Is He Suicidal or Just a Boy?
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
I’d love to have a conversation with a male that doesn’t begin with my asking, “Do you want to go out?” promptly followed by, “Please don’t pee on me.”
When I was growing up, I never had an AKA-registered puppy. Most were mixed breeds, strays. More often than not, our dogs came from town…by way of a car on a dark night when someone wanted to “get rid of” a dog and didn’t have good sense to spay or the guts to euthanize. So, dog owners dumped their pets miles from home and hoped someone on a nearby farm would have the heart to take them in. We were the first house on the dirt road, and at least one of us was a sucker for a stray.
That was usually me.
The last time I saw a dog so cruelly abandoned was two years ago when someone put out a beautiful pure-bred in the cemetery in Georgia where my grandparents are buried. It was during the time my marriage was breaking up. Locals, including my mom, made several trips a week to the cemetery to leave supper scraps and soup bones for the dog. It waited patiently for its owners to return but they never did. It stayed from the freezing weather of February into the three-digit temps of July before it disappeared. If I’d had a truck and a more stable grasp of my own future, I would have taken the dog home with me the first time I saw it there.
The last time I took home a stray, I was 18 and riding my bike along County Line Road when I came upon a Dachshund mix, sitting forlornly by the highway with a bag of open dog food. She was pregnant with six puppies and ready to pop. I went home, got my new car, and risked her biting me to get her back to the farm, and then proceeded to find homes for all her puppies but the runt, which we kept. She was a great addition to the family.
A girl dog. I always had girl dogs. They were wonderful pets and magnificent guardians. I swore as a teen, upon seeing so many pregnant dogs thrown away that I’d always give a home to female dogs because they couldn’t help their biology and that was the sole reason they were so often thrown away.
So the fact that the girls and I ended up with a boy dog was a complete surprise. We fell in love with Grendel at first sight, our shy little puppy named for the monster in Beowulf and every day living up more and more to his name. I remembered my vow and almost backed out because he was a boy and boys were easier to place in a good home. But the girls had their hearts set on him and instead of a vacation to the mountains as we’d been planning for, we bought a puppy instead.
Having male energy in the house has been strange in our all-female household. It’s more of a balance now, but some- times, whoa! I’d forgotten that little boys do tend to rush head- long into whatever’s there with no fears of getting into more trouble than they can bear. Grendel is no exception.
Sometimes, I have to wonder if he’s suicidal. There are the 90-mph runs down the hall without looking back until just before he—wham!—hits the wall. There’s the I-was-bored-in- the-kitchen-pen-so-I chewed-through-the-cord-on-the-crock- pot scenario. There’s the ack-I’m-choking-on-the-wallpaper-I-just-ate-that-Lorna-was-going-to-replace-anyway-just-not-quite-yet.
With daylight hours so short, I decided today that he needed more running time outside, so I hooked 100 feet of cable across the yard for him. He can now go almost anywhere he wants in the backyard, including, in the first ten minutes, around two bushes 47 times until his roaming space was reduced to three inches.
Maybe he needs time to adjust, I think, so I plan to spend a few hours sitting in the warm sunshine by the fire pit, laptop in my lawn chair, and tapping away while Grendel gets his fix of Mother Nature. Or maybe I’m the one who needs time to adjust.
I set up my lawn chairs—one to sit on and one to prop my feet on—by the fire pit and go back inside to get my tape recorder. When I come out, Grendel has wrapped his leash around the chairs and turned them over. I free him, upright the chairs, leave my recorder on one, and go back inside. Once in- side, I to play and coordinate. Oops, not that was supposed to be plan not play, but planning for this feels like playing, feels good, feels right.