Today we share the story of a good dog with a heart of gold. An otherwise great fellow who just made some very poor choices in life.
One after another. After another.
And so on.
Fuzzy memories of our time with Jack the Wonder Dog came back to me after a conversation with a friend about her own pup’s insistence of his right to nosh upon non-edibles. Now, I don’t want to think of myself as the kind of girl who has to top someone’s story with one of my own that-ain’t-nuthin’ adventures. I don’t want to be that person.
But in the case of Jack, I believe I just might have her trumped. With some to spare.
I admit we made some mistakes with Jack. It’s not all on him, the sweet boy. It’s the mid-1980’s, a time of shoulder pads and big hair perms. Bad enough, but that’s not the poor decisions I’m talking about. Married just about five years, the two of us decided it was time to get the party started by bringing in a new family member. By the two of us, I do mean it was pretty much just me. I wanted a family dog. It would be practice, I said, while we’re waiting for the right time for a baby.
Made sense to me. Totally. And still, that’s not the mistake of reference.
Here it is.
So we went to check on a litter of lab crosses we heard about from a friend of a friend. As I look about the hillbilly haven yardscape, I see the weary mom is a permanent outside dog, her thirteen pups are gamboling about in a filthy pen, and flies seem to be enjoying the communal food bowl the most of anyone. I decide there’s no more checking this place out. We’re gonna save one of these puppies.
They are six weeks old.
Right. Bad idea, that. The hard-earned truth is that taking a puppy before eight weeks means the tiny critter misses out on some prime-time learning from their nuclear family. Rather important life skills like bite inhibition and boundaries during play. And even, perhaps, appropriate table manners.
A little Buddha belly puppy waddles over and plops to his side to chew on the Husband’s sneaker shoelaces. What we think is the calmest of the litter is instead just suffering a low level version of a food coma. I lift the goober pup to look into his soft brown eyes and declare our new family member as good enuf.
And so we begin the next thirteen years of finger swiping unmentionable items from his ever inquisitive maw. And running like crazy people into a room every time we heard the sounds of retching as we needed to immediately retrieve the offending item before it was re-consumed for another round of tummy rumblies. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the daily task of lining the kitchen floor with newspapers for the green apple two-step attacks while we’re away at work.
The dog held no prejudices to what went down the gullet. He was greeted so many times with an Oh-Sh**-Jack, that he would wag his tail at the nickname. Not exactly a problem-solver kinda guy, he could impress us with his remarkable feats of gymnastics in his counter surfing.
Your dog just licked the turkey, said my sister-in-law.
No, he didn’t, I replied, wiping it off.
We didn’t always walk in on a disaster of overturned trash cans and empty Esther Price chocolate boxes; it may have been simply a twelve-pack of hamburger buns and a full bowl of water to have him digesting a lump like a boa constrictor with a goat. But then he’d make up for the lack of drama by downing a pork chop bone as sharp as a pointed stick.
A pair of eyeglasses. Cat litter, with or without the kitty snickers. Dishtowels. Carpet. Which is not covered by home insurance. I checked. And mud went down like he was enjoying a good bowl of kibble.
There’s the evening walk when he grabbed a decomposing bird from the sidewalk, crunched once and swallowed the thing. I’m forcing back a gag reflex when the dog himself start to do the telltale stomach heaves. And I’m all, no way dude. You ate it, you keep it. And so he did, saving us both from the sights of Rotting Robin, the Sequel.
Some things, however, went clean through. So to speak. Backyard clean-up duty was like coming across a pirate’s booty. Oh, we would say, that’s where that [fill in the blank] went.
Or hey, how about the time when he was recovering from his neuter when he pulled my birth control pills from the counter. And ate the whole shebang – prescription bag, plastic case and all. C’mon, who does this?
A riddle for you … what do you get when a freshly de-testosteroned puppy consumes a month’s worth of estrogen? Anyone? I’ll tell you what you get. A chance to amuse the staff at the vet’s office.
And not long after, our family grew by one more. Despite the rumors by friends and family, there was no connection to the lost contraceptives and welcoming home our Favorite Kid. I did have the presence of mind to get the prescription refilled, you know.
It was really weird timing, though.
Anyway, along with the baby came new and wonderful things to fill that empty space inside Jack the Wonder Dog. Used diapers were a rare delicacy when left unattended for a split second, as well as food splattered bibs. Socks and toddler underwear went down whole and came back up the same way. Then went back down again.
What was going on in that dog noggin to bring about this need to go all Pica: Level Extreme? This same dog that we were told by no less than three obedience schools to “just take him home and enjoy him.” True story. Jack defied any and all training efforts. So was this just part of what made him charming? Did he simply suffer from a couple of misfiring neurons? And do we take on some of the blame by adopting him too young?
Even more intriguing is how the fella never had an intestinal blockage and made it to a full thirteen years old, just about in line with the average lifespan of a dog of his ilk. We would joke about donating his body to science because there must be something preternatural in his gut flora, but well … when the time came we didn’t think it was funny anymore.
|We found Mr. ScrubBubble later in the backyard.
Well, pieces of him. I think you know what I mean.
But you know what? For every Oh-Sh**-Jack moment, we had tenfold more in yellow dog inspired smiles. Jack never met a stranger; he greeted everyone the same. Hi!, he would say. I’m Sh**Jack and everybody loves me. You will too. He was a warm companion for us for years and My Favorite Kid enjoyed his early childhood with a sweet dog, a loyal fellow who showed a never ending tolerance for a toddler’s horseplay.
I guess we could have wished for a smarter dog, one who wasn’t so motivated to help pay the veterinarian’s mortgage. But I don’t remember feeling like we were missing out on anything.
A dog with a heart of gold doesn’t leave much left to be desired.