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.