Caleb the Wonderdog has been part of our family for a month now. I decided last Thursday night that I love him. His disposition is sweet, his ears are perfect for petting, and he is nice to every other dog we encounter. Humanity could take a lesson from my maybe Doberman Pinscher-maybe German Shepherd-maybe Whippet mutt. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if ya know what I mean, but I can take not super academic when it’s coupled with nice. Overshadowed by nice, in fact. I could say the same about people too as far as that goes–that I’ll take nice over genius most days (except maybe for my neurosurgery needs, but I think we know where I’m going with this without my having to enumerate professions where brains over nice is preferred). Plus, despite his person name, Caleb’s a dog, so I’m not expecting him to crunch actuarial figures.
My dog requirements are fairly basic: Come when you’re called, stay off the furniture, don’t pee or poop in the house, let me pet you, don’t chew shit up. I think that’s it. I don’t expect perfection, and I’ve already recovered from the damage inflicted on my dining room chair. Pretty much. Maybe.
I wore a long skirt to work last Thursday, and went to change into my after-work uniform after school. As soon as the weather gets nice (not the straight out of hell kind of hot), my “uniform” is a comfy top and yoga pants. The thermometer tells me it’s still summery, so my early fall/late spring uniform is shorts and a tee. Because Caleb loves me bestest, he is rarely more than an inch or two from my behind. He loves chasing stuff (mostly me but sometimes a tennis ball) up and down the stairs, so navigating stairs with a largeish canine wedged up my butt is an art. I’ve become quite good at it in a month though, and have fallen down more than three steps at a crack only three times. Victory right there, people. The intrigue of the skirt however added layers of complication and an extra millimeter of distance between my dog and my butt. He was crazy with separation anxiety.
Discipline to me has never meant action of the physical variety. I’ve never struck one of my children, nor have I resorted to physical punishment of any animal I’ve owned. I did once smack my little kid on the arm when he switched out my Jelly Belly jelly beans for the earthworm and barf flavored ones, so he’ll tell you I hit him once. But he’ll laugh his little ass off when he tells you about my “abuse” of him because it was hilarious to his 10-year-old self. But the other night, as my sweet four-legged boy latched onto my skirt pulling me forward then jerking me back mid-flight of stairs, I lost my balance. As I fell, I caught his muzzle with my hand on my way down while firmly saying “No bite” to him. (Yes, the fall was everything embarrassingly spectacular you’re imagining and more!) But when I bopped his snout grabbing for the railing, he cowered like I’d never seen him do before, ran away and made himself small in his crate.
It was love at Day 27th sight. In that instant, I saw what his life just might have been like before landing in a Tennessee animal shelter. His reaction appeared so instinctive that it couldn’t have been the first time. I barely grazed him, but I did have my disciplinarian voice on–not a yell, no–but firm and stern, and he ran to hide. You poor, sweet dumbass dog. I love you. It’s official, so stop trying to murder me with your attention. It’s exhausting and sometimes, it’s physically painful.
In the month he’s been in our family, Caleb’s exhibited some quirky behavior. If people behaved like dogs–
Instead of shaking hands or saying “hey” upon greeting someone, we’d walk up and smell other people’s butts or growl, front legs down, butts high up in the air. Yeah, not weird at all. Humans, 1; dogs, 0.
Landfills overflowing with diapers would be a thing of the past, as we’d relieve ourselves on the grass. We’d all migrate to warm climates. I’m kinda outdoorsy, pro-beach and hiking trails and all, but remain deeply dedicated to indoor plumbing. Feels like a “no” for me. Humans win this point as well.
Instead of playing on our smartphones, reading or jogging, we’d chew on rawhide, Nylabones and Kongs. I want my Kong filled with peanut butter, thank you very much.
The show Hoarders would be retitled Collectors, and instead of mountains of filth and half-filled prescription bottles held over from the Cold War era, you’d find one shoe, a balled up pair of socks and maybe a jock strap under your couch. I was looking for that. . .
SQUIRREL! The struggle is real, people.
We’d live in ecstasy when our loved ones returned home. IT’S NEVER NOT THIS EXCITING TO SEE YOU !!! I DON’T CARE IF YOU’VE ONLY BEEN GONE FOR 2 MINUTES, YOU’RE BACK AND I’M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU!
Caleb tries to climb on me–picture a backpack. Now picture a 50-something pound dog lurching at me to piggy-back himself in similar fashion. He chews his own leash. He collects shoes and socks. And cardboard. And baseball cards. And shirts. He is still mastering “sit” and “off,” and when he’s not trying to kill me, I do officially love him. The best thing about him right now though? When my big kid, and by big I mean 5′ 9″ or more of him, plops down next to him, and by plops down I do mean PLOPS down, Caleb doesn’t move. He lets my big kid get down with him on my big kid’s terms, in his less than graceful big kid ways. Good dog, Caleb. You’re a good boy.