Friday, October 15, 2010
The Great Animal Experiment
Well, it took about a week.
Donna was visiting relatives in Pennsylvania and mentioned that one of her aunts wanted to give her a dog. This was not the first time that she had expressed her interest in giving Maggie a play-mate. During a visit to Petco a couple of weeks ago, the people from the animal shelter were all there with their pets, trying to coerce shoppers to look into the dejected, homeless eyes of their four-legged friends and "adopt" them, either for temporary care or, hopefully, permanently. Donna picked up a small Lhasa Apso, cuddled it, and said, in front of everyone standing there, "Wouldn't he and Maggie go good together? Can't we adopt him?"
Sure, make me look like the heartless goon, I thought. As everyone stared, waiting breathlessly for my response, I looked into his eyes. Yes, he was cute. No, I did not want another dog, temporarily or permanently. My non-answer was answer enough, as Donna put him down and trudged through the Petco aisles, crestfallen.
As she and her cousin Marlene made their way back from Pennsylvania, Donna called me to let me know where they were. But when she ended the call by saying, "Don't be mad at me", I knew what she had done. Within a couple of hours, Maggie wouldn't be the only dog in the corner house on Scotland Drive.
Ellet Meat Market, while I chewed on my vegetarian beans and hummus. And now she was going to taunt me more by bringing another strange animal into the house!
He's small. He's white. He's a full-blooded West Highland White Terrier. And in his face, he looks identical to Yinny, our dog of the past 17 years. That freaked me out. I'm not sure if it was the anger at Donna or the lack of sausage and asiago cheese, but I basically ignored him. And he knew it. Yes, he was cute, but I had done enough for animals this past month. "We'll keep him until I can find him a home," she said. "He's been neglected."
Hell, I've been neglected! What about me!? I'm ravenous! My withdrawal symptoms are acute. I need to make eggs with a heaping amount of cheddar cheese on top of them. I need chili con queso. I want cream in my coffee. The synapses of the brain begin to disintegrate without the healing elixir of bacon. If I eat one more legume or ingest any more soy, my LDL levels will plummet to the point of putting me into a salubrious, catatonic state. Good grief, if I don't have a bratwurst soon, there may be no turning back.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I could feel my rigid composure towards him soften. The people in Pennsylvania had called him "Happy", but we thought that was dumb. Driving to my photography class later in the evening, I began to think about names. I thought that we at least should name him after his Scottish ancestry. "Haggis" or "Rod Stewart" seemed inappropriate. But naming him after something connected to single-malt scotch seemed brilliant! I lean towards the distilleries in the Islay region, so why not "Izzy"? Donna loved it. Yet during class, I continued to ponder why it was that I was even thinking about a dog that I wasn't going to keep.
Soon, I was taking both Maggie and Izzy out in the morning as Donna slept. As I'd read the paper in the morning, he'd wander over to his food bowl, gobble his breakfast, and then lay on my feet. I noticed that he'd become much more comfortable around Maggie, and she, him. I also noticed that Donna seemed to be making a limited effort in finding him his permanent home. For some reason, I wasn't surprised.
Last Thursday, Donna decided to take him out to the backyard. She also decided that she'd do this without putting him on a chain. Bad mistake. I was standing in the kitchen inhaling some Brazil nuts when I heard the pleas for help! He took off past the deck and down the poison ivy-laden hillside that bottoms out on to Newton Circle. Donna was in her bare-feet screaming at him, clutching on to tree branches in order to help guide herself down the hill without tumbling out on to the street below. But it was a waste of time. Izzy was vapor. So I went flying through the front door, around the hillside, down Newton Circle and on to Newton Street. Cars were flying by and school buses were roaring past filled with students as Izzy ran at full-gallop up Newton. I took off after him, thinking those short, knobby legs were no match for my now healthy, detoxified body. But a diet rich in pinto beans and broccoli provided no advantage, whatsoever. Every time he stopped to turn around and look at me running towards him, he'd turn and sprint even faster. I screamed his name as a bus came to a screeching halt in front of him, but nothing worked. I even yelled "Happy" at one point, but that day he was answering to nothing. Racing two blocks down from Newton, I'd get close to him as he stopped to urinate, but he'd only dash in another direction as I approached.
Later that evening, as I unleashed the contents of a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, I glanced towards the base of my leather rocker-recliner, and there he sat, staring at me, again. I stared back. "Tired?", I asked him. "I am". He continued, transfixed, peeking at me through the white fur in his eyes. Suddenly, for a brief moment, I was back at our apartment in Manassas, watching Yinny eat a treat as we watched the Winter Olympics from Lillehammer. Then, I came back to my leather recliner. And for some reason, without knowing why, I tapped the top of my thigh and said "C'mon". That was all he needed. Izzy was up in my lap, curled around me and my Punkin Ale. Donna stood in the kitchen making herself a hamburger, smiling. I knew right then that Izzy wasn't going anywhere. "I'm gonna murder you, Donna," I said.
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net