Sunday, September 25, 2005


Right now we have my sister's dog staying with us for a couple weeks. Her name is Zooey and she's a mutt who looks like a tall, golden fawn. She has deep wrinkles on her forehead that give her a range of expression from puzzled to deeply wounded. Apparently she was abused as a pup before she landed in the shelter and now she is very odd. She's sweet as pie, mind you, and gentle as a lamb, but she is the most skittish thing you've ever seen. Her own farts send her galloping from the room in terror.

So I feel like we are in training to have a baby right now, not just because we are caring for a living thing with constant needs but because of her unpredictable emotional state. Right now she is curled at my feet under the desk but within seconds she could be cowering in the garden, where she has already worn a groove into an innocent bed of impatiens against a corner wall. When we go to the dog park and have a perfectly lovely time romping and gamboling with the other dogs, she will gladly submit to her leash and walk smartly to the car, then often refuse to get out of the car when we arrive home. She looks at you as if it pains her more than she can express, but she makes her 70-odd pounds dead weight and can't even be dragged out of the back seat with her leash. This is very inconvenient when one is on a schedule. She won't eat her dinner unless someone sits right next to the bowl with her. She won't drink water at all unless you are pouring it out of a bottle into your hand. She has a thing for corners, even though she has a perfectly nice doggie bed in our living room.

Yesterday I woke up after a particularly sound sleep and realized I should take her out since it was quite late. She followed me out to the yard willingingly enough, and began the complex morning ritual of offering me her paw (which she always pulls away if you reach for it, as if to say "Psych!") and rolling onto her back to have her belly scratched. These steps must be completed before she can even think about relieving herself. It was going pretty well when I got the bright idea to sit down in one of the plastic garden chairs to encourage her to venture out on her own. But I hadn't counted on the two inches of cold water puddled in the seat. I reacted to the sudden grip of icy wetness on my bum as anyone might; I leaped to my feet and yelped "Ah!" That did it. Zooey, who was not even near me at the time, froze and stared at the person she had once considered a tolerable temporary stand-in for her mom as if I had suddenly become a grizzly bear. As I reached for her with a conciliatory, "Sorry, Zooey! It's not you, it's me!" she bolted into the house, zoomed into the baby's room, and hurled herself into a ball in the corner. When I tried to approach her, she shook like a leaf. She would have stayed there for hours but I still needed her to pee! I dashed into the bedroom, waking David as I peeled off the clinging wet pajamas and scrambled for her leash. As he opened his eyes, I said, "Is this what parenthood is like? Suffering an indignity and still having to think of your child's needs first?" It reminded me of a time that David and I brought Hannah to the playground and in a foolish attempt to mimic a ring-around-the-monkey-bars, I ran smack into one, blacked out for a second and fell to the ground. David rushed to my side, and as I lay there in the dirt seeing stars, I blurrily glimpsed Hannah making her get-away towards the slide. "Follow Hannah!" I commanded.

Zooey can't tell me what she needs, what would make her feel safer or more comfortable. I can't reassure her that her mama will return. All I can do is offer her another chicken snack and hope I'm doing right by her.

1 comment:

The Wades said...

Has Zooey calmed down at all? That poor, troubled dog!