Saturday, January 16, 2010
What are you looking at?
During my first four years of dog ownership I was completely spoiled. Bear, Quincy and Max, each in their own way, were model dogs. They were respectful, mostly obedient, loving, caring creatures. They were exactly what I expected dogs to be, they expanded our hearts and added something tangible and real to our lives. This whole dog thing was a piece of cake.
But then there was Murdoch.
I have never known a more frustrating animal who could flip my switch from calm and compassionate to enraged and homicidal in the blink of an eye. Murdoch helped me get in touch with places inside myself I never knew existed; deep dark places of resentment, burning anger, and the occasional blind rage.
After a week of endless wrestling matches, punctuated with teeth and deep growls on both sides where someone was bound to lose skin or fur, I wanted to know why the hell anyone would ever want a puppy.
We weren’t sure how old he was the late-April day I found him on the side of the road. From a distance he looked like a fully grown, medium-sized dog. Maybe a Scottish Terrier I thought. It wasn’t until I’d made the fateful decision to stop, as I drove home from work, and called him to the car that I realized he was in fact a gargantuan puppy.
He sat statue still on that gravel road until I patted my thigh and told him to come. He leapt to life then, as though electrified, and catapulted towards me as if by a spring that had sat tightly coiled beneath him.
This black blur barreled towards me, his four massive paws, that looked like floppy socks falling off the ends of his feet, flying in six directions at once. He stopped only when he slammed into my legs. He then proceeded to bounce around me, bucking like a small horse, so I couldn’t really see what he looked like. He made me laugh.
Two minutes later as I drove my car away from the spot I found him and he continued to explode into me, I realized he had the capacity to kill us both. He launched himself at me again and again from the backseat, like a firecracker trapped in the car, all I could see while I drove were close ups of claws, hair and teeth. As I got to know him better I knew if he did succeeded in dragging me with him to the afterlife, he was quite prepared, if not determined, to take the entire world with us.
We figured he was between five and seven months old. I quickly developed the theory that he had been a Christmas present, an adorable little fluffy black puppy with big brown eyes, a scraggily beard and bushy eyebrows. He possessed a great spirit of play that was encouraged. And then he grew, and grew, and he started to take the play more seriously. By the time whoever owned him decided to drive out to the country and drop him off, this cute dog had become a terror of pirana-like proportions.
I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a tiny part of me that eventually was able to identify with that person. The more time we spent with the puppy, the more frustrated we became. He truly seemed to believe the entire world was there for him to destroy. His response to just about everything we did with him was to growl and snarl and snap his teeth at us.
It appeared as though his head had grown faster than the rest of him. He looked kind of like a gawky teenager with his great big square block of a head that seemed just about half the size of his entire body. In that giant head was an enormous jaw absolutely packed full of gleaming white teeth that he loved to show off and sink into things, especially hands and arms and legs.
The only thing bigger than his head was his attitude. He was like a bratty kid whose ambition in life it was to become the neighbourhood bully, then maybe join a biker gang.
He also had huge feet, a sure sign that he was destined to be a very big dog, I love big dogs. In the early days, when I still thought we might be able to make him into a real dog, I excitedly asked Morgan, “How big do you think he’s going to get?”
Within a month, my patience in tatters, my soul bruised and beaten, my arms covered in scratches and my throat sore from growling and screaming at the puppy I asked again, exasperated and pleading, “How big do you think he’s going to get?” There was probably a slight whimper in my voice.
My luck had run out. Perhaps I used up all my good-dog karma on the other three, I was due for a delinquent. Murdoch was delinquent enough for all of them, not to mention every other dog that had ever even thought about crossing my path.