What the dog thinks.

Yesterday the dogs ran away.

Now, don’t get all panicky. This is not a new thing. Those damn dogs run away at least three times a week, or, if I rephrase it to sound more like the truth, every damn chance they get.

Why?

I ask this every day.

I mean, they have everything a pooch could need within paw’s reach in our yard –all the sticks to chew on, all the mud and poop they could possibly need to roll in, a stock dam for swimming and drinking and splashing, plenty of squirrels and turkeys for chasing, a big moon to howl at and a nice warm basement for sleeping if they just scratch at the door.

But, apparently that’s not enough.

Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, that’s never been enough.

The snacks taste better at Mom and Pops’.

Or on the highway where construction workers are dropping sandwich crumbs.

Or at the neighboring oil site where they might land a steak, a night on the soft cushions of a camper or a shot at getting into the building where the lunches are stored.

You’ve heard this before. Since we’ve moved back to the ranch, all we ever do with these damn dogs is look for them. Go and get them. Cuss them and then load them in the back of the pickup and bring them home.

Someday we will build a fence around the yard so they can’t get out, but first, well, we need to finish building our own house, dammit.

But this is all besides the point. Because I’m having a moment here. A confusing moment where my annoyance at my wandering four-legged friends is mixed and muddled in with something else.

See, when I brought these dogs to the ranch three summers ago, all of us, humans included, didn’t quite know where we might fit in. The pug was pleasantly blindsided by the transfer from sidewalks to dirt trails, having only been alive and under our care and management for a little over a year, but Big Brown Dog, the lab I bought for my husband a month after we were married, had been with his crazy couple for a long series of misadventures and these days, I can’t help but wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

I mean, when I brought him to Husband, the poor guy’s little paws barely hit the ground before I disappeared for a two-week tour and he was alone with a tired man who smelled like oil and ate an unhealthy amount of Dinty Moore portable meals. He must have been terrified. puppy on bootsI look in his droopy brown eyes and wonder what a dog like him has thought of our decisions through the years. I mean, we have never been a married couple without that brown dog at our feet, so if I could ask him, I wonder what he’d say?

Would he thank us for adjusting our lives around him? Would he appreciate that we searched longer and paid more for the only decent duplex with a yard in town that would allow dogs?

What would he say about our long jogs along city sidewalks and the only time he ever showed his teeth at a stranger? How would he explain that? Would he say he was protecting me?

What about our fights in the kitchen, the ones where I said he was wrong and Husband said I was too emotional and I threw my hands in the air and slammed the door, leaving the brown dog laying on the linoleum and my husband shaking his head. Would he say we were crazy? Was he wishing to be let out and away from the tension an animal like him can sense for miles?

What’s it like when it’s so close to him?

And what about the night we left him alone and he destroyed one of our good pillows, leaving a sprawling feather explosion covering every inch of the apartment and every inch of that brown dog.  How would he explain that? What possibly overcame him? Was it for fun? Was that pillow threatening him somehow?

Oh, and our movie choices. Yes, I’d love to hear his opinion on sitting through an argument between vampires and Ryan Gosling. Somehow I think that brown dog would pick neither and then ask if maybe there’s room for him on the couch between us…all 105 pounds of him.

And all the times I cried so hard, out of frustration or sadness with only him to know what it’s like to see me so vulnerable. I don’t have to ask. Even if he could, I know he wouldn’t tell.

Then I would want him to tell me about the time he heard my song come on Husband’s iPod when I was away and he spent the entire duration searching the house, searching for where my voice was coming from, whining and wondering where I was.

Hondo the Big Brown Dog has a gray beard now. This is what I’m saying. He’s seven years old and these days the years are showing themselves a bit louder in the creaks in his joints and the slow way he rises from his spot at the foot of the steps in the morning.

Last week, after a particularly long journey away from home, Hondo’s attempt to jump in the back of the pickup left him tipped over backwards on the scoria driveway with a shaken confidence and no desire to attempt the feat again.

So I had to lift him. The day came when I had to lift him.

I tried to tell him that he’s getting too old for traveling so far from home. I tried to ask him why he wanders.

But to our dogs our voices are muffled, words cloaked in nothing but the emotion they can feel radiating from our bodies. I knew he couldn’t answer. I knew he didn’t understand, the same way I cannot understand what it is that he’s looking for when he roams.

I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway and I suppose I know what he would say.

He would say he’s a dog. My dog.  And sometimes a dog just follows his nose, the same way, sometimes, his human gets in that car and drives away.

We all need to see what’s over that hill, he’d say…

And then he’d thank me for the lift.

The 105 pound heart


If you were the lab with your sleek coat and paws that make tracks like a wolf in the mud, your tail would clear a coffee-table with one sweep while running to the door to enthusiastically welcome the neighbors with an accidentally and completely oblivious swat to the groin.

And you would be confused as to why you didn’t fit on the couch, or on a lap, or in the arms of your favorite human, but nothing could keep you from trying.

Because if you were the lab your self perception would be slightly off. In your mind you would be fluff, weightless and wishing to fit in the palm of a hand, or in a pocket, or on the soft cushion of a chair all the while working to squeeze your body between the small spaces of this house, taking up the limited carpeting available for walking.

But if you were the lab you would be polite and move out of the way when prompted, not recognizing that perhaps you are indeed fluff after all…and the rest of the 105 pounds is taken up by your heart.

Because if you were the lab your heart would have to be big enough to fit in the one-eyed pug who came into your life as a little black, squishy blob with two eyes that couldn’t climb the stairs and quickly took over the house and the walks and the yard and the lap that used to belong only to you.

And your sticks. He would always be taking your sticks…

while biting at your back legs.

And yes, if you were the lab your 105 pound heart would give a nice growl, but never a snap, after the 330th time the cat bit your tail and you would attempt to protect the barnyard with enthusiastic barking, only to follow it up with head rubs and giant licks and tail wags and all of the things dogs that love their world do when approached by good humans.


And you would chase deer and pheasants and cows when told a million times to back off to go home, but you would avoid porcupines at all costs, forever remembering the single quill you once had barely dangling from your snout from the first and last encounter with the prickly demons. 

And in the depths of your slumber when you’re drooling from your floppy lips and your droopy eyes are closed up tight for the night, you would have nightmares about this, squealing and whining and moving your legs as you lay on your side.

If you were the lab you would drag out garbage, and bring home dead things and roll in poop and bark up trees and almost spontaneously combust at the site of your person putting on tennis shoes or boots or grabbing a gun or hitching up the boat for a trip to the lake.

You would be four years old with a gray beard and the softest ears and joints that seemed to ache when your old soul arose and you would howl at my harmonica with the same vigor you use to howl back at the coyotes at night…

and during the course of a day your 105 pound heart would fill up, combust and be broken 175 times.

Yes, if you were the lab all of that love and life and adventure you made room for in the 105 pound heart of yours—the pug, the tolerance and acceptance of the cats, the cow poop, the neighbors, the sticks and the fear of the sting of the porcupine would be incomparable, thrown to the wind, forgotten and completely and utterly abandoned at the first site of water….

…water, the only place you, the lab, is truly weightless…

…105 pound heart and all.


Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the pug

You know when your husband nudges you in the morning and so sweetly says “time to get up” and  you barely open your eyes enough to squeek pathetically back “I don’t wanna” and then in a huff roll over to finish that dream about Matthew McConaughey?

And then your alarm goes off, but not loud enough for it to rouse you from your coma and most definitely not loud enough to prompt you to throw the covers off and take on that meeting you so bravely scheduled for 8:00 am.

So when you finally peel back those eyelids you panic as you notice that you have exactly three minutes to shower, feed the dogs, round up the cats, find your pants, tame your hair, make the coffee (because coffee is essential) and drive thirty miles to town.

And in the frantic search for your pants, you curse your compassionate heart as the baby kitten you so gallantly saved from an immanent death, in her desperate plea for attention, attempts to climb up your exposed leg drawing a fair amount of blood as you dash to the basement for the laundry you left in the dryer.

Then on the way back up the stairs one of those hornets, (you know what they look like) the ones that have been threatening to swoop in from the sky and sting you all season, finally makes good on his promise and smacks you a good one right on the bare, pant-less, ass.

Yup. Not even on the nice fleshy part you have been growing all summer with beer and hot dogs and fried things, but the underside, the tender side that never had a chance.

And it stings. Oh lord it stings.

So you whimper a bit, and hold your hand over the violated flesh and stop only to find the little bastard and squish it in all your rage…

But you don’t have time to cry. Or to find ointment.

You have to get your pants on dammit…

…and round up the herd so you can bring home the bacon.

Yeah, I may have had one of those mornings…once or twice….

And I would take this time to complain, but it could have been much worse.

I could have been the pug.

The pug, whose passion is too big for his short, stubby body and who curses the day he was put into a stumpy dog outfit with short legs, a curly tail and a nose that has so much to give to the world, if only it were just a little more practically designed…like for smelling.

Or breathing.

But he gets by. No, he doesn’t let his body, which is much better suited for napping than for chasing wild animals around the ranch, get in his way. Because in his mind he is 110 pounds of fierce muscle and pure instinct.

Pure, animalistic, instinct.

See when the people are away, you know, earning the money that pays for their kibble, the dogs…well…

…there is so much to do out here when no one is watching….

Like chase squirrels.

Bark at the horses.

Dig giant holes.

Watch TV.

Chew on my favorite shoe.

Eat poop…all kinds of poop.

Swim.

Roll in poop.

Show the cows a thing or two about who is boss.

Run after deer with high hopes of bringing home a leg or two…

Eat poop…and…well you get the idea.

So while I was suffering through that meeting and trying to balance comfortably on one butt cheek, I imagine the pups were doing all of the above, having the time of times, a day of days, taking it all in so they could tell me about it when I got home (cause they were a little worried about me I am sure, the way I stormed out of the place)

But when I got home….the pug was gone.

But the pug is usually gone.

Cause his best friend lives at my mom and pop’s about a mile down the road and he takes that trek, against my wishes, every day. Sometimes two or three times.

Yeah, he’s in big, big trouble most of the time. So I wasn’t particularly worried as the lab and I went out for our usual walk,  just like the old days when he was the only dog. And it was kinda nice, but I didn’t tell the pug.

Cause he was gone.

Anyway, on my way home it was getting pretty dark and from across the coulees I could hear the pug yelping.

But I wasn’t worried. I figured he was being dramatic as his BFF was playing a little too rough. So I continued on my merry way, thinking about dinner, thinking about my bed, and thankfully, not thinking about my wasp sting. And when I arrived home refreshed from the beauty of the evening, a flush in my face, my lab loyally  by my side, I asked husband if he has seen the pug lately.

Have you seen this guy? 2 feet tall, 35 pounds of pure muscle, black hair, brown eyes.

“Nope.” He replied. Also, not concerned

“Well, I think he’s at mom and pop’s. He’ll be ok until morning. I am ttttiiiiirrreeeddd….and did I tell you that a wasp stung my bare butt today?”

I pulled down my pants to show off the evidence.

“Good Lord,” said husband.

“Good night,” said me.

And we snuggled down in bed proud that we were finally turning in before 11:00 pm and happy that we were going to finally get that full night sleep we deserve.

The lights went out, the pillow went over my head, my eye lids closed, Matthew McConaughey appeared again and….

“Rrriiinnnnggg, rriiinnnngggg…”

Oh shit, someone’s calling. Something’s happening. Something’s wrong. My sister’s in labor (this was pre-baby…she’s not having another one, don’t be crazy). We won a million dollars. We lost a million dollars. There’s an alien invasion….

“Uhhh, hello.” I said meekly when I finally found the phone.

“Ummm, yeah. Hi Jess? Dad here.”

Oh, phew…ok it’s dad. Not the aliens. Now for the terrible, terrible news. What happened. Who do I have to take to the hospital?

“Oh, hi dad, ” I said shakely.

“Yeah, hi. Ummm, well, yeah. You know your little black dog? The little one?”

“Yeah, I know him.”

“Yeah, well he’s over here and he found a porcupine….yeah… a porcupine. And I think he lost. I think the pug lost the battle, cause there are quills all over his face and in his butt. I feel really bad and don’t think I can hold him down by myself to get them out. I think you guys better come over here and help me.”

Now here I’ll admit I experienced a wave of relief knowing that no human was missing a limb and no babies were being born and no flying saucers were coming down to suck out our brains today…

But when the relief passed: Seriously? Seriously? Chug. Chug the pug. What the hell were you thinking?

“Ok dad, we’ll be right over. Sorry bout that. So sorry. Just thought I could get him tomorrow. Oh gosh. Sorry. We’ll be right over.”

After the moans and groans of husband cursing the day the pug was born and giving me a brief but stern lecture on how he was my dog and I should keep a better eye on him and that he just can’t go frolicking around anywhere he choses, he pulled on his clothes and his manly slippers and drove us over to the scene.

Oh, and I was expecting a scene. Because for how much passion and delusion that pug possesses, this was sure to do him in. In my mind pug was going to look like a dog shaped porcupine, quills protruding and spiking out from all angles, the pug limping and gasping and saying his last goodbyes.

But by the time we arrived, my very favorite pops had already removed the quills from the pug’s face and the only evidence of the apocalyptic encounter was left in about 85 good sized quills poked into his butt (I guess it wasn’t the day to be a butt).

And I felt for him as my mom paced back and forth as if this was one of her grandchildren who was enduring this hateful, quill removing procedure. I told mom to keep it together as husband put on his gloves, pops held the pug down and I shook my head and tried to calm the little dog down, pluck after yelp, pluck after yelp, by saying things in my sweet calming voice like:

“It’s ok, you stupid dog, this is what happens when you run away…oh poor puppy, puppy, if you would have stayed home like a good boy you could be snoring safe and sound right now…dumb dog, dumb, dumb dog….what made you think you were going to win that fight…oh poor puppy…poor dog…wish your brain was bigger, wish you would listen…sweet pug, oh pug, calm down…bet you learned your lesson there….puppy, puppy.”

20 minutes, hundreds of deprecating, but sweetly spoken words, and 85 quills later, the pug was free from the pain of his seemingly smart and brave-at-the-time adventure.

And because I thought the situation so grim and the hour so late  and my mind so groggy, I didn’t grab my camera…hence there is little evidence except for the emotional scars and the photos of the actual quills we pulled from the pug’s butt.

He survived.

So, once the pug was released from what he was sure was the end of days, I helped the boys clean up and looked around to find that the little dog had cowered and slunk and sulked his way right up to my mom’s lap. On the couch. In the house where dogs are not allowed. And both had their dramatic, sad faces plastered on.

And as I grabbed him up to take his wounded pride and wounded butt home, I was just a little disappointed that he stole my thunder. Cause that blew my wasp stung ass right out of the water there.

Yeah, sometimes that short little snorty nose leads you up the wrong tree.

And sometimes, just like momma says, there will be days like this.

I guess that’s why God invented band aids.

And moms and dads.

Hope your day was free of stings and pokes.