I bought a dog to get a guy. Before that I built a bar. But I met too many men, and not the right kind. So I got a mutt. A medium brown dog and we set off after staff meeting but before dinner service every day when the employed people would be there. For a while it was dog park oddballs, calling each other “Roscoes mom” and talking incessantly about onidience training and raw food. I would stand by the fence, for the first time in my life the quiet one while Buckley sniffed, peed and did other dog things.
Then she arrived, the darling of the dog park. Sarah (who names dogs people names?) a ten month old St Bernard puppy It was as if a super model had arrived in the midst of all the regular dogs. Lean, long, and loping all eyes were on her. As she ignored Buckley friendly advances I found myself disliking her. Why was she too good for my medium brown dog?
It took me a while to notice her owner. When I did I was brazen. After learning he had a live in girl friend (who, awkwardly, I ended up liking) I asked if they had gotten the dog together. They had. “That will be messy…” was my response. He looked at me sideways.
When he ended up at the door to my restaurant at 10:30 one Saturday months later asking if I had had dinner (um, I own a restaurant, its 10:30, of course not where should we go?) I realized I would have to get over my loathing of his dog.
And thus began our reluctant love story.
She warmed to Buckley first. A few private playdates (ack my language was turning into dog park people language) and the two of them were buddies. He would flip over her ears with his nose and clean it. Gross, right? But dog love in the best sense.
She was still a mystery to me. Her existence. More like a young cow or horse than a dog she stood 6 2 when stretched to Steve shoulders to dance. She farted and looked at her butt. She had teeny tiny snaggle teeth. She had enormous eye goop. I found her clumsy, dumb and drool-y. And soon she would be mine.
Our living room wedding has pictures of her lying at our feet.
When Oliver was born she and I stayed home with him together. There is a reason Nana in Peter Pan is a St. Bernard. She allowed him, and then Leo, and then the two together to crawl, mouth, pull and ride. And seemed grateful for the attention.
At my lowest points I mistreated her. Once I chased her around the table yelling. I can’t even remember her doggie transgression, but I do remember her giant tail between her legs as she scuttled to get away from my insane self. And the minute later when she was there leaning into me, butting her head to give and receive comfort. I remember thinking that this must be what happens with abusers. That was the last time I scared her.
Between then and now I slowly fell in love. We ended up loaning, then sharing, then giving away Buckley. Makes us sound like questionable pet owners I know, but it worked really well for both him and our family. When he was an only dog he came to work and played. Now that we were a bigger family he wasn’t getting the time and attention he needed. The dogs saw each other once a month and were in heaven. It was the only time she would run any more. In that slo mo field of daisies in sunshine way they would come together, then run together, then settle in for a snuggle.
With him out of the house her un dog like characteristics fit well into our lifestyle. A lazy old dog works for a busy family. Underweight for her whole life, she was our plate licker, although we would ahve to hold them to her level, she wouldn’t lean that big neck down to the floor. We bought hand carved locally made dog bowl elevators at the farmers market. She stopped taking hikes and walks.
This spring it was clear at 10 1/2 that we were getting to her “lasts.” She took her last big hike on our camping trip, then slept for two days. We were giving her steroids (like great athletes) to help with her rear leg muscle atrophy. She had already had both rear knees surgically repaired. We spoke a lot with the boys about her full, long dog life.
Mentally she was as with it as ever. Meaning not very.
She was loved by so many people. And ultimately by me too. She worked hard for it. But it turned out the things about her that bothered me ultimately didn’t matter. Her incredible, gentle presence and sweet abundant affection overcame all of that in the end.
Ours was a reluctant love story. Which can be the best kind.