Monday, December 13, 2010

Just a giant puppy

Morgan backs the car up to the growing pile of garbage that looms out of the pit like a wave anxious to crest. Wind slices across the elevated clearing of the local dump as people rush to throw their bags of garbage onto the heap and then jump back into their vehicles, slamming doors against the cold. The two women who work at the dump are hidden beneath thick layers of clothing. Protected against the elements they stand outdoors as though completely untouched by the wintry weather; hoods pulled up around their faces obscure their true identities.

The sun shines down from a clear sky but the icy atmosphere scatters any heat and stings our faces as we pull bags of garbage from the trunk of our car, then sort our recycling into the appropriate bins. The dump is a small one but our visits usually stretch towards the hour mark as we chat with the women who work there, but it is not a day to stand about so we say quick hellos, how are yous, and Merry Christmases as we walk swiftly back to our car.

And then I stop in my tracks as one of the women calls after us, “Oh, I have puppies.”

“Puppies?” I say, turning to watch her walk towards us.

“They’re Rottie, Shepherd, Collie mixes,” she says.

“Ooh, how cute,” I can’t help but exclaim as I smile at Morgan. He agrees they sound cute but with far less enthusiasm.

For a moment the cold is forgotten, I want to hear about these puppies and even though she’s not specifically asking if we want one I briefly entertain the idea of a new dog.

“How many dogs do you have now?” she asks.

“Just two,” I say, then think of Murdoch and add, “But one of them is like having five.”

I know we’re not getting another dog any time soon, but the fact that I can consider the idea without collapsing in a heap and curling into a fetal position speaks volumes for how far Murdoch and I have come.

About five weeks after I plucked the six-month-old hairy beast from the side of the road and resorted to just about begging someone to take him before realizing he was ours for good, I vowed I would never, ever, under any circumstances, have a puppy again. “Why would someone purposely do this to themselves?” I asked Morgan, deflated and worn out and nursing a few new bite wounds after my latest battle with “the spawn of satan”.

Morgan assured me it wasn’t usually like that then reiterated his theory that perhaps Murdoch wasn’t quite right in the head.

Murdoch is three now, we think, or at least closing in on three, and as I watch him sleep in front of the door, peaceful and calm, I can’t believe he’s the same dog. His side gently rises and falls with each breath and his long black body curves in a relaxed C-shape. Four legs run like spokes on a wheel straight from his shoulders to meet at the hub in a jumbled cluster of feet.

He must feel me watching him because he opens an eye and stares back through the wispy ends of a shaggy eyebrow. “Hi Murds,” I say quietly and he curves his back a bit more, conjuring a stretch that travels along his spine, down his legs to his toes. He closes his eye again and sighs.

He looks serene, but he doesn’t fool me. Within that slumbering form lies an eternal puppy, a pushy brat who thinks he should be the pack leader, a bully who gets carried away and always takes roughhousing just a little too far, a thick-headed mule who drags me behind him chasing cars. He still growls at me occasionally and sometimes tries to eat the cat. So, while I have warmed to the idea of getting a puppy someday, at the moment I’m good.


  1. I smiled a lot as I read this entry: you actually seem to think about "owning" another dog, something like Cerebus, a triple-headed beast found roaming a dump. Well, the collie side might be endearing enough. Then the article sensibly falls into warm Murdoch memories and you're back in reality with the scrappy puppy who can transform himself into "a thick-headed mule who drags [you] behind him chasing cars." I smiled out loud at the perfect tone and balanced wording of a singular sentence: "He still growls at me occasionally and sometimes tries to eat the cat." I like that. A heart of darkness in your own living room.

    I am accustomed to responding to words; it's a deep part of who I am. I am trained academically to dig into language and most fortunately I even did that for a living. It, therefore, comes as no surprise to me that I think I'm having a relationship with your words. I am becoming altered by words. You are able to unplug your attention from the various screens within our homes, walk out of the house with Murdoch, gaze at the flow of stars, listen to trees rubbing. For you there always seems to be new stories, with new ways of seeing the lives around you, waiting in the waving grasses, the moving streams, the jumping dog. Keep hearing these new songs, Heather, and keep puting them into words.

  2. I think Murdoch has a lot in common with my "Lady!" The way you describe him sounds so familiar. So sweet when peacefully sleeping, she can just melt my heart. And then she's dragging me down the road, or trying to pounce on Lucy, or roughhousing too hard with Lucky and making him yelp. She's rascally and she's sweet in equal measure, and I love her dearly. Even though sometimes I want to pinch her head off. :)