I thought I was a dog person, but I’m rethinking this. In front of the patio door is a small pile of boards that has been ripped and torn from somewhere, but I’m afraid to go look for the source. I really don’t want to know, nor do I need to know. It doesn’t matter now. The damage has been done.
And damage seems to be the name of the game these days for Grace, the perpetual puppy we acquired from the good-hearted folks at Animal Welfare. I say good-hearted because they only charged us $50 for an animal that has cost us an amount of money I won’t print. A week after we brought her home, she came down with a bacterial infection and an unknown virus (three days in an oxygen tank), which was followed up by massive allergic reactions (seven months of steroids), and is now on shots to control her itching (serum administered once a week).
To top it off, she likes to “gather and deliver.” We find remnants of trees, bushes, fence, and other parts of our backyard strategically placed in the exact place we must step to go either in or out the patio door. “Don’t miss this,” Grace seems to be saying. “I’ve brought you a gift because my love for you is great.” Or maybe this is nothing more than passive/aggressive behavior because she’s been put outside. You see, here’s the problem: the dog doesn’t know she’s a dog. No idea. Not a clue. And the sad thing is I can’t communicate this fact to her. When she’s standing outside and I’m standing inside, it doesn’t occur to her that perhaps the great outdoors is where her kind belongs. Instead, she feels entitled to be welcomed into the warmth of home where she can take her rightful place on the upstairs sectional sofa or my daughter’s bed.
After looking back at one of my very first blog posts about Grace and comparing it to the words of this post, I’m struck by the possibility that my passionate love affair with canines may have faded into a monotonous, lifeless marriage. Back in the day, I was one of those kids who brought home stray dogs. I fashioned emergency leashes from fabric belts, jump ropes, and once from the red bandana I often wore around my neck (sad but true). And on those occasions when I had nothing for a makeshift leash, I scooped up the pups and carried them in my loving arms to a place called home. Of course, they never stayed in the place called home because my dad isn’t a dog person and was never moved by my acts of kindness.
So as I stare at the pile of kindling in front of the patio door, I remind myself that the reason that we don’t load Grace in the car and haul her back to Animal Welfare is more than just the amount of money we’ve spent on her.
It’s because I have a child that is a dog person.
Alison’s passionate love affair with the dog is marked by an unconditional acceptance of this messy, destructive, noisy, expensive, allergy-ridden animal. When we’re at our wit’s end with Grace, she’ll call her to her open arms and give her about twenty wet-nose kisses. She whispers things in her ear I can’t hear. She naps with her on the bed and the floor. She reads to her. She takes treats upstairs where she works with her on “appropriate dog behavior.” And God love this child, she is the one that drags Grace into the bathroom, plops her in the tub, climbs in with her, and gives her a bath with the pricey “for sensitive skin” oatmeal shampoo. They both come out dripping wet.
So I’ll step over the kindling and mop the floor twice a week and put up with the shots and the barking and the early morning wake-up calls. I’ll do all of this because I know if we didn’t have Grace, my daughter would fashion leashes out of who-knows-what to bring another needy dog into the house. And unlike my parents, I’d never be able to conquer the big, brown, pleading eyes of both girl and dog. So consider yourself lucky, Grace. Your girl is the kind of dog person who won’t fall out of love.