Thursday, January 28, 2010

But I’m cute

I arrived home that day I found Murdoch on the side of the road, with him tied to the front seat of my car. Only when I had managed to battle through a flurry of too many claws and teeth to haul him from the back seat into the front and secure him to the seatbelt holder with no more than about three inches of lea-way, did he actually sit still. Then I had a moment of calm thought in which I started to feel sorry again that this puppy had been left on the side of the road. It didn’t last.

I stood on the porch outside the door to our house with the puppy secured at the end of a leash. Since releasing him from the car, his nose had been stuck to the ground conducting an intense investigation. I followed him along the edge of the brownish-green grass, still flattened from the weight of snow that had melted not long before, as his feet trod carelessly over frozen clods of dirt and the air whooshed in and out of his nose at an alarming rate. I pulled him around the corner of the house to the porch and told him to be nice to Bear and Max.

When I reached out to open the door, I had barely touched the handle when the puppy shoved past me and flung himself at the flimsy barrier. The door flew open and banged against the wall while Murdoch ploughed across the threshold and slammed into Bear. Everyday Bear waited to burst out onto the porch when I got home and greet me with a full-body wag, a few snorts, and a little tap dance on the faded wooden slats. Max would charge out behind her, his back end swaying drunkenly while his front marched purposefully towards me, eyes flashing, head poised to ram into mine when I bent down to say hello.

That day, as the puppy became a black tempest in the tiny postage-stamp sized entryway, he crushed that excited anticipation instantly. Bear shrank back from the intrusion as a look of surprise and confusion flashed across her face. Max, a few feet behind her, stumbled on his rickety back legs.

The puppy pulled like a small horse. I knew he was strong, but wasn’t prepared for this surge towards the dogs and found my feet slid easily across the linoleum as he dragged me behind him and jumped on each dog in turn. Bear snarled and snapped, Max tried to get away, his back end swaying precariously as he paced nervously in the small space. The cats made themselves scarce as the wild mop of hair and teeth lunged in their direction. Up until then the cats never had reason to fear a dog. Chestnut took refuge under the couch where he would stay for days.

After striking terror into the hearts of my animals, the very next thing Murdoch did was leap on to the couch, I swear I could see a reckless grin plastered to his face, spiked with a hint of malice. He bounced along its length, then his gangly legs attempted to catapult him onto the back of the couch from where he planned, I could tell, to dive-bomb Bear as she stood beside a bewildered Max. The expression on Bear’s face read something like, “What the hell is that and what is it doing in my house?”

The whole time, in a state of bewilderment myself, I was dragged behind the charging beast at the end of the leash. I finally managed to plant my feet and get a firm hold on the leash, then yanked him off the couch, trying in vain again to use the word no.

Murdoch’s determination to destroy all things that are good revealed itself from that first day. It should have come as no surprise that the couch would eventually be a casualty of his, once and for all putting an end to those happy memories. For a while, Murdoch ate happiness, he sucked the joy out of everything.

The couch didn’t stand a chance against him, not even after he started to mellow enough that we could leave him out of his kennel in our new house for stretches of time. Eventually he started eating it, quietly and determinedly. By then it was already well past its prime and honestly we didn’t pay much attention to it, tucked away as it was in a corner of our entryway. Murdoch made short work of the cushions but eventually seemed to appreciate it for what it was, a comfortable bed to sleep on, which posed a whole slew of other problems. Whenever someone tried to sit on the couch to spend time with him he took it as an invitation to wrestle, as though that was his domain and you had to pass a feat of strength to share it with him. He would throw his front legs around your shoulders and come at you with mouth open, teeth poised to close around whatever got in his way.

Often I would hear grunts and yells from the entryway where Morgan sat on the edge of the couch putting on his shoes while Murdoch slammed into him, shoved him, gnawed on him. Usually it would all be punctuated by Morgan’s voice asking sharply, “Why is my arm in your mouth?”

It always ended with a quaking shout of, “In kennel,” and the clank of the metal door being slammed shut. It was during that time Murdoch perfected the sad dog look, peering out between the bars of his kennel as though he had been terribly wronged.

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