Monday, March 14, 2016

The Dish on My Dogs, Part One by Carolyn

As you know by now, I live with three dogs. This is something that I both regret and celebrate every day. Any pet owner will understand what I mean. Let me tell you about Finn, the elder statesman of the group.

Finn (aka Finnegan McCool) is a rescue dog. He is a poodle mix -- the "mix" part is a mystery. I found him at a shelter (where they had named him Kevin, which doesn't feel at all like a dog name to me, but I guess they run out of good ones eventually). When I first met him, he looked pretty funky, because the shelter worker who tried to groom him had apparently gotten distracted and quit halfway through the job - he was shaved on one half of his body and hairy on the other. But still, he was beautiful to me.

Finn is one of the mildest-mannered dogs I know -- very laid-back. He cuddles with anyone indiscriminately. If you have a lap, he wants to be on it. When he wants to be petted, he nudges your hand with his nose, insistently, but doesn't claw at you like some dogs I could mention. One of his favorite things to do is to smell "people breath", the stinkier the better. When he first meets someone he stands up and sniffs their mouth. This can be a little startling, but if they will accommodate him by exhaling in his face, he will be ecstatic. He will wag his little nub of a tail, which is unbearably cute.

He is mostly white, with large splotches of black here and there, like someone spilled ink on him. He has poodle-kinky hair, so petting him feels like it felt when you laid down on top of your grandmother's bed, which was covered with a chenille bedspread, soft and nubby and comforting.

Finn can be strangely creepy-looking, though. He has a way of looking at you sideways which looks like he is giving you the evil eye. It makes you suspect he is plotting something against you. It can be quite disconcerting, but I assure you, there is no malice in his soul. Really. He is a lover, not a fighter.

Finn is kind of a floppy dog, with fairly long legs. Once my children propped him up in the recliner like he was sitting up and mocked him, laughing at his pink belly sticking out over his hind legs. They even took photos. I think that was cruel and may have psychologically scarred Finn for life.

Finn is the perfect dog except for two small flaws. He was three years old when I adopted him, and had not been neutered. Although he is neutered now, he still retains that boy-dog need to mark everything in sight. He has definitely peed on every piece of furniture in the house. He has peed on every square inch of the back yard, I'm sure. He even pees on his doggie sisters when he gets a chance. It is terribly embarrassing at the dog park when he hikes his leg to pee on a doggie stranger.

The other flaw is more serious: Finn is an escape artist. I should have named him Houdini. He regularly escapes from the back yard, either digging under the fence or squeezing through loose slats. He also streaks through the front door when the pizza delivery man comes, or I am trying to leave for work, or whenever he sees the opportunity. I cannot even count the times I have chased that dog through the neighborhood. The really irritating part is that when he sees me following him, he turns around and runs the other way. He just doesn't want his adventure to end!

Once I enlisted two complete strangers to help me; one to go down one street while I went down the other, and one to head Finn off at the pass. They must have thought I was bonkers, especially since I was in my pajamas and slippers at the time.

Just last weekend, there were six of us in the backyard. We unhooked Finn from his lead and headed into the house, talking about which trees needed trimmed. After a few minutes I realized Finn was not in the house with the rest of the dogs. Sure enough, he took advantage of our momentary distraction with the trees and squeezed out the fence into the big, exciting world. I can just imagine him thinking, "If I just veer off a little and casually stroll down the side of the house, they won't even notice . . . " We immediately mobilized the troops to search in two different directions, and found him fairly quickly, happily trotting down the street.

Other times I have not found him so quickly. Many times I have searched in vain and been sure that he was gone forever. Fortunately, someone has always found him and called me to come pick him up. He always charms his rescuers, and they tell me, "Oh, he's so cute!" Sometimes I am tempted to say, "Yes, he is cute. Would you like to keep him?" But I haven't -- at least not yet.

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