I rescued a dog from the mean streets several months back. Actually, the street wasn’t all that mean, and thankfully, neither was the dog. I often try and pick up animals and people from the streets and highways if they look like they need help. Most of the dogs and many of the people refuse to get into my van, even at gunpoint.
This picking up of people does not endear me to the MOTH, who has ordered me to at least not pick up people. I suspect it’s because I’m not as young and hardy as I once was and cannot fend off serial killers like I used to. I just don’t like seeing people trudging up the highway in extreme heat when their car has broken down. I figure even serial killers need some random acts of kindness.
The dog I rescued became Toby, variously known as The Tobe-ster, Mr. T!, Tobias J. Dawg, Tobias Noblus Oblige, etc. (Our dogs frequently request psychotherapy visits because of their fractured sense of selves.) Not really; as long as cheese, chewies, or rubs are included, they couldn’t care less what we call them.
It was tough at first having two dogs around the house. I use a rollator-a walker with four wheels and a seat- so they are technically two dogs under wheel and foot. I use it to herd both of them if they don’t get out of my way.
I didn’t bring the Tobester home so that we could keep him. He was crossing the street, no collar, happily sniffing the world, when I saw him. I pulled over and called to him. Being the non-suspicious sucker he is, he trotted over to the Cruise and Snatch Van and hopped right in.
As soon as the MOTH and Toby saw each other, they became Bonded Bros and any vote I would have in the matter of a new house guest was moot.
This has given the MOTH the idea that an animal sanctuary on our country property, when we buy it, will be a great idea. A friend of ours, when he heard this, regaled us with the story of a woman he knows who rescues horses. Instead of adopting them out, she fell in love with all 200 of them. It costs $7000 a week to feed them and pay the vet bills.
Well, we can’t afford that.
Sugar, The First of Her Name, Princess of the Bed, Head of the Hearth
Sugar didn’t know what to make of Toby at first. We’re talking five months of his residency and she still doesn’t know what to make of him. She’s been forced to adapt to a foreign body, so to speak, a cabinet minister from an alien country who has a say in how her nation is run.
She plays with him daily, they rough house and slobber on each other and bang chests like two rams in heat. She puts her little butt in the air in a very inviting way. But when Toby tries to accept the invitation, she becomes outraged and pleads a headache. Yet, not five minutes before, she’d been banging her snout into his pudding as if it was a punching bag and she was a boxer in training. She seems to have become used to his corporeal manhood, while he has accepted his eternal state of celibacy.
Toby wasn’t much of a indoor man at first. He was very skinny, had some sort of eye affliction in one of his eyes, and his fur was stiff and dirty. Occasionally he peed inside, usually on the back door at night. When he ate, he was a gourmand with no manners. He still drops hard dry pellets for me to step on around his dish, which he drags onto a rug with a pattern and colors that mask hard dry pellets that hurt when I step on them. I now sweep the rug before I venture into the area where he dines.
At first we fed him with a plastic container, not having tons of nice stainless steel dishes for a second dog. He liked to pick his dish up and find a congenial spot to dine that was not by the washer and dryer. He believes in a moveable feast.
One day, he carried it to the open front door, dropped his dish of food, and plopped down on his stomach to dine in front of Reality Television: Doggie Style.
That day’s episode was like all the others; it had some pedestrians and a few dogs on leashes that walked by. It might even have featured cars in motion. Sugar loves that show and expresses her enthusiasm about it to everyone outside and inside.
Toby is relaxed and very comme le garcon. He is puzzled by Sugar’s ratcheting anxiety at certain things and her outrage at any noise. Motorcycles make her angry, thunderstorms drive her mad; the crack of the storm a few weeks back thrilled us all, but it drove Sugar to run back and forth through the house all night, while Toby merely looked amused. He takes it all in and rolls with it. After six years, Sugar still tries to bite the vacuum, whereas Toby, unused to the machine, would turn tail and find a place to hide at first, but now barely moves when I close in on him sprawled on the floor.
I don’t think anyone ever played with him in his former life, he was too ready to install himself in a dirt hole and stay there. He seemed a little uncomfortable indoors, like a mountain man invited to a cozy dinner after a winter in the hills or Eliza Doolittle before her transformation.
When I ordered a package of Mr. Squeak toys, he spent hours poking one with his snout until he earned the name Machine Gun Tobe. After awhile, the squeaks lost their squeak and became silent. Just listening to the obnoxious squeals of those toys makes you cringe for the small creatures dogs wish they could capture. Sugar will never quit; she caught a rat once and killed it immediately. She also demolishes the Mr. Squeaks. I still have a single boot, the molecule left of one of them.
Toby just can’t get with the program, but it isn’t his fault. He whines because Sugar can catch a tossed squeak in one, but he will never get the chance to beat her at that game. There may be three squeaks lying at angles, looking like a Busby Berkeley routine for chubby rubber toys, and neither dog will resort to another squeak if the other has one in their mouth.
This makes it very valuable, a supply and demand metaphor come to life.
Sugar will trot back and forth through the house, a squeak hanging out of her mouth, looking coyly over her shoulder at Toby. She has discovered what makes the men trot after her and it is something that squeaks.
The squeaks are so desirable, particularly when they still have their squeak noise, that my son has made one into a remote canine control. Toby’s favorite spot is in the bathroom on the tile, lying against the wall. It’s nice and cool there, but the bathroom is a little small, so in order to get him out, my son opens the utility drawer and squeaks one of the still operable squeaks. That moves the canine spirit.
I was in the kitchen and had a small piece of food. I whispered, a mere sigh of a sound, for Sugar to come and get it. Toby heard it and arrived at the same time she did. And he was twice as far away and around a corner in another room.
Jockeying for position is the order of the day. If one comes up to the MOTH for petting, and if his name is Toby, Sugar will push into any opening available and take up a position in front of Don’s legs like one of the lions in front of the New York City library.
Sugar will not abide Toby’s presence for long on HER bed. Yesterday, Toby jumped up there next to his favorite guy, snuggled up to the MOTH’s back with his back, and wiggled around quite forcefully until Don was comfortable. During this, Sugar jumped up next to both of them, sat and gazed down at this spectacle with disdain.
“This is what happens,” she asserts, “when you let a stranger in the house who is one of my species, but is not me.”
All in all, it has been a learning experience. Two dogs are a microcosm of human relationships. No wonder everyone thinks we’re a lost cause.