Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Big Stupid

This story is in loving memory of my beloved dogs, Vixen and Pup-Pup

Every farm needs a dog. Truth be told, every household needs one, not only farms. I’m suspicious of people who don’t have at least one. There’s no excuse even if a person lives in a small place because they make them apartment size. Granted, I think those little ones are kind of sissy Mary, but if you’ve got no yard, you’ve got no choice. One of those lap dogs is better than nothing.

We used to have two dogs when we lived on the 53-acre place but they passed away within one week of each other. It was almost as traumatic as losing a person. But we knew right away that we’d get more. A family is not complete without a dog. Something’s wonky. It’s like having no windows in the house or tires on the car. It’s like having no teeth. Yeah, you can get by without them but you can’t eat corn-on-the-cob anymore.

We went to the dog pound to get ours. It was right next to the landfill. 60,000 dogs get euthanized every year in Virginia alone due to a lack of homes. About a third of those dogs are purebreds and the county pound had its share. There was anything a person could want in there. You like labs? There was a nice black one there. There was a German shepherd, a boxer, a beagle, a bulldog, a Pomeranian and even a collie that looked just like Lassie. There were puppies and older dogs. There were little dogs and big dogs, spotted dogs and my personal favorite, the striped dog—aka brindle. And wouldn’t you know, that’s just what I got.

We had to wait three days before we could take the striped dog home. He was a stray and there was a waiting period to give the owner a chance to retrieve him. We weren’t worried about that. We knew no one was going to come. Of the two dozen or so dogs in there, most of them would be put to sleep in a few days.

Kurt said, “Can we return him if we don’t like him?”

“Kurt! Don’t think like that!” I was mad. He was not being positive. I knew it was because of losing the other two. They were perfect. One perfect mutt adopted from another dog pound many years ago and the other perfect mutt came with the house we bought in Oklahoma. How could we love another? They also happened to be brindle, though different types of dogs, one a shepherd mix and the other a Heinz 57 with half a tail. I secretly worried that I would compare the new dog but I didn’t admit it out loud. I was dog-starved. I just wanted to get one and make everything all right again.

We put our foot down about Kelly picking out the name. The last time, wanting to be good parents, we let her have full reign and what did she do? We found ourselves with a dog named Pup-Pup. It was a little embarrassing calling, “Pup-Pup! Pup-Pup!” especially when we lived out on a ranch in Oklahoma next to whiskered men (and some whiskered ladies) who roped steers and branded horses for a living. We couldn’t let that happen again.

So we bribed her. She needed a new bike anyway. We just didn’t let her know that we had been planning to go get her one and used it to our advantage.

“Well…” I tapped my nose, thinking. “Maybe Daddy ought to get a turn naming the dog. He’s such a good daddy. Hey! And then we can go to Toys R Us and get you a new bike! A purple one!”

The striped dog became Motley. Maybe you don’t think it’s as good a name as Pup-Pup, especially if you’re one of those frou-frou dog people, but we like it. He not only is motley-looking, but it’s a nod to the band Motley Crue. And since Kurt and I are aging faster than we’d like and hanging onto any coolness we have left by the skin of our teeth, we thought Motley would be a good name.

However, my girlfriend nicknamed him The Big Stupid and you might hear us calling him that. We also call him The Big Dope, Crew Cab, Crew Cut, J Crew and Kurt’s favorite, Home Slice. I hear him talking baby-talk to him in the middle of the night when no one’s around. “What’s up Home Slice?” he says. “What you doin’ you Big Stupid? No, no, don’t lay down,”—because Motley promptly falls over so you can have better access to his belly when you talk to him. I can hear the tail thumping. “You sit up and I’ll keep petting you.”—because Kurt will work at his desk one-handed and pet Motley with the other if he can reach him. He’s not returning him.

I wouldn’t say that The Big Stupid is actually stupid. But being a young dog with colossal feet and more enthusiasm than skill, it fits him. For example, you can easily trick him into tumbling down the stairs. All you have to do is go down slowly and quietly. Sneaky. He likes to lay guard at the top of the stairs. He lays there watching.

When you get down to the bottom, you just call him like something great is going to happen and he goes barreling down, often somersaulting head-over-heels and then crash-landing on the bottom. We had to remove the rug I used to keep there because he’d slide on it and plow into the door, which is all glass. Kurt said, “You better take that rug out of there—Motley’s going to go right through the door and end up in the petunias.”

When we first got him, he didn’t even know how to go down the stairs. I had to carry him to get him into the house. He didn’t know how to walk on a leash. He’s still not very proficient about getting into the truck though he’s always up for a ride. It’s not easy lifting a 70 lb. dog into the back seat of a truck. He can get the front part in all right and then Kelly and I have to shove the back part in after him. Sometimes he falls on his face but he’s happy. He likes to be with us. Whatever we are doing, wherever we are going, he likes to come along.

That’s the thing about dogs. Even if you’re a nasty bitch or a cranky bastard, even if you have the personality of a lamp post or the breath of a skunk, they still think you’re the greatest thing going and they want to be with you. When we first got him, he’d follow me from room to room, making sure I wasn’t going anywhere. If I got up, he got up. If I switched chairs, he moved closer. If I coughed and rustled papers, he looked up. Just checking.

Motley comes with me every morning when I do my horse chores. We feed and water and then I get the wheelbarrow and we go out to the pasture to pick up manure. I watch him running ahead. He’s trotting along about 20 feet in front, but if you look, you will see his head tilted to the side. He’s watching me, making sure I’m coming.

That’s one of the last things I remember about Pup-Pup. I remember pointing that out to Kelly one morning as we went to the barn. “See, look at her watching us out of the corner of her eye. If we stop, she’ll stop.” We tested it and she did. She looked back and waited.

I feel bad that I wasn’t able to save her. But now I have The Big Stupid. He keeps guard over the house when we’re not home and he keeps the critters out of the grain in the barn. But most of all he keeps me company. Every family needs one.

Please be a responsible pet owner and spay and neuter your pets.


House on the Glade Hill said...

So... Debi. Are you still my friend- even though I have a cat instead? You've met my kids. They keep me busy enough -LOL!

Great post! I really enjoyed it. Your blog always reminds me to loosen up more with my writing. I am always afraid of grammatical errors showing their ugly head. Thanks for the laugh and heartfelt "ode to all dogs - but especially yours"!

Amy H

Heather Froeschl said...

Aww! First you get me all sad and sentimental...So sorry about your two losses, I know how that hurst so badly....then you get me all happy for you and Motley. You should work at the shelter! You'll have an empty dog run within days, convincing everyone they have to have a dog.

I wonder if Frou-frou dogs can be trained to use a litter box? I think cats are smarter in that respect. sorry!

Great post Debi!

colleen said...

Excellent writing. I think you should call him Big for short.

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Thanks Colleen. We now have more names for him. We've added Boondoggle and Crew-button.

erin said...

uh, i happen to have a lap-dog.but i have to admitt, her brain my be even more under developed than Motley's.