Last September I wrote about the challenges that come when walking two very different dogs through our neighborhood. The challenges of dog ownership do not end there, especially if your one-year-old monster has non-functioning taste buds.
Two weeks ago, Wendi and I returned home from an enjoyable evening in town. We had a few drinks, ate a great meal, chatted it up with some of our favorite people, and walked through our garage door blissful because we still had a full Sunday ahead of us. Our dreary Monday toils would have to wait as we savored the sublime happiness which can only be described as two contented souls enjoying life together. When people ask me what makes me happy, I think of little moments such as this.
“Uh, oh…” Our moment of joy disrupted, I noticed Wendi looking at her feet. She had spotted the remains of one my favorite kitchen refrigerator magnets. It was rectangular, showcasing a dismissive looking old woman in her bathrobe. She stared out at you from that magnet, both her hands up, each one of them flipping you the great, American middle finger.
“Hope your day is filled with puppy dogs and butterflies,” the caption said. Every morning I read that magnet. Every morning it brought me laughter…joy, actually…no—strike that—exuberance. There’s absolutely nothing in the universe more euphoric than an old woman telling everyone what they can do with themselves. That’s the reason we get up every day and put up with the nonsense which drives us insane at work. We know that one day we’ll be retired. And we know that when that day comes, we can go around town telling everyone where to pucker. You want to know why old people seem grumpy? It’s because they’re not grumpy. They’re free. They’re getting their checks in the mail no matter what they say, and they hung up their decorum badges eons ago. Unable to retire myself, I’ve lived vicariously through that magnet. It’s a little thing, but it was a beautiful, little thing. And my dog pretty much ate it.
Ruby is an enormous, black goldendoodle. When I say “enormous” I mean that she’s not exactly the size of an English Mastiff…more like a full-grown German Shepherd. She’s lovable. She wags her tail constantly, seems to enjoy the company of people—whether she’s snuggled next you on the couch, standing beside you in the kitchen with her front paws over your shoulders, or on top you in the living room with those same paws pressing down into your clavicles. She’s not a mean dog. But she is a linebacker. Nothing made of solid matieral intimidates her (except the vacuum cleaner and a rolled up newspaper…typical dog kryptonite). If I unchain her from the front-yard tether after her morning pee, she repeatedly rams the top of her head into the front door in her attempts to go inside. Every so often I check the upper corners of the walls around the house, making sure her frequent door bashings haven’t moved our home off its foundation, but so far the house seems to hold.
The head-ramming is irritating (there’s the smudge and dirt I have to clean off the door, for one thing) but at least it’s entertaining. If Ruby wants to subject herself to long-term head trauma, I suppose that’s her business. Honestly though, for a dog who has figured out how signal to us that she needs to go out, has learned when she needs to walk into her kennel, and knows when to sit on command, I can’t believe she hasn’t grasped the basic physics in play when it comes to solid matter and her head.
Like I said, however, that’s not the problem. The problem comes when she decides to eat something.
And she eats everything. I swear she’s a billy-goat.
There were, for example, the two low spots in the kitchen walls. She would scratch into the drywall, spread the gypsum all over the floor, and presumably eat and lick every crumb out of sight. Wendi would re-plaster the wall, and Ruby would claw it out…and eat the plaster. I’ve never eaten drywall myself (but I suppose a cup or two of Joint-Compound probably does look delicious…like a good yogurt, maybe), but I remained amazed that the only consequence would be an occasional vomiting session…usually right as we’re about to eat dinner…usually under our feet.
Then there were those foam, rubber earplugs I wore when I put the wood floor in the living room. I spent a full twenty minutes fumbling through every loose collection of tools and rags looking for those plugs. I accused Wendi of throwing them away. But a couple days later we found them in the yard, safely blanketed by a thick layer of Ruby’s poop.
There was also the dishwashing sponge. We keep it tucked onto the sidewall of the sink basin, in a suction-cupped holder presumably far from the reach of our beast. Yet she somehow gets her snout over the sink ledge, takes it into the bed room, and gnaws away all the corners before we’ve realized that she’s done it again. Of course it doesn’t stop there. She loves small bootie-socks and women’s underwear, and she’s managed to latch onto the lid to our automatic coffee pot. But for me critical mass happened with the razor blade.
Twice Ruby has snuck into the master bedroom shower, and twice she’s gotten her jaws on Wendi’s razor. The first time, we found the head (a three-blade arrangement) lying on the shower floor, by the drain. But despite our best efforts to keep replacement razors out of reach, old habits eventually lead to a lapse of awareness. It was all the beast needed. When she snatched her second razor head, it was long gone. If Ruby did eat it (and we haven’t found it anywhere in the house) then she either passed it safely or somehow dissolved it in that vat of nitric acid she sloshes around inside her. For two days, we fretted, watching Rubes’ every move, listening attentively to every snort and retch (two more socks and part of a sponge showed up, but no razors). To date, nothing has happened.
I know that one day, Ruby will phase out of this hyperactive puppy stage. Someday, she’ll put on twenty pounds and lay on the floor barely moving, looking like some recently fed sea-lion at the zoo. I can’t wait for that day, even if it means having to drag her outdoors to pee at night because she can’t be bothered with the effort of getting up and walking. Those headaches, when they come, will pale compared to the constant fear that my vinyl record collection is bound to serve as the dog’s next Sunday breakfast buffet. Until that day arrives, we remain on guard. But in the meantime, if you should happen to visit us and we’re missing a television…or a desk…or the island in the kitchen…well, that’d be Ruby.