Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dog tales.....or is that "tails?"

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This is a fearsome dog? I think not.

For many years, I've enjoyed telling a story shared by Joseph Bruchac in his book, Dog People, called "How Dog Came to Live with People." Mr. Bruchac has kindly granted permission for me to share this story as one from the Abenaki people, encouraging me to continue to learn as much as I can about his people and their ways. When I share my version of the story, I create an Inuit string figure known as "Little Dog with Big Ears," guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of all sharing the story with me.

I've always liked dogs. Never knew all that much about them, however, since never in all my years have I shared my life with a canine friend. Until now.

I do believe there is a rite of passage in our culture that never, ever gets covered in any parenting books or magazines. I know one of my brothers and I both partook in this rite. It goes like this: kids beg their parents for some pet or other their entire childhood. Kids grow up enough to pretend they are adults. Kids acquire their very own pet. Kids discover adulthood isn't always staying up late and eating ice cream instead of peas, move home. Bring pet with them. After attitude adjustment, kids move out again, finding apartment that doesn't allow pets.

I very intentionally got myself a beautiful blue point Siamese cat, known as Molly McGuire and living to the age of 19, traveling with me through grad school, marriage and the birth of two children. Molly moved with me when I moved out once again. My brother Fritz acquired two cats, then almost immediately left them in care of our parents, who, after years of telling us "no pets" immediately doted on these two furballs.

Our older son has recently made this passage himself. True to his personality, he did things bigger and bolder. Moving out for a whole month, he managed to rescue a two year old female pit bull terrier. Named Loca. Spanish for "crazy," in case you didn't know.

When we found ourselves holding the leash to this dog very suddenly and unexpectedly, I took her for a long walk while my husband went to Petco to get housing and a good strong tie-out cable. We have another cat here, you see.

In those first weeks, it was anxiety all over the place, both from us and poor Loca. Seems that our son had been her third owner already. We played this "upstairs/downstairs" game, in which she could go into the kids' domain there at night, separating any prolonged contact with the cat, who doesn't know any better than to stare down 52 pounds of solid muscle.

It's not a perfect solution, but I've lost about ten pounds walking this girl every day. I could quit my job, spend each day walking from here to the Mississippi River and back, the distance of a marathon, and she'd be thrilled. As it is, most days it's 45 minutes at 5:30am and a similar walk in the evening. Longer ones when we don't work.

We struggle with the one unfortunate effect of pit bull breeding, that of dog aggression. We hope that learning to use a Gentle Leader will help with this. She sits. She almost stays. She shakes hands, a useful skill for such a people friendly dog. Yes, people friendly. I read a description of pit bulls as having an "easy going Irish temperment that thinks every person is their best friend." Indeed she does.

Most of all, she insinuates herself into our family, making us laugh with her energetic antics. Anyone who thinks these are killer dogs should see her when our son puts an old pair of boxer shorts over her skinny butt, the tail poking through the fly front, wagging like, well, like loca.

All those years of telling our kids, "No, we can't have a dog, they are a lot of work," it's true; they are a lot of work, most of it work of a joyful kind. One that helps middle aged women easily drop 10 pounds, by the way!


At 2:40 PM, Blogger Didi said...

Oh she is a absolute SWEETIE! Who couldn't fall in love with that face!!! Congrats on your new pal!

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Bec said...

*blushing* I did the same thing to my mom... I don't want to scare you, but she's been babysitting her "grand-cats" for almost 3 years now!


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