December 23, 2017

a dog's life

We're trying to adopt a rescue Scottie.

My wife has had Scotties in the past, one of which she had to pass along to new adopters because of climate-based allergies, the other of which stayed by her side, almost literally, for 13 wonderful, healthy years.  The wound of losing her when she grew old and died has still not fully closed and healed in all this time.  For my wife, Fergie was much like a daemon from The Golden Compass.  You're never the same after the excision.

It is a zillion kinds of fucking brave of her to want to adopt again.

The current foster family has had the Scottie for several months and has had applicants come and go, none of whom met their stringent criteria .... elderly, young children, too far away for a home visit to prove a fenced yard exists.  We meet the specs like champions.  They sent us essay questions about why we want a(nother) dog, what our circumstances and lifestyle are like, our philosophies on dogs, our experience with Scotties, our demographics, hair color, DNA construction, political affiliation, and coffee preferences.  We constructed convincing answers, all of them truthful. 

It's been five days, and we haven't heard back yet.  It's Christmas weekend, I know.  Maybe they've submitted our answers to corporate executives in a dog adoption bureaucracy for review.  Maybe they're just out of town.  Maybe we, too, don't make the cut.

We're trying not to turn in the wind, never having had much hope of this, and trying not to envision this Scottie playing with our dogs, expending some of his considerable energy and playfulness.

Well, we were mostly honest in our answers to the questions.  Mostly.  We didn't really describe our day-to-day life with our two current dogs.

Our dogs are the Helper Dog/Asshole and Simple Dog that Allie Brosh depicts.  It's like she knew us when she wrote all this years ago.  They even look the same.

Chester is Helper Dog/Asshole and was here first.  He's an old boy now, age 15, arthritic and still playful but no longer energetic.  He sleeps a bit more than he used to.  And he's a kleptomaniac.  He has to take things.  It doesn't matter if he intends to chew them up or eat them or study them or whatever it is he does.  He just has to steal.  He has this unique stealthy walk when he's trying to make off with something in his mouth, gliding toward the dog door so he can take the thing outside and privately have his way with it.  He thinks walking this way renders him undetectable, in an uncanny display of understanding the concept of human attention and focus.  But if we catch the walk out of the corner of our eye, we immediately know what he's up to.  And he's genuinely contrite every time.  He can't help it.  It's an illness.

One fall, we took a leaf blower and blew all of the oak leaves away from the side of the house.  Beneath them, we discovered several Legos, three socks, an unharmed, unopened bag of Cascade dishwasher tabs, a partially decayed folder of important documents, and a 10-foot stereo component cable that had inexplicably gone missing months earlier.  

Chester is Alpha.  He's a total asshole.  If we give two toys to the dogs, he takes Rose's toy from her, places it next to his own, then lies down near her with both of them and ... has them at her.  He doesn't chew them or anything.  He just possesses them at her, aggressively.  Rose, our Simple Dog, looks to us for help with a concerned expression.  We can't explain that that's just How It Is, and he'll get tired of one or both eventually.  Sometimes, a family has hand-me-downs going on.  

Rose is as dumb as a box of hair.  This is not her fault.  When we found and rescued her, there was strong evidence that she had been beaten by an adult male in puppyhood, and that some of those blows were aimed at her head.  Probably because she chewed up a slipper or something.  I am not at all sure what I would be capable of doing, were I to find that man.  It would at a minimum involve court and probably intensive psychiatric screening.  Angry tears form whenever my mind lights upon these thoughts, then skitters away from them, because Rose is very sweet and very happy.  She's just stupid as a hammer.  She also smells like a landfill in the summer, because she is part Lab and has the oily coat of a water dog.  She lies outside on the deck and bakes in the sun, then comes inside and wants to snuggle up to us and be petted.  We have dog spray and try to combat this with Raspberry Fields-scented dog perfume and Odor-Buster Maximum Strength This-Shit-Really-Works spray.  Results last five minutes.  We once sat down to Google "lab stench in summer" to see if anyone had a better solution.  We typed "lab stench in--" and Google auto-suggested "in the nostrils of God."  Yes. That.

We tell people our dog is dumb, and they nod vaguely and I'm sure they think, "What terrible owners."  They don't understand.  And we've so few anecdotes that we remember, that we can tell to help them understand.  It's a thousand little things, you see.  The moments when she chases her tail with fervor and ends up with her hind leg in her mouth instead, and bites it, and wonders why it hurts, and eventually lets go of it.  The fact that when you toss two pieces of steak to the dogs, Chester catches his in mid-air with mad skills, in spite of his cataracts, while Rose's bit of steak hits her square between the eyes and then falls to the floor, after which she stares at it for a while before investigating.  During this time, Asshole has come and eaten her steak, too.  Rose does not know what this means.  She is sure something bad just happened, but she doesn't know what.  So she just whimpers.  A soft, high-pitched whimper that goes on for hours sometimes and drives us mental.  The world confuses her.  

Sometimes, she forgets where the dog door is.  She stares at us through the sliding glass doors, watching us at the dining table, longing to come inside with all her heart, to be with her pack.  We open the dog door and call her, and she comes inside happy and prancing.  She chases her tail from joy.  She catches her leg and bites it.

She still manages to Dog well.  She despises squirrels with the fury of 10,000 suns and very nearly catches them.  But our squirrels have evolved.  One particularly snotty one - let's call him Bruce - enjoys standing on our front porch, right in front of the glass storm door, because he has figured out that we lock that door now and don't let the dogs into the front yard.  Bruce nibbles an acorn at Rose, while she yips and shakes with all-consuming hatred and rage at this audacious invasion of her territory.  Bruce is in no particular hurry to leave.  He savors the acorn.

She hates delivery people, too.  She once treed a mailman on top of his truck.  I've never seen anyone move that fast or jump that high.  It was pretty amazing.  9.8, my sign would say.  The dogs see the UPS truck come up the driveway.  They bolt for the dog door and hit the back yard, barking.  Rose barks like a relentless Hellhound.  After two seconds, Chester comes back inside and stares out of the front door.  He's letting Rose do all the work.  Chester is very, very smart.

Both of them lick their assholes and then want to give us kisses.  That's just a dog's life.

We wonder about the Scottie.  Not his intelligence level, but how he would fit in with our fucked-up dog paradigm.  Maybe it would go well.  We omitted all of these details in our "getting to know you" stuff.  Because you know what?  The Scottie undoubtedly has quirks, too, and we'd just incorporate those and have a different kind of fucked-up, and everything would, on the whole, be all right.

I'm checking my e-mail every 22 seconds right now, looking for a reply.

We're a good fit.  We are.  We have love and a dog door and enough money for good vet care and Nylabones and big, soft dog beds and common sense and room outside for them to run and play.  And our mutts don't know it, but we have a Scottie cookie jar and Scottie cookie tins and Scottie signs for the kitchen and 4,287 Scottie stuffies and figurines about the house.  Surely that counts for something.  Surely.

Update 1/5/18:  We still haven't heard from them.  Sending plaintive e-mails asking for an update ....

Update 1/9/18:  They sent us an application!  And indirectly apologized for what I will understatedly refer to as The Delay by saying the turn-around time would only be a couple of days this time.  We filled it all out and included photos of our back yard and inside our home, per their request.  There ended up being 25 photos.  I was annoyed.  I wanted there to be 27, like in Alice's Restaurant.  So now we wait ....

Update 1/15/18:  Two is not six.  Six days is more than two.  Still waiting to hear.

Update 1/23/18:  ... and waiting ....

Update 2/5/18:  We're letting go.  Bryn's foster family is completely uncommunicative and we can't do anything about that.  We've asked after things.  We've inquired.  Silence.  We've decided that they've decided to adopt him themselves.  It's a belief we can live with, because it means Bryn's still in good hands, and it might even be true.  High paw, Bryn.  See you, man.

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