Once there was a dog that quietly lay in my step son’s hands. He lay there for miles and miles, long after the rest of us had been driven stir crazy by the traffic on 20, driving up from North Carolina through Georgia. Accidents were just barely avoided. Brakes slammed on and then released. We broke the speed limit and then crawled along at five miles per hour. And then stopped. The dog lay still.
I was afraid he was sick. He was the smallest dog in a litter of eight, if I recall. I thought he would make it to our home, lay down and pass. I didn’t tell anyone; not even my wife. But I was prepared the speech in my head. The one where you talk about a better place, before you dig a discreet hole in the back yard.
He didn’t die. He ate and walked. That walk became a run, which over the course of the weeks became an elliptical, chaotic circuit around our coffee table, through the kitchen, into the dining room, up the steps. Stop. Into my step daughter’s room. Stop. Onto my daughter’s tiny bed. Pick up a toy. Stop. Run down stairs, out the back door, ears pinned back to his head, eyes wide in excitement.
I thought the biggest challenge would be the poop in the yard. It’s not. The problem is, four month old Sherlock is kind of a dick. He steals things and lays on top of the clothes in the closet. When you want him, he runs. When you want to get rid of him, he’s stapled to your ankle. And when you least expect it, he’s right there, looking up at you as you trip and stumble across the kitchen. Because you were so involved in doing the dishes that you didn’t realize that he was there.
I know this isn’t his fault. I’ve had three dogs before him. I’ve seen this before.
My parents brought Tasha home for me back when I was about six. I had her until after I’d gone to college. She saw me through the death of a brother, a move to South Carolina and another back North. She was there as I collided with middle school, and when High School chewed me up.
Emi was purchased from a pound in Delaware. She was a big, 110 pound Shepard…ish, thing. I had her for thirteen years. She was there with me through two breakups. My wife told me later, that part of the reason she thought I might be okay as a father, is that dog. She used to walk with us, down to the park. Emi would chase the frisbee while we got to know one another. She died about a week after Uma was born.
Then there was Tuco the pitbull. I had him about the same time as Emi. The devil on your shoulder, he was a dog lover’s dream. But, my wife isn’t exactly a dog lover. She’s more of a dog tolerator.
I brought a girl home. The next morning, he ran into the room and jumped on the bed, over and over. Up and down on the mound that her body created in the comforter. He was excited to meet her. He couldn’t contain himself. Had that woman been my wife Michelle, our relationship would have ended that morning.
Emi was the best case scenario for a woman who’s never had a dog. She was big and calm canine jedi; a doe eyed protector of house and home. I cross my fingers and hope that Sherlock follows her lead. But, I see the Tuco coming out. I see it in his eyes when he runs from us, mouth open in a delirious puppy smile. He looks like he’s high on chaos. Darth Tuco, pitbull sith.
This morning I woke up early so we could throw the tennis ball. It’s my strategy to make him a good citizen of the Glover household. Tire him out. Trick him into learning to come when I call him, by getting him addicted to that fuzzy, neon green Wilson crack. Yesterday we were out for about a half hour. I throw it, he chases it. Picks it up. Brings it over there… or there… but never to me. Not quite. This morning he came closer. But then, not quite.
It worked with Emi. Fetching became her thing. She was that dog in the park, leaping into the air to catch a frisbee. Tuco, on the other hand, only chased Emi. She was chasing the ball, he was trying to bite her on her ankles. He was kind of a dick.
We’ll see about Sherlock. The force is strong with him; he’s smart, and he’s growing like a weed. In a year or two, he’s going to be one little powerhouse of a dog. But whether he chooses the light or the dark side remains to be seen.