When I was about to turn 50, my wife and I got a pretty dog from the animal shelter that we renamed Lady, and I thought I was set. I'd get unconditional love, all the licks on the face I could stand, a constant companion. We'd walk in the park; she'd come runnin' when I'd call "Lady, come!"
Instead, I got a little hardhead who only seemed to come around when (a) she was hungry or (b) she wanted to go outside. I'm not talking about going outside to answer nature's call; she just wanted to be closer to nature and farther from me.
Three times in 10 days, she got out of the yard. The first time, I drove out, she saw me, I stopped and opened the door, and she jumped into my lap. The next time, the next day, I had to herd her down a driveway, and she jumped into my wife's van. A hot dog was the lure. The third time, she gave us a merry chase. In fact, I couldn't find her, and I gave up, with the hope that she'd go home. I felt like I was being stalked, so I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Lady racing up the road behind my car.
She wouldn't get in, but she finally went home, again to a hot dog in Holly's hand.
When we got a second dog, a collie named Katie, I started getting more loving. Once Katie came out of her shell -- she was shell-shocked for about two weeks -- she'd sit beside me at the computer. Lady would be in the basement or outside most of the time.
Slowly, though, Lady's behavior changed. She wasn't quite as finicky about her food. Katie would eat just about anything, and Lady would look on with envy, then go back and eat a few more morsels of her Kibble. Sometimes they'd switch bowls, to see how the other half was eating.
Katie's presence has meant more attention. Once Katie started lying beside me, Lady would come around for companionship. She's spent less time in the yard, probably because she had a canine companion.
The whole dynamic changed again when we got our third dog, Buddy. Lady acts as his surrogate mother, and they play constantly.
But occasionally, I get Lady's companionship and full attention ... during a lightning storm. Before Katie, Lady would go to the basement and huddle alone in the corner during storms. No more.
As I write this, the lightning's sparking overhead, and hail is hammering the house. Katie's in her cage, and Buddy's out in the hallway. Lady's in the safest spot in the house, under my desk. Her nose is between my size 14s, in easy petting distance. Sometimes, I have been at the computer during lightning storms, and Lady was in the unsafest place in the house: in the nook between the desk beside me and the file cabinet. It filled her need to be tucked in a den in her pack, but there are plenty of electric wires to fry a 40-pound North Carolina chow hound.
But Lady feels safe here.
If I could figure out a way to simulate the rain (tape recording?), the lightning (strobe), and the thunder boomers (Dolby Surround Sound), I'd never be alone again. Lady'd be right here, huddling between my feet or up against my leg.
Safe and snug and loved.
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More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie
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