trying to keep hold of his leash, and then, when I am either dizzy or holding the leash in the crook of my little finger, enjoying the sweet relief we all prefer not to speak of.

Because life is never dull, going home is as much a joyful profession as going out for a walk.  Sometimes the Human with the Cookies in His Right Pocket is outside the apartment building door!  Sometimes the Human with Suzie is there and they to sing together.  But at the very least there is cooler air inside, followed by a welcome home cookie and the laughter of his very own Human Man who is ready with his Almost a Rabbit that must be killed after so much marking up the neighborhood and teasing of the Human Walker.  The Human Man tosses the many-tailed Almost Rabbit and Hody bounds off to retrieve it, shaking it and breaking its Almost Rabbit neck, growling menacingly in case the Almost Rabbit should decide to fight back.  Hody can kill Almost Rabbits for hours but at some point even Hody –
            – must –

That, of course, is most comfortably done in bed, and in a proper bed, with lots of
pillows and cool sheets and warm blankets and Human Adoration.  A pillow is a nice extra mattress but every dog knows that the best place to rest one’s head is on a Human Limb (although it is very comforting to snuggle deep against a Human’s side as well.).  Part of the joy of Hody’s nearly perfect life (German shepherds and not being able to jump up and drink from water fountains like Daisy) is that his Human Woman is always ready to be a headrest.  When you are as big as Hody, and as abused by a Walker, you need the warmth and tenderness of a Human in order to restore your acuity for hunting, and this the Human Woman provides as she pursues her own dreams of fresh fields, splashy puddles, Real Rabbits and the occasional snow.  Each sleeps better for the other until it is time to eat or hunt or claim the streets again for his own.


E. Jane said...

Loved this delightful piece. As a dog lover, I enjoyed every adventurous, as well as loving word.

Vickie said...

Loved every word and how sweet you are for writing it for the Smiths. I am sure it was read and reread and marveled and will be cherished.

Anonymous said...

I read your book on weight loss years ago, and once in while find your blog.

What a lovely story for the dog's owners.

I myself still have weight issues. I am finally licking them by eating my maintenance calories as I lose:

Calorie Queens
Fat 2 Fit

2 good books that finally taught me I don't have to go hungry to lose. For me, abstinence is not going over my allotted calories.

My depression is lifting as I'm losing. Shallow, but true.