Gone to The Dogs

Living Side-by-Side with Your Pets

I had the good end of the emergency. A friend’s husband needed surgery and her dog needed a sitter. I promptly offered my services. Quincy, a mellow Lab/Beagle mix, is a good dog—a 30-pound sausage with velvet ears and mocha eyes. I thought he might have fun lolling away a night and day with my dog, Leah, a hyper-kinetic Lab/Jack Russell squirt. When they met, late at night, their mutual doggy fatigue vanished as they circled one another, sniffed, and bumped noses. My friend and I nodded. Our dogs, now nuzzling, would get along.

And get along they did. Soon, Leah was licking Quincy, Quincy was lying down, and the two were slurping their way to happiness. My friend and I pulled them apart, the dogs as reluctant and surly as two teenagers caught in the backseat of a car.

“Quincy neutered?” I asked.

My friend nodded. I looked at Leah, her belly scar still visible from her recent spaying. Quincy leaned in for a lick. So much for lolling, I thought sadly. These dogs want action.

Bring it on
Imagine my morning: dawn broke and Quincy, Leah, and I were in the backyard. The temperature clocked in at –20 degrees Fahrenheit and my long, leopard print bathrobe hung useless in defense against the swirling snow. Meanwhile, the dogs were frantic—in search of the spot, in horror of their freezing paws, in interest of what the other dog was doing. It took twenty minutes to get them back inside and another ten to rub the ice off their fur. It was 6:30. We flopped on the couch. The dogs snored while I sat straight, stupidly awake.

Later, I walked them. Leah bolted, Quincy dawdled, and I—in the middle, at the junction of two leashes—ached and stretched like a Gumby doll being drawn and quartered. By the time we returned home, Leah was jumping joyously, Quincy had been stripped (by Leah?) of his green sweater, and the two were frolicking naked in the snow. Then, they both started wobbling. Once again, their paws were frozen and they refused to walk. I dragged both inside. I drank coffee—miserably tired—while the dogs kissed and caressed on the kitchen floor.

Paws for thought
I thought of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was in touch with nature (he did live in a cave) and is the saint to call when you want to talk about animals. When I think of Francis, I often imagine him in the woods, wandering freely with birds and squirrels perched upon his shoulders—like Homer Simpson, in his yard, after he decides to start his own religion. If the Book of Genesis is to be believed, humans were created to live in harmony with animals. God meant for us to live side-by-side, to rely on one another, to enjoy one another.

It is never so simple. Dogs are like children—busy, hungry, messy monsters. Still, they have a way of making life wonderful. During my bath, both sat beside the tub and hung their noses over the rim. I sang to them, they swooned, and then departed. I found them downstairs, sitting by the window, watching birds flutter about the snowy trees. They leaned against each other—lolled, I dare say—and just watched everything. I sat beside them and the day became perfect.