Since I am up and not writing for money, I am going to consider this next post “honing my craft”. That’s what I tell myself I am doing when I am really just randomly writing words until something comes along to distract me, such as my house on fire. Or candy.
I have a pug. He is 6 years old. Not that I know for sure. We have never had a birthday party for him. I applaud those of you who have a “birthday” set aside for your dog, but I have to tell you a secret. Your dog hates you for putting that little hat on his head. He only puts up with it because of the assumed “cake clause” in the party proceedings.
Turk, like every other dog in the universe, loves me for a simple reason: I am made out of food.
I would like to think that Turk is different, since he cost so much money. Kyle and I actually bought him at full-price, so that was a big deal for me. Growing up, my family always went for the bargain discount dog. You know the one: big goofy smile, jumped about 5 feet high from a standing position, usually right onto your face or your crotch. Drooled. Pretended to eat your arm on a regular basis. These were dogs that someone else’s family got retail somewhere and then realized that they just didn’t have the love and patience necessary to deal with. Then, my mom would stroll into the pound, see the opportunity for a great “life lesson” and put our $35 on the table. As long as our dogs stayed outside and ran around the farm doing what dogs do best: looking for large animals with pointy teeth and killing things, they were a good investment for our family. Love at deep discounts, I’m telling you.
When I was on my mission, I developed a much more personal relationship with dogs. Dogs pretend to be mean and scary, but deep down they’re all pretty cool. As a missionary, the dogs’ jobs were always to scare us away. Invariably though, even the most raging barker would turn into a tail-thumping lick-monster as soon as it could see that we weren’t scared, that we weren’t mean and that we were full of treats. This is where I learned to truly love dogs. Not as instruments of squirrel-death, but as individuals who deserve respect and love.
On this particular day, I with Sister Beatty, my brand new missionary. We had been knocking on doors in this beautiful hilly area known as “The Black Side of Town.” It is not a very tolerant place, Louisiana. Most of the people who heard we were going there got very concerned. There were lots of rules, like”Don’t go there after about 6pm,” “Take a weapon,” and “Don’t talk to strangers.” Although I love them for caring, it was pretty racist and totally impractical advice for girls who are trying to TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT JESUS! If you don’t think so, try taking a Colt .45 to church on Sunday and point it at people who don’t agree with you. Not very conducive to a loving, open exchange of ideas.
We were at the end of a long, country road and saw the epitome of country living: A big, dusty ranch house with car parts strewn all over the dirt driveway. There was part of a washing machine rusting out on the front porch. The windows were dark and it felt like the house was just staring at us in pity. In the front, the tour de force, was a big pit bull on a chain.
Now, I have nothing against pit bulls. They are cool. Punish the deed, not the breed and so on. But, when they’ve been on a chain for their whole lives, I think something inside of them snaps. This dog had worn a trench around the tree it was chained to, probably from years of pacing. It had a thick 50-lb steel chain that hung from it’s muscled, yet gaunt body. It’s eyes were unfocused and bleary, and, as it barked, flecks of white spittle flew from the dog’s mouth. It glared and charged me, stopping only as the chain yanked it back from my advancing 5’2″ frame.
I wasn’t nervous. Who’s on the Lord’s side, who? Um, me. Obviously.
My companion, Sister Beatty, was not as convinced. She was a brand new missionary and said sage things like, “You probably shouldn’t touch him,” and “He looks pretty mad.” I just laughed at her, pretty sure that I was invincible and protected by the Lord’s hand.
“Just watch,” I said. “It’s totally fine.”
These will be the words on my tombstone.
I put my hand out, palm up and proceeded forward. It must have shocked his system to have a tiny white girl putting a free, delicious hand out as a snack. He stopped barking, confused. I don’t know. He was probably just lonely. That’s what I thought at the time, at least. He sniffed at me, and I got about 4 inches away from touching his little, angry doggy head. I turned toward my companion, “See, dogs are really very nice.”
At this, he chomped at my hand like it was a cheeseburger covered in dog smell.
I pulled it back, smoothly, just in time to feel the heat from its sticky breath all over my tingling fingertips. The dog went crazy with rage and I turned to my companion. “See, I told you the Lord is protecting us.”
What is brilliant (and more than a little lucky), was that my back blocked this part of the interaction from my companion. All she saw was me almost touching this scary dog, me saying how nice he was and then me choosing to walk away with a big smile on my face. What she didn’t see was that my hand had been micro-inches away from being dog-food and I was so scared that my legs had turned into stilts.
Still, there is reason for everything. She trusted me a lot more and we did some pretty miraculous stuff that day.
I personally think that maintaining all my digits was one of the more miraculous ones.
So, now I have a store-bought Pug. He is a lot different than the crazy dogs I met on my mission. For instance, he is too small to actually kill me, and he gets a lot of love and attention even though it’s probably at unhealthy levels. He gets to sleep in the big-people bed at night and has his own kiosk of toys to fulfill all his little doggy desires. I feed him too much, as anyone who has ever seen him in passing can attest.
But, there is a method to my madness.
I learned a valuable lesson that day that has remained true despite how wonderful dogs are and can be. Regardless of how insane or awesome a dog is, deep down, they always think the same thing: That human is made out of food. It is by this rule that human’s have evolved into what we are today. It is also the same rule that sometimes makes stupid white girls into dog-dinner.
So, the next time you are considering putting an idiotic hat on your dog for his birthday, just recognize that he is probably wondering whether you’d taste more like nachos or cake.
Maybe you’d be safer with a cat.