One night last week as we were getting Leta ready for bed we heard Chuck run to the front door where he started barking and growling and filling up his cheeks with air, which makes me laugh because, why? Is that supposed to be intimidating? That he can hold air in his mouth? Really? Because that just doesn’t seem like something that would make me run for my life. In fact, it makes me curious as to what would happen if I poked his face with a stick. I think he needs a better strategy.
We have heard Chuck bark only a handful of times in his life, mostly at our old neighbor, the taxidermist who smelled like raw deer flesh. Once we heard him bark hysterically in the middle of the night, and the following morning we found out that someone had broken into the neighbor’s car. Up until that experience we had been unsure about what he would do if someone tried to break into the house, and had always assumed he’d just fall over and purr. Finding out that he was a dog after all gave us the answer to why he never landed on his feet all those times we threw him off the roof.
As Jon finished dressing Leta in her pajamas I took a look outside to see if something suspicious was going on. Chuck bolted out the door behind me, and suddenly we were confronted with an enormous black shadow lingering behind the tree in our front yard. I let Chuck go ahead of me, and he trotted fearlessly for a few steps only to stop abruptly as if he had just run into a brick wall. His head got low, and then his tail sunk between his back legs, body language that is similar to what happens when we discover the trash he has dug out of the garbage can in the bathroom. It says, OOPS. YOU MUST FORGIVE ME BECAUSE I WAS COMPELLED. PLEASE CONSIDER ALL THOSE OTHER TIMES THAT I WAS A GOOD BOY. WEREN’T THOSE FUN TIMES?
Just then a giant Rottweiler stepped into the light that was spreading across the yard from the porch. I have never owned a big dog, but I have seen horses and this dog was a big as one of those. Mammoth. I have also seen enough horror movies to know that screaming never seems to help, so I took one step toward him. Chuck was still frozen in the exact spot where he had hit the wall, his tail wagging sheepishly between his legs: that barking you just heard? I was kidding! A joke, it was a joke! PLEASE DON’T KILL ME.
The Rottweiler, heavy with his own body, waddled over to me and put his basketball-sized head against my leg. I gave him some love, and he sat down and rolled over to show me his belly. Chuck would not come any closer, certain that this was a trap. He could sniff out his scent from over there, thank you very much. I looked everywhere for the owner but there was no one outside on our street, and so I did what I had to do, lured him inside where I could get a better look at his collar. And Chuck’s reaction to this move went something like this:
Dog. Do I have to remind you that barely a month ago you were in this exact situation, and someone gave you a warm place to sleep? It is my duty to the Universe to return the favor to someone else’s dog, so suck it up and grow some balls. Remember this next time you go on a solo adventure and instead of bringing you inside and feeding you treats someone hacks off your head and mounts it to the hood of their Dodge Ram.
Once inside I introduced the Rottweiler to the rest of the family, and Leta rolled her eyes, like, please, not another one of those, do I really have to look at it? And Jon just shook his head because he knows that I would adopt every dog in the world if we had the space to do it. And also, all the Ethiopians. Which is why I am not allowed to watch the National Geographic Channel anymore. Or buy magazines that feature interviews with Angelina Jolie.
The tags listed a phone number, and while locking my left hand around his collar to prevent him from marking anything in the house I called the owners. I told the nice woman that there was a large Rottweiler sitting in my living room, would she like to come pick him up, or she could wait until tomorrow so that I could snuggle with him for a few more hours. And maybe braid his hair. I heard her yell over her shoulder, “YOUR DAMN DOG IS OUT,” and then she told me her son would be right over to pick him up. Hopefully not before I got to swaddle him in a tiny blue blanket and put him in a stroller.
A few minutes later a large truck pulled up in front of our house, and a young guy, maybe late teens? hopped out. I walked outside and met him before he could climb the stairs to the porch, told him the Rottweiler had been nothing but precious, he should be very proud. Now, I’m going to set this up by telling you that I had worked out earlier in the day and had yet to take a shower or change my clothes. And my hair was pulled back into two pigtails because it’s in that horrible in between stage, Hair Purgatory, where it’s too short to look good up but too long to look good down, and half of it was where it was supposed to be, the other half was haphazardly tucked behind my ears. Like someone had tried to brush the husk of a coconut.
He made small talk for a second, told me where he lived, how long he’d had the dog, and then he made this really startling move, put his left elbow on the porch and then leaned in close with all his weight. And then he took his right hand and pointed at the door and said, “So, yeah. You live here with your mom?” It was less of a question and more of a gesture of sympathy, like, he knew what a drag it could be. And then he raised his eyebrows and motioned his head toward his car. Like he was going to save me. Like we were going to escape. From the hellish prison of youth.
I looked around to see if he was talking to me.
“Actually,” I said, “I live here with my husband.” And then in my head I elaborated on that one part about how Jon is old enough to be this kid’s father.
That’s when his elbow flew off the porch and, walking backwards with the Rottweiler at his side, he mumbled something about how that must be nice. And within seconds he was in his truck and gone. Just like that. And I stood there trying to figure out if that had really just happened.
When I walked back inside I stopped just inside the door, perched my hand at the top of my sweat pants, and told Jon that the teenager who owned the Rottweiler just tried to pick me up, MAMA HAS STILL GOT IT. And that’s when Jon suggested that maybe the Rottweiler was a seeing eye dog.