Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not such a ruffian

“Is he a big suck?” asks the man behind the counter.

For a minute I am not sure he is talking to me. I am distracted by the fact that Murdoch did not start barking angrily at my back as I walked away from him and is not currently causing a scene in the parking lot.

I glance out through the glass door at my car where it sits at the gas pump, the passenger side window open just enough for Murdoch to stick his big head through. He stares at the building into which I have disappeared, his bottom teeth visible as if he is in the middle of saying something rather important, his brown eyes wide with mild concern.

How odd, I think, pondering the normalness of my dog at this moment. I very much want to reply, “Yes, he is.” But I can’t.

“Sort of,” I answer the man, thinking about how Murdoch likes to lay his head in my lap sometimes or lean against me when I am sitting at the computer, but then how it all usually ends in growling and sometimes bared teeth. And he’s really not very good with strangers at all.

“He kind of swings between big suck and I’ll bite your face off,” I elaborate.

“He looks like he could,” says the man with a laugh.

“Yes,” I say, wondering if perhaps I was too harsh. But it is not often Murdoch is out in public and I want to make sure we are all on the same page. I want people to know that my cuddly-looking dog will not delight in being approached by a well-meaning, dog-loving person, and I want people to know I have no delusions about what a well rounded, wonderful canine he is. I am not certain at all that Murdoch won’t bite. It is best just to lay that out for people.

But I am taken aback by this man; I have never had anyone ask me if Murdoch is a big suck, and I really wasn’t prepared with an answer. That was the kind of language reserved for Bear whose big black shape would loom inside the car while she looked forlornly out the window or jumped into the driver’s seat and honked the horn while she waited for us to return. No one had to ask if Murdoch was a big suck because he was usually throwing some kind of tantrum in the car, bouncing off the windows, barking intimidatingly and showing off his giant jaw with all those sharp white teeth while Morgan and I pretended not to know him.

As I look at Murdoch through the window of the store, I try to see him from someone else’s eyes, someone who has not wrestled for their life with this dog, someone who has not been dragged face-first down the road behind him in hot pursuit of a truck, someone who has not had to apologize to family members and friends when he has growled and snapped at them just for being friendly.

“He misses you already,” says another man who enters the store as the cashier hands me my change. I glance at Murds, then at the new arrival. “He’s whining for you.”

“Really?” I say and then I smile at them and skip a beat because the most appropriate thing to do next would be to comment on what a big baby he is, but in lieu of what I’ve just said I think better of it and instead stick with, “Huh. Weird.”

Not so much weird that he is whining, but weird that these two people have both taken the time to comment on my dog and I am not trying to deny that he is mine or explain, “Well, he’s a rescue,” to a series of understanding nods.

Perhaps, I think, as I head back to the car and pat Murdoch on the head, there is hope for the big suck after all.


  1. LOL... it is always so funny to read your Murdoch posts, they ring so true. Never imagined I'd love a dog that I'd also be constantly apologizing for. It's an odd thing. And I can also relate to the comments from strangers. That has happened a lot actually, people will comment, "Your dog is so well behaved." And I typically respond by staring at them slack jawed, stunned into silence. When Lady is not being a psycho dog, she does appear remarkably well mannered. And I have to acknowledge - she is so much better than she used to be. But I think once you've lived with a dog like this for awhile, you are sort of automatically on alert for some sort of social catastrophe. Positive comments catch you totally off guard.

    Speaking of catastrophe... the other night when I Iet her out front to do her business, right before bed, heaven help us, the renter wandered into the driveway at that exact moment. After a few dreadful moments of what sounded like a junkyard dog going after some intruder, punctuated by my hysterical yelling and clapping and screaming her name... she came back! I couldn't believe it!! She barked out a ferocious warning to the "intruder," (who, thank God, is a "dog person"), and then came back. I was so relieved, and proud of her. Anyway, love these Murdoch stories. Haven't been on blogger in awhile, so I was overdue. :-)

    1. Hi Brenda! I haven't been on blogger in awhile myself. I love reading your comments. I can so picture your "intruder" episode with Lady. I am right there with you, yelling hysterically and clapping my hands. I'm not sure if Murdoch would have returned to me in that same situation, but he has surprised at times, so I guess there is a possibility. But you're right, living with dogs like these do make you think differently, always looking for the next "catastrophe". And it is such a relief to have people around who are dog people who don't freak out when your dog acts like a dog on overdrive.

      So nice to hear from again!

  2. Just back again after the holidays - spent some time up your way, and was in HEAVEN with all the snow. Am going to have to catch up on your last several posts, see if I've missed any snowy woods photos or posts. I am intrigued with the title of the post "a new face." Maybe a new furry family member??