“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Those Dogs” Chapter 54
By Bruce Williams
I’ve waited a couple of months to talk about our new dogs so I could get to know their personalities a little bit better—Mavis (named after the girl from Hotel Transylvania), a Snorkie (Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) we got from an old friend from high school whose dog whelped a litter and Clark (he came with his own name and we liked it so we kept it) is a Lab/who knows mix—a rescue we gambled on out of Texas. After losing our Beagle Ruby three months prior (see: “Goodbye Old Friend” from January ‘21), and all of us moping around the shrine we created in our open living area: her leash, a photo album created by our friend Kristy, her ashes, another book titled “Dog Heaven” from our friend Mary, her old collar and leash, a framed picture…
Mavis was only about the size of my hand when we picked her up and brought her home from Olympia as she sat in Olivia’s lap while she cooed over her. She had the place to herself for a couple of weeks, tearing around the house like a posh wig cruising aboard a schizophrenic Roomba. Full of energy and oblivious to her size deficiencies, she would lunge carnivorously at your flesh with her gnawing little teeth, left ear perpetually and quizzically raised—her devilish nature concealed by her innocent gaze. And her tongue…that frenzied flickerer that you might as well just settle in and take because she’s determined to encompass your entire face with its pink, ribbony wetness.
Clark came shy and lanky—rib thin and with a bit of doggy dandruff that we quickly jettisoned with medicated shampoo and a proper diet. We got him antibiotics for his kennel cough and dispatched that within a week. We pondered over his long legs, whip tail and big paws—taking turns guessing what his obvious Lab half might be mixed with. We still don’t know…I vacillated between Great Dane (squelched by the vet at his first weigh in) or Greyhound—we’ll probably never know unless we 23andMe him. He came a little love-starved—leaning in with his shiny, short-haired long black body and resting his regal head on any of us that he could, anytime he could.
The interactions between the two are the best. Mavis is pure grit—dishing out as much as she gets from the much larger beast; baiting Clark by standing in front of him teasingly with a favorite toy and then taking off like a flash when he goes to muscle it away with his Andre the Giant paw—scuttling beneath furniture she knows he can’t fit under like she’s Pete Rose sliding headfirst into 2nd. They get into trouble together—I found my prized tomato plants chewed neatly asunder at the base; my trellised snap peas used as a cool napping nook. Our new coffee table was sampled by Clark at the corner and deemed delicious, its corner now sadly and inadequately disguised with a dark oak furniture pen. Discussion of removing our master bedroom carpeting has begun, because steam cleaning it every three days isn’t exactly how I dreamed about spending my mid-50’s. They’re in a Mexican standoff in the backyard as I write this, but they’ll be sleeping together on a lawn chair in the sun later this afternoon.
The main thing though—the crux—is the familial transformation. After a tough year of losing a brother, a dog, a big move and Covid, there’s joy in the house again. Sweet, dumb, unalterable joy. My usually emotionally undemonstrative son showers the big one with hugs and “I love yous”. My mother-in-law, who we gained this past year and who heartbrokenly said she didn’t think she had it in her to fall in love with another dog after Ruby, has done just that twice over. Lou’s tears have turned to giggles and my wife and my heavy hearts have been filled to the brim with those anticipatorily pure, warm grey and brown eyes.
So as I clean up their hundred piles in my once pristine grass (how can two dogs shit so much?), fill in the holes they’ve dug and remove all the azaleas they’ve started to inquisitively sample, I smile and chuckle at my somewhat OCD tendencies and remind myself to let go more and embrace life’s beautiful messiness. I drive by almost daily the spot on Kersey Way where Ruby got mowed down, and I still talk to her when I’m alone and get misty-eyed, but it’s lessening a little bit every day and that is the glory and the healing power of Dogs—possibly God’s greatest invention and cruelty’s kindest medicine.