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Fellow, dog owners, you might understand that any written account made by a canine family member reflects Charles Dickens observation: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
Because for a dog, that’s it in a nutshell. (Or a dog bowl, as it were.)
Think of taking the dog for a walk, just that one thought, and before you’ve roused your body from your chair, they become a bundle of ecstatic fur and tail, pulsing with the wags and the shakes that show how easy ecstasy can be attained if you have four legs.
Then you decide to leave to run errands, abandoning them at home, and they crumble into a sad-looking mop of desolation. However, once you return home, they leap to the heavens and race to the moon to celebrate.
Keep this in mind as you read this account.
This concerns my dog Bella, a border collie/boxer/pitbull mix and her unlikely suitor, the purebred American Bull Dog BoBoLuke
The account of Bella Birthday Cakes, a service dog
(as told by Bella to Carol Joy)
I first wrote an essay on Ricochet some 3 years ago. It detailed the experience I lived thru of being dumped in a “family-friendly” neighborhood where any and everyone heaped scorn upon me. Long story short: Carol and Mark adopted me after I had a short stay at an ASPCA shelter.
Since those heady days, I have continued my work for Carol as her service dog. She has a seizure condition, and through some unexplained phenomena, I know when a seizure is about to hit and then I assist her. This seems most important to her when she starts to black out going up the stairs, and I pull her to the landing. I get a lot of praise for this, and sometimes half a sirloin steak.
What else does my being a service dog entail? I happily, proudly don my service jacket and go on out with my human into many environments: grocery stores, boutiques, restaurants, doctor offices, and the homes of her friends.
Until the Great Muzzling of Humanity that began an eternity ago, everywhere I went, humans worshipped me. While Carol selected food items, sometimes her back would be turned away from me. Kids would descend on me to pet me or talk to me. On occasion, a toddler would mistake me for a miniature donkey and climb on my back, using the service jacket as a saddle. Often the parents would laugh and enjoy these moments. How those kids would cry when mom and dad took them off so they could leave the store.
Last year of course ushered in such strange times. For a well-trained animal like myself, I reflected on remarks my trainer had made about muzzles. Sarah explained that the only warm bodies that required muzzles were either weirdo-s or else untrustworthy.
But now every place we went, humans were wearing muzzles. Even the children.
This was concerning. Often Carol stayed home from almost everything. I heard her telling Mark “It just makes me so sad to see those masks.” Talk about Dullsville. It was boring.
So imagine how happy I felt this past summer when the two of us went for a long car ride to a new neighborhood. When we got to our destination, I no sooner jumped down from the car’s back seat to the lawn when a large white dog came happily galumphing up to me, carrying in his mouth a bone.
He dropped the bone in front of me and slipped into the downward dog posture. “What good manners he has,” I thought.
Then I could think nothing at all. My reality became a flash of our bodies racing in and out of the shadows of some huge oak trees and pines. We were dizzy with our showing off for each other, touching muzzles, and sorry Dear Readers, no delicate way to say this, but also sniffing butts. We ran jumping up and over and under each other, grinning like the world was made of bacon and dog treats.
When we finally both dropped to the grass, almost in total exhaustion, I heard Carol say to her new friend Cindy, “Well, we’ll have to make arrangements for tomorrow, Cindy, because my driving two crazed dogs home to my place in my one small Prius could be way too much to hope to do safely.”
So I assumed this meant that the white dog, BoBoLuke, and I had a play date scheduled for the following afternoon.
So consider my confusion, when that very next day, Cindy stopped over, bringing not only her dog, but his leash, a large dog bed, and a box of canned food.
Clearly this was not another playdate, no matter how you looked at it.
I confess in terms of the new household member, I forgot my manners. In my defense, wouldn’t you forget your manners altogether if somehow, without explanation or being consulted, you suddenly found out that what you thought would be a second playdate turned out to be an arranged marriage?
Just as terrible a development, both my humans now fawned over BoBoLuke. “You’ve had a rough few days, but you’re on the mend. When Cindy first found you, you were draped over her front yard sprinkler, letting your body get wetter than heck. To think it was 103 degrees that day! You are lucky you are alive, Big Guy!”
BoBo played it all up, looking helpless and sickly, every time they so much as glanced at him.
He made such fools out of them, they ended up giving him half my blankets for his bed. “You don’t mind sharing a few things with your new friend, do you Girl?” asked Mark. I turned tail and indignantly stalked off to my fortress cave between the side table and the couch, to think things over.
When no one was around, because they went out to the front yard to bathe BoBoLuke, I snatched up one of my “donated” blankets and took that bit of security back to my cave. Then I spent much of the weekend, alone and sulking. The problem needed to be figured out.
It was so discouraging to realize these humans were not at all as I believed them to be. I should have figured this out long ago. Why did I ever consider either of them to be Alpha Leaders of the pack? Why didn’t I know better? I had so often considered them to be Alphas, but as any dog knows, in any Alpha canine family, the parents allow their daughter to decide on the mate of her choosing. The parents might make introductions, but they don’t determine the matter!
I also remembered that time Carol had been throwing a tantrum at Mark, and he came over and faced her saying, “My Hands are Up!! Don’t Shoot!”
Clearly not the way an Alpha Male behaves, I knew, to be submissive like that. And rather than Carol insisting on winning her fight, she tossed a dishtowel at him and began to laugh.
They were sick. Really sick! It was surely a good thing I had no intention of having any puppies with this new “Big Guy” because I would not want such human wimps around me helping to teach the puppies a single thing.
Another indication I had of Carol’s lack of Alpha was that phone conversation she’d had with her friend Marion. What a sorry revelation that had offered me.
“So, Marion, you know that lady Dee from the health spa, who I had talked about before? The woman who is so standoffish and cold. Wouldn’t even say Hi back when I said hello to her?” Here Carol paused, to take a sip of an iced tea. “Okay, so lately she has come around. But you will never guess why.”
Marion made some comment or two on her end of the phone. Then Carol continued: “So what happens is that this Dee woman swims over to me when I am taking a break and leaning back against the edge of the pool. She starts acting very friendly and remarks on how nice it is that the pool is mostly deserted. Then Dee asks me what has to be an important question for her. She lowers her eyes and whispers ‘I saw you swimming with that one man, Mark I think his name is. Or maybe it’s Mike. Anyway, I noticed the two of you were sharing a single lane. So I’d love to know this – however did you get him to share a lap lane with you? I’d ask him myself, but he is always lost in thought when I see him alone.'”
Marion again made a comment or two, and I couldn’t hear her words, but she sounded intrigued.
Then Carol replied, “Marion, at first I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. But then I blurted out: “I married that guy Mark! That’s how come he shares his lap lane with me.”
Both women were softly laughing. “Okay, so Marion you would think that would be the end of that inquiry, right? But no! Good ol’ Dee says, and not in a way that she is congratulating me, but more like she’d enjoy snaring Mark for herself, she says “However did you get him to marry you?” The hunger in her voice and face when she asked me that, it made my blood run cold.
“Then I confess that I lost it. I turned to her and rather hissed, “You know how I did it, Dee? I just used the age-old, usual female ploys of deceit and feminine trickery! Like any warm-blooded woman would do!”
So now I am sitting there on my canine haunches, and I realized that the whole conversation had troubled me even as it went down. But now in canine re-play mode, I saw what it had made it so subconsciously disturbing. The whole analysis threw me into my doggy loop of disdain over how disgustingly and utterly hopeless humans happen to be.
I mean, if I were BoBoLuke’s mate, not that I would ever even consider it, big ugly lug of a guy that he is, but if I were his mate, I would not only bare my teeth and growl at any female dog who portrayed herself as my competitor, but then after I bared my teeth and growled, I might lunge in and take out a piece of that competing female’s hide. Because if one’s mate is not worth acting all Alpha over, what would be, I ask you?
An Alpha female must establish boundaries and let’s face it, human Alpha’s don’t bother. They don’t even mark their turf with their delicious female scent, but they flush it down a toilet.
But after thinking these thoughts out, and letting my conclusions spin around in my brain, another side of the Carol-Dee story emerged.
Had Carol used female ploys of deceit and trickery to have Mark pulled into marrying her?
A week before BoBoLuke arrived, I would not have considered either Carol or Mark deceitful. But in light of this recent trick of theirs, of toppling the long-established order of the pack by bringing unannounced, a male dog into my turf, without their taking any of the needs of the Alpha female of the dog world into consideration, well, that trick tanned both my hide and my pride.
So Gentle Reader, you might not be surprised to find out that the very next morning, I succeeded in digging my way out of my yard and into the freedom of my neighborhood. This was something I delighted in doing as a young dog. But once trained to be a service dog, it had been an activity beneath me. But not anymore.
Once out of the yard, I merrily traipsed over to the yard of my friend and neighbor, Woof Weidersein, a worldly and wise German Shepherd. We had once both thought of having a fling, but the cyclone fence always stayed between us.
After I told him my sad tale, he wagged at me and said “They don’t deserve you, Sister, not one bit.” He shook his head and gave me a sympathetic look, complete with cocked ear.
“No, they don’t deserve you, not your humans or this BoBoLuke character. I guess you’ll have to make the best of it, but…” Here his words of wisdom ended abruptly, on account of Mr. Squirrel, but I did enjoy our visit. It was not as satisfying as that last time we’d been together, when we briefly touched muzzles and sniffed butts, but the cyclone fence had made the romance short-lived.
With Woof preoccupied, I began to slowly meander my way home. The first few yards I nosed around in were quite pleasant. Lots of smells, like deer and baby rabbit, and a tiny mostly diminished Eau d’Skunk. (Gosh I hate skunks!) Then I saw a medium-sized truck pull up and park not 20 dog lengths away from me!
As I got closer, I made out the words “Animal Control” on the side panel of the truck. “That’s a joke,” I thought. “After all, we animals have very little control, not even over who we are forced to share hearth and home with. No control at all.” Sadly, thinking these thoughts, I felt my Alpha-ness begin to diminish.
As I passed through a clump of bushes nearer the truck, a loop of wire suddenly tightened around my neck. The same young woman who had looked harmless enough when I first saw her in the driver’s seat now was dragging me off to the back of her truck.
“Oh poop. So that’s what “Animal Control” really refers to.”
I dug in my paws and whined and whimpered but she had the best of me. Finally, I was just inches from the rear of the vehicle and she jumped up, tugged me up after her, then jumped down and slammed the door shut.
Yikes! What now?
In the back of the truck, my surroundings were bleak. I was the only dog in there, so I must have been the control officer’s first catch o the day.
Everything smelled very doggy, and the scent was pungent with fear. Nothing was good about this situation. And it probably was my fault.
“Great,” I thought. “Just great. First, my home gets invaded by a stranger and now this.”
The woman stood outside the truck shouting an address into the phone. Then she said, “Roger that. You’re right. That address for the other dog is five houses over. I’ll head over on foot – with so many tourists here today, there’s not much in the way of parking.”
I realized Animal Control must now be in pursuit of Roxie, a feisty miniature dachshund whose tiny frame easily slipped under the wooden gate at the front of her yard. On other occasions, long ago, whenever I snuck out of my yard, she would meet me under the big shade tree. She could amuse me for a half-hour by trotting along under my belly and then when I turned to lick her nose, taking off like a small racehorse filly, ducking back under the fence and then waiting to surprise me by coming back out.
With any luck, the dog could keep Animal Control occupied while I figured out how to escape.
I began to scratch at the heavy metal door with as much energy as I could muster. Then I body slammed the door, using every ounce of my 61 pounds. I knew in both my head and my heart it was a lost cause. But a well-trained service dog must never give up.
As I continued to do a few more body slams, I thought of my humans. They now spent so much time slobbering over BoBoLuke, I knew I couldn’t count on them to realize I was gone. The chances they would come to find me were slim.
I felt my eyes beginning to water. I was glad my trainer Sarah was not able to witness me starting to cry. She would be disappointed, because a well-trained service…
So I tried one more time. I gave the effort my all. And a miracle happened. The door sprang open. I toppled to the ground, hitting the dirt hard. But I was happy! So happy!
For a moment I saw stars. As they cleared, I looked up and I was looking right into the rather shy, rather elegant head of Mr BoBoLuke. He seemed very pleased with himself.
“Thank you!” I wagged. My right ear lifted up and folded in half as it always does whenever I am questioning reality. How was this possible – that BoBoLuke was my hero? And that apparently he cuts a handsome figure and he smells quite Alpha, and
“How’d you pull this off?” I wanted him to tell me.
“However did you get that prison door open?”
BoBoLuke just grinned at me. He nudged at my nose and mouth and he stated, using his eyes and the wrinkles along his nose, to tell me: “We can talk about my heroics later. Right now we need to high tail it home.”
So anyway that is somewhat the story of how I became one half of a loving couple.
After all, BoBoLuke proved to be sweeter than I gave him credit for, and also smarter than he looks, as well as caring and determined. Don’t get me wrong: I remain a modern-day female service dog. I’m not yet agreeing to any marriage, as things might still need to be made clear on both sides of our story.
And for now his doggy bed and mine are still separate beds, if you know what I mean. But I think I’ve accepted my home is his home, I really do.Published in