Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Furry Toddler Grows Up

Even though I am left-handed, my right arm is appreciably bigger than my left.  The eccentric dog trainer I hired last winter showed me how to hold the leash in such a way that I might manage a young dog now pushing seventy-five pounds.  His technique means I hold the leash in my right hand and can leverage my entire weight against him.  On occasion it works.

Since we adopted him last January, Jack, our ebony lab mix, has gone from a skinny adolescent to a sleek young adult, with bravado to match.  Keeping him exercised means at least an hour a day at a hard walk, which is good for me if not always easy to fit in.  I've run with him on and off, but it's rather like chasing a toboggan down an icy hill, getting faster and faster until I wonder if I might end up concussed against a telephone pole. There is hell to pay if I skip that hour, meaning the next day he'll bolt across the street at warp speed--typically at dawn while I am in my nightgown and trying keep a low profile while he gets his business done-- to chase a cat, or run after the fifty-something man heading out for a morning ride on his custom-built bike. This man lives up the street and drives a nice Audi when he's not riding his bike. My dog's charms appear to largely be lost on him. 

As good-looking and athletic as Jack is, he's naturally partial to cute co-eds.  Consequently our walks, as we do our loop around the beautiful campus of Texas Christian University, have become hour-long bicep curls for my right arm. Every ponytail that swings by looks to Jack like an opportunity to be fussed over, and he is chasing those Nike shorts for all he's worth, even if some find his size and wolf-like appearance a little scary. In the neighborhood on our swing back home, small children beckon when they see him. They see his spirit and feel no fear. Most of the time, their parents ask if they can pet him, and with them he inevitably proves to be gentle and sweet.  The little ones bury their faces in his furry neck and laugh.  He nuzzles them and then looks at me, ready to go. 

Then there are squirrels, who are an entirely different story. They are Jack's fifty year-old Scotch, his hand-rolled Cuban cigars, his sirens.  The co-eds are no match for them.  I've learned to watch for them and steer him towards the nearest fire hydrant to sniff while they see us and scamper up the nearest tree.  But if I let my mind wander and one is running anywhere nearby, I'm risking a dislocated shoulder.  In the past few months, he's been allowed a little unsupervised play outside, and has deposited no less than four of these rodents, quite dead, on my deck. One was headless. My backyard is now a killing field, but the feral cats who kept stubbornly taking up residence under said deck appear to have been evicted for good. 

Jack and I spend a great deal of time together, and to say he depends on me completely is an understatement.  He watches as I back my car out of the driveway, and greets me every time I come home.  He sleeps in front of the stove while I cook so I must walk over him, lest I forget he lives here.  He sleeps outside my bedroom and wakes me in the night as he barks away potential intruders, most of which are likely possums, and patrols the back yard.  He gets on the bed when invited but doesn't stay.  Jack needs his space and lies at my feet when I read when I'm on my own.

When the children came back this summer after nearly a month at their father's, he leapt around them with utter joy.  On the Mondays when they come back and we sit on the couch to watch Castle, our favorite ritual, he sweetly wedges his not inconsequential bulk between us, jealous after having me all to himself for seven days.  She's mine, he says, but I belong to all of you.


1 comment:

  1. What a well written, clever post. I am as always impressed with your writing skills, your feel for words. And, yes, Jack is a treasure. Think there's hope for Sophie?