Saturday, July 20, 2013

Teddy Claims His Place

Here is my weekly blog post, delivered with trepidation. For it offers no insight into the Israeli-Palestinian situation, gives no definitive take on the Trayvon Martin case. Instead I am writing about a dog. A new dog in my house named Teddy.

Oh, fine. Teddy, said my daughter in the back seat, acceding to the younger sister's suggestion for a name. We were driving to a town along the southern border with Massachusetts where the puppies were waiting.

A little background: We are not dog people. My wife and I have resisted a dog for the well-known factors involved: time, money, chewed up and wasted clothes, shoes, lives, as it seems to us. We have children, three of them, growing up fast, but still consuming our attention as it is, along with chickens, sheep and oh, yes, jobs. Who needs or wants a dog? My daughter. Who has not stopped pleading and worshipping a wristband she received from some charlatan at a wedding who said it would not fall off until she received her secret and most ardent desire. Which was? A puppy. At a basketball game this winter when she was crying on the bench before the start, I walked over and was informed by the ref that players could not play with accouterments on the wrist. And she refused to have the ragged slip of fabric cut off because the puppy had yet to materialize in her life after two years. I untied it and retied it around her ankle and the game was allowed to commence. But I knew we would have to bite the dog bullet.

And so we drove three nights ago through a landscape of scrub woods which I have come to recognize as prime domestic pet breeder real estate after our purchase of a cat four years ago from a trailer parked in similar terrain. It had reeked - animals and generations of New England backwoods survivalists coexisting in a jumble of plywood and dilapidated possessions. We love Jink, one of the best cats ever. But Jink and us were about to receive a new addition to the family.

The house did not disappoint. Located a mile back from the road on a rutted and washed out drive cleared by backhoe, devoid of bark mulch. At some point there was a fork in the trail. Up the hill in two different directions. Two gentlemen on dirt bikes, practicing for the last days on this moonscape, were parked under the spruce. I asked them if they knew anything about puppies.
Puppies? Never seen them, they answered. We drove on, choosing the right hand fork. And then, at the top of the hill, behind the last pile of uncleared boulders, was the log house, maison Swiss Family Hardscrabble, behind a leaning plywood barn failing to contain several pick up trucks flying Confederate flag decals, and other rusted hulks of one kind or another.
A mixed pack of hounds surrounded us, one of them poking his head through my window, baying for us to come out with our hands up and some treats. After some awkward moments, dim shapes appeared on the porch of the house, two largish people, one man and one woman. The woman leaned over the rail.
They don't bite, she said at last. I popped my door and stepped out, testing the veracity of her assertion, and my daughters followed me up to the house with the dogs at our heels, one particularly friendly mutt thrusting its wet muzzle at our hands to be petted. Turned out she was the mother.

Teddy and siblings were the cutest bunch of butterballs, flopping around at our feet and vying for our affection. The girls fell in love with the smallest pup, and the mother took it aside and straddled it, seeming to swallow its head. It looked like bonding time before we took him away.

So far we have survived. It has been two restless days and three sleepless nights. And we struggle to find the right routine and mix of tenderness and sternness that will yield a perfect and well-mannered denizen of  Hope Mountain Farm. But Teddy, a needy and uncertain yellow fur bundle, claims his place, and our lives will certainly never be the same.

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