Tonight I’m without my little dog, and I hardly know what to do.
In the almost 10 years that I’ve had Baylor, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been away from him when it hasn’t been a drive-by-push-out situation at Nana’s house* on my way out of town or because I had a long day planned and figured he’d be happier barking at shadows in her backyard than watching the nefarious activity on 3rd Avenue from my city apartment windows.
This morning was a drive-by-push-out situation, not at Nana’s, but at his awesome doggie daycare where they know and welcome every dog*, with the intention of this dog mama having a fabulous evening out in San Francisco, but this dog mama’s lingering cold changed those plans and so here I sit, not at Beach Blanket Babylon as planned but quietly, delightfully doing something for myself…by myself.
*The facility is run a little like a military base: No in and out privileges, no fussing over the dogs, no peeing on the outside bushes (the dogs, not the humans) and all the staff alert each other to each dog’s arrival by Walkie-Talkie: “INCOMING! MIS-ter Baylor!”
Even alone, 10 years’ worth of ingrained reactionary habits as a dog mama cause me to tense or jump at the slightest thing: a dog barking across the way would normally incite Baylor’s wrath of territorial fury and a display of comically intense posturing in the form of warning growls and sharp barks*. The crinkling of a bag would bring him trotting into the kitchen, hoping for treats**, and the jangle of my keys being hung on the hook would induce a hopeful prick of the ears – a walk, perhaps a blissful walk? Only to turn, with a theatrical sigh, back to gnawing his boring bone instead.
*My very favorite: when he barks so hard his front paws jump off the ground, just a little.
I’ve been feeling nostalgic about this dog lately: this pain in the ass, growly, stubborn, hilarious, character of a dog who has frustrated me more than I thought possible and made me happier than I could have known since the day I got him and he howled all the way home in his little soft-sided carrier before making fast friends with his new stuffed elephant and settling into my life and heart.
He’s been the reason I’ve taken two walks every day for 10 years, in sunshine and rain, in inconvenient places (like the middle of the city) and beautiful ones (like mountain trails). Walks that I took when I absolutely did not want to or that started off as a good idea and ended up a disaster when I found my hands overly full with grocery bags or the like and the dog overly tired and had to beg, plead and cajole him to make it, panting and exhausted, just a few more steps so we could both fall into our little apartment at the end of our “adventure” and rest – at which point, inevitably, the dog would get a second wind and I would find myself laughing at his tenacity, throwing his little squeaky toy over and over again, to his never-ending delight.
Little Dog is probably a more experienced metro bus rider than most urban Seattleites: he rode the bus with me in the city, trotting happily to the bus tunnel and hopping right on when the 255 or 311 stopped, just like everyone else (much to the amusement of many regular passengers).
He’s explored all kinds of terrain, from dusty desert trails to mucky mountain ones and every beach we can find on the California coast. He’ll be the pokiest little walker of all time on any weekday morning, but given a fresh route to explore, he’ll blaze a trail like a canine Lewis or Clark.
He is the fierce and feared predator of every squirrel in existence (though he’s never caught one, and his “discerning” palette would probably reject a gamey rodent in favor of a plain old rawhide any day).
He’s the king of his domain and will spend hours upon hours sitting expectantly in a patch of sun, lunging at shadows and twitching his tail just a little, happily, in the meantime, and when he’s through, will slowly melt into a blissful doggie sleep, where I can tell his dreams are full of green fields and squirrels and freedom.
Like most major purchases in my life, I failed to thoroughly vet him before buying him sort of on a whim* from a woman whose story didn’t quite add up** and whose move – the reason she ostensibly couldn’t take care of him anymore – I probably funded, so all things considered, I’ve been lucky he didn’t come with diabetes or hip displaysia or something else I could have in no way afforded at the time. His lateral suture surgery last year to correct a torn ACL was a doozy financially, as was the foxtail in his paw from a failed camping trip the year before, but when I see him running down the beach, chasing seagulls with tongue flapping and wild abandon, I know every cent was worth it for his joy – and mine.
*Justified by the fact that surely I was SAVING him from a less fortunate life, right?
Baylor has probably been a hindrance socially – it’s not prudent to be out all the time when you have a little being who depends on you. His behavior with small children is a major source of anxiety for me, and he’s never quite gotten over the occasional marking (or blatant rebellion, I’m never entirely sure). But he’s my furry sidekick, my little worrywart crawling into my lap when I cry, my daily delight when he comes in from a walk every.single.day and wriggles happily on his back on the living room rug. He has a million nicknames but everyone knows him as Little Dog and his many adventures could fill a book and have filled my memories over the past 10 years with joy and frustration, and love, always love, for my dog who’s as much a part of me as the color of my eyes.
As Roger Caras said,
dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.
I love this little dog, dirty paws and all, and I can’t imagine my life without him.