It’s a dog’s life

  • Nan Parati

Published: 12/3/2018 6:30:02 AM

The only reason I don’t have a dog these days is because I’m not home enough to make it worth its while to be there. While owning Elmer’s in Ashfield, I definitely didn’t have time, and now I’m still sliding into the new world of how time works when you don’t own a restaurant, so I haven’t hammered anything down yet. Plus, I’m a huge fan of self-walking dogs and have a feeling that such an old-fashioned policy would earn me a number of visits from Warren, the Ashfield wayward-animal chief.

Years ago in New Orleans, I had a dog named Joe, a true rescue in that when I saw little kids dragging him on his back in chains down the street, I said, “What are you doing with that dog?”

“We’re drowning him,” they said.

“Give me that dog!” I said, and they did, telling me his name was Chucky, after the scary movie character. I changed it. Joe was half Corgi and half German shepherd, so that I actually got two dogs in one. His top half looked huge and protective, while his short legs made him only about 2 feet tall. He’d lie in my front window and bark mightily at threatening possibilities. When people saw him up close, they’d ask, “Where’s that big scary dog?” I’d say, “He’s in the back. This is the puppy.” Joe was a good all-purpose dog.

When I opened the front door, he’d run out. If he was in the back playing and heard the front door open, he’d jump up and escape all the way down to the church before I could catch him and bring him home. One morning about 6 months into it, I opened the door to go to work and Joe took off. I stomped outside yelling, “Joe! I do NOT have time for this!” Joe trotted back and said, “What? I thought this was our game! Our thing! I run, you run — no? I’m sorry! I wish you’d told me! I really do!” And he came back inside and never ran off again.

At this moment, I am in North Carolina, babysitting for two giant dogs, while my sister’s at work. (The dogs don’t need a babysitter; I’m here for a visit and she’s at work.) Chris names all her dogs after musicians. She’s had Arlo, Clapton, Leon (Russell and Redbone,) and now she has Briscoe, named for Briscoe Darling, the jug-playing father of the “Boys” — the band on the Andy Griffith Show. Chris takes her dog-naming serious.

Leon and Briscoe are today’s dog-sittees. Leon had surgery yesterday — had some spots that looked cancerous, and so got the spots removed and stitched up. Chris doesn’t want anybody getting overly excited and ripping out those expensive stitches in a play-fight, so Briscoe is snoring (loudly) in his crate that takes up the whole front hallway, and faithful Leon is lying beside him in a show of solidarity and, “I don’t know what I did to get you put up in there, Bud, I’m sorry!”

What I’m finding is that since the last time I shared a house with a dog back in 1996, dogs have become a lot more siddity. They now have beds as big as my own, instead of just sleeping on the floor. Their food is organic and they get expensive surgeries as precautions. Dogs back in the 1990s just lived with it.

And Thunder Shirts! Do you know about those? Dogs frightened by storms used to just hide under the house or, if left inside, dismantle the windows, but now have their own wardrobes to help them deal with unpleasant memories. Thunder Shirts wrap around them like a full-piece bathing suit, and help them feel secure. And from what I’ve seen, they get upset if one has a Shirt and the other doesn’t, in “any” situation, even one unmarred by thunder. Dogs also get their own Prozac and other psychiatrist-prescribed drugs, and my niece tells me that there’s a bakery in town that bakes birthday cakes for dogs.

Driving down here, I heard a guy on the TED Radio Hour tell how he’s working to get all animals their full-legal rights. What if I had a dog, a storm rolled in, I forgot to put his Thunder Shirt on, he cut himself taking out the front window and sued me for negligence? See? I don’t trust it anymore. I think I’m going to have to watch dogs from afar now, and remember the old days when dogs and I could just talk it out like regular ole human beings.

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