Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Puppy Time

(News-Herald, Sept 16) After my old dog Midnight reached the end of his long canine life, I though I was done with dogs. Turns out you’re not always done with all the things you think you’re done with.
The new dog in my life is Mr. Big (his Significant Human is a fan of Sex in the City), who is not just a dog, but a six month old chocolate lab puppy.
All of my previous dogs were full grown when I met them; my previous exposure to puppies has been primarily through cute commercials that focused mainly on the more adorable puppy activities such as Scampering and Being Floppy.
Big can scamper with the best of them, but he’s a larger fan of the mad galumphing chase after Something Over There. He is a might scourge of wind-blown leaves, and the night he found himself in the back yard just as the dusk-hour fireflies came out, I believe he might have pounced and chomped his way into a state close to nirvana.
He is also a master of Slobbering. If you can judge a puppy’s eventual size by the larger extremities that he will have to grow into—well, Big’s tongue suggests that this dog will eventually be large enough to scare great danes and small livestock. On a warm day, his tongue unfurls like a roll of carpet waiting to be installed in the grand ballroom at The Commons and sheds enough fluid to fill up every municipal pool Oil City has ever had.
Big finds the bike trail and river and any large area of grass and any place that has sticks all VERY EXCITING (because if Big could type, he would use all caps, all the time)!! Having him around is almost like the company of a small human child, except that with a child you assume that if you explain things more loudly and slowly the child will soon comprehend—no, actually, it’s exactly like the company of a small child.
I don’t know why we believe that a dog can understand English, or even loud English, but I know that we resort to explaining things more often than makes sense. I’m sure that what he hears is, “Blah blah blah blah BIG blah” and what he thinks is “OhohohOOOH—You are paying attention to MEEEEE!!!!!” We can try to explain that chewing couch cushions is not approved, but I think a spirited explanation of quantum physics would be just as useful.
Doesn’t matter. I provide him with running commentary about washing the dishes, cooking a meal, sitting in a chair. He does not appear to be any smarter and he has not offered to either do the dishes or cook a meal (though he’s totally ready to take over on the whole chair sitting thing). But I think part of the appeal of having a dog around is the conversation.
I am told that he is the doggie equivalent of adolescence, and he does occasionally exhibit a rebellious streak, but his heart hardly seems in it. Outside he’s become a bit slack in the bringing-it-back part of fetch, but inside he will still insist on shoving his toy into your hand until you drag it from between his pointy teeth and give it a toss.
He is definitely what the canine toy manufacturers call an “aggressive chewer.” There is nothing made for dogs to play with that Big cannot reduce to its component atoms. Having a wasted more than a few dollars on pleasant and attractive doggie toys that quickly became small wisps of fluff and stuffing, most of Big’s extended family has resorted to empty plastic pop bottles. 1 liter bottles are best, with the cap still on. Big can just about get his mouth around it before it squirts free like short-range bottle rocket, providing Big with unequaled joy, because the only thing more fun than chomping on something is chasing it first.
Cats do not disturb the territory they occupy, and that’s fine. But a dog is like a small random event generator, creating a comfortable level of chaos that keeps things interesting. I am told that Big will eventually settle a bit, and that’s fine, too. Venangoland is nice territory for a dog, all warm homes surrounded by wide swatches of open nature, packed with reminders that even in a quiet settled place like ours, there are sweet surprises that unfold before us, sometimes like wild bottle rockets and sometimes like warm companion settled comfortably around our feet.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

1 gallon milk jugs are equally entertaining. And we used to call Duet a Labrador locator, not a retriever, because she really wasn't so interested in bringing things back..she really seemed to feelwe should go get our own...

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