My dog ate a chicken carcass this week. Andy, our 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier, snatched the carcass from our kitchen counter while my husband and I stepped away for about 30 minutes. When my husband returned, he caught Andy trying to bury the last bits of the chicken in the living room couch. We can’t figure out how he got the carcass — he’s a small dog and it’s a tall counter so he actually had to climb his way up and over to reach his prize. Andy may be old, but he’s still determined, and frankly, he’s smarter than we are.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Over the years, Andy has eaten two feet of sheet rock (he’d sniffed out a baby squirrel that had fallen behind our bedroom wall and then presented it to us in our living room); more than 1/2 pound of gourmet salami, which he consumed in the three minutes it took me to greet our dinner guests at the door (I kept looking under the couch thinking the salami had somehow rolled off the coffee table); and in one legendary episode — please stop reading if you are easily offended — numerous feminine hygiene products, which miraculously did not need to be surgically removed (according to our wonderful vet, June Sailor O’Day, dogs ingest these products with great regularity, but instances are not openly discussed for obvious reasons; this blog dares to break the silence). This brief list just scratches the surface. At one point, I think we were running a tab at the emergency vet clinic.
These escapades are what we’ve come to expect owning Andy and my husband and I don’t care. We don’t care because when we come home, he greets us like we are Lazarus rising from the dead. We don’t care because when we argue, Andy sits between us and waits patiently for us to return to our senses, sometimes nuzzling us to get on with the forgiveness. We don’t care because when we watch Andy run — filled with absolute, pure joy — his pleasure reminds us of the happiness small things bring, no matter what large drama, real or imagined, we might be tackling.
My husband and I have been married for 13 years and Andy’s been here for 11 1/2 of them (we adopted him when he was just 2 1/2). There have been days when given the choice between my husband or the dog, I would have chosen the dog. I can say this because given the same choice, there have been days when my husband would have chosen the dog, too. Andy, and most every other dog on the planet, gives us what we all crave — unconditional love, attention, and loyalty. Plus, he is a very good listener. Andy joins me in the studio every day and he’s heard me rehearse my one-woman show I Will Be Good at least 100 times. He seems to enjoy it.
I think dogs really do feel joy as well as other emotions and writer Larry Brown agrees with me. He’s quoted in a wonderful little book called Southern Dogs and Their People, which I found in our fabulous independent bookstore, The Toadstool Bookshop. The book is a collection of quotes from Southern writers about dogs, and in it Brown writes about his dog, Sam:
He’s an excellent mole dog…We have a lot of fun with him and one of the things we do to him is pick up Pooch, our other dog, a white beagle, and hug him and push Sam back, and before long he’ll perform these incredible leaps four feet off the ground…It’s really enlightening to watch it and wonder about the emotions of dogs. It’s pure jealousy, and you wouldn’t think a dog would know jealousy. It opens up other ramifications, like, do they know heartbreak? And loneliness? And angst? I think they do. I think they know fear and greed and love, impatience and uncertainty.
The Best Kind of Company
My husband and I are keenly aware our days with Andy are growing shorter. He’s 14, for goodness sakes, and while we know Jack Russells who’ve lived to a ripe old age — Josephine, who lived to be 20, and Ruby, who is still with us at 16 — each day with Andy is a gift. Our neighbor, who recently had to put down his beloved 12-year-old lab, Harry, knows the gift well. He and Harry had a ritual, where our neighbor would give Harry part of his toast each morning. Recalling their time together, our neighbor simply said, “I’ve had a dozen dogs over the years, but none was quite like Harry. I don’t think I’ve had a whole piece of toast in 12 years.”
Fortunately, Andy seems to have escaped the dangers that eating an entire chicken carcass can bring and hopefully he can stay out of trouble for a while longer. As I write, however, he sits next to me, stomach still gurgling, gazing out the window at the squirrels, and quivering as he anticipates his next chase.
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