Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Dog Post

Let's get something straight: I'm not a dog person.

This is thanks to many traumatic moments as a child being chased by the evil Schnautzer across the street, and being terrorized by the Cocker Spaniel on my paper route, and especially thanks to the German Shepherd two doors down who wanted to kill me, and maybe even a little because of the wolf which the German Shepherd people had for less than a week, possibly, until the rumor went around that it had taken a bite out of a child. I was terrified of dogs. Especially big ones. Especially German Shepherds. Also, I am a germaphobe.

Dogs are germ factories.

This is not to say my family didn't have a dog of our own: a sweet-tempered, little, wiry-haired mixed-breed terrier born in the hollow at the base of our cherry tree when I was five. He lived under the plum trees near the garden and his name was Skippy. Don't make fun. We got it from those infamous Dick and Jane readers (my brother was six and learning to read).

I loved that dog. Really. As long as soap and water were close by.  He was little, cute, and not even sort of scary. He never bit anyone in his life.

So, naturally, 12 1/2 years ago when my children decided they could no longer live without a dog, we acquired a German Shepherd we named Andre the Giant (the second half of his name happened when he ended up a massive 90-100 lb. full-grown beast). I agreed on condition that this would be an outdoor- only dog, and Mom would never, ever have to feed, water, groom, clean up after, or take said animal to the vet. All I'd have to do was walk him, since I liked the idea of a run/walk buddy. Naturally. All those other things would be everybody else's job.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Ha.

Here's the problem: I speak dog. Nobody else in my family (apparently) does.

I know which bark means "intruder!" and "hello, family!" and "squirrel!" and "feed me, I'm hungry" and "doesn't anybody around here love me?" Also, that sad-eyed look that means "it's an hour past breakfast and I'm pretty sure they've all forgotten me and are you really going to let me starve? Huh?"

No, I wasn't. Even when I was sick and it was somebody else's job.

I hate the guilt stare.

Dogs are skilled at that expression, and I can't tolerate it for more than a minute, max. I tried putting up a sheet over the glass door once so I wouldn't have to see those sad eyes when everybody forgot to feed him and I had flu. It didn't work. I could feel the guilt-stare through the sheet.

Nobody else seemed the least bit bothered by that stare. They didn't realize what it was. Like I said, they don't speak dog.

I ended up being the one to train him, too, because our German Shepherd had a biting problem, and an aggression problem, and I was not going to own a 100-lb. dog that bit little children. Or the mailman. Or trapped the flute teacher up against the house. Or snarled in people's faces. Or knocked people over when they walked past our house.

Sigh. That dog.

We had a love/disgust/annoyance relationship. He was incredibly irritating. And germy (like every dog on earth). And way too dominant. But he didn't bite (eventually). And he was a great running partner. And watchdog. Even if I was always having to feed, water and pick up his poop because nobody else understood the guilt-stare.

And having to change my clothes every time I was around him because I was allergic.

And getting all covered with dog blood while taking him to the vet to have his ear sown up the time he was stupid and tried to run through barbed wire chasing after some deer (dogs aren't too bright, no matter what the dog-people say), then having to scrub the life out of my hands--and body--with several bars of soap afterward to get the dog blood off.
Andre the Giant

Realizing it was time to say good-bye shouldn't have been hard. It should have been a piece of cake. Or pie.

Andre-the-Giant was a pain in the derriere. By the end he was mostly deaf and mostly blind. But yesterday when I ended up having to be the one (of course) to drive him down to his last vet appointment, it wasn't a piece of cake, or pie, either. And not just because my kids were upset or because of the random creepy guy at the vet who put his hand on my shoulder to show sympathy (which was totally nice of him, but still very very creepy).

I almost refused to take the dog in, but I couldn't stand the misery-stare. It was time. I knew it, and I think he did, too. Which is why yesterday, after getting home from the vet, and despite not being a dog-person at all, I broke my no-sugar-for-the-month-of-June diet and made consolation brownies. Not for the kids--for me. As Yvaine in the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust comments, love can be "strangely easy to mistake for loathing" a lot of the time, and that dog was my nemesis. A monster-sized pest. And a pill.

And I'm pretty sure I'll be missing him for a long time.

Blog Archive