Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Number 81 CHECK

Number 81 on the bucket list- Help my dog catch a squirrel

So things are going to change on this blog. I'll be writing more often, You'll be happier and tell all your friends, and I'll be happier, because I get to share more thoughts with you. I'm looking forward to crossing more things off my bucket list, so stay tuned...

When I first met my dog, Pepper, it was love at first sight. I was sitting alone in my apartment in South Boston in the beginning of 2009, and my sister, Kitty, called to ask if she could come over. I knew things were rocky between her and her boyfriend at the time, so I was prepared to put on my empathetic face. In about ten minutes, I was greeted by a severely underweight pointer named Pepper. I could tell that she hadn’t been bathed in months, and we laughed as we took turns holding our breath and hugging Pepper in a staggered rotation to ensure her that she was in a safe space.

“We have to save her,” Kitty said. She explained that after her boyfriend lost his six-figure salary job as a chef at a country club, he started canceling one luxury after another—his car, cable television, and later, the dog. He was now making 8 bucks an hour, cooking shitty bar food and could barely afford to feed himself. He grew depressed and crazy and expressed in passing that he was going to take Pepper to the animal shelter that puts dogs down, so that it would be a “clean break,” and Kitty dumped that boy, took her stuff, and dog-napped Pepper to my apartment.

And then I had a dog.

The most amazing dog really. She was so well behaved I thought. She was always leaning by my side. She knew all these amazing tricks that I didn’t have to teach her. But then I realized just how poorly treated she had been. She did whatever I told her to, because she had dependence issues and was beaten by her previous owner in shocking ways.

Every time I took her to the vet, I would discover the other methods of torture that she had endured in her past life: she had multiple Beebe wounds, was by a truck, had her ears chewed in dog fights, and was 20 pounds underweight. I had to feed her puppy food to fatten her up for the next 6 months.

She only smiled once, and that was when I took her on long walks. She would leave her stoic manner at the apartment and the creases at the edge of her mouth would curve up gradually as she led me on these expeditions. Pointers are working dogs by nature, which I learned quickly when she led me on these multi-mile walks with conviction. That was until Pepper saw a squirrel. And then all obedience, dependence and any memory of her frightened past would vanish, and she had determined that her life revolved around one thing, capturing that animal.

The proud foster mom that I was, I was determined to help her catch a squirrel, for I felt that achieving this goal would bring her complete joy and perhaps then, she would forget her past.

I would stealthily unleash her, avoiding the “leash your dog” signs, if I thought she was within biting reach of a furry creature. She only came close once, and confirmed that this was not a game of tag. A loud bite barely pulled out stray gray hairs from a lucky squirrel’s tail. She licked her lips. Her victory was so close.

Then, 2009 being what it was, I lost my writing job and was forced to take my old college job at the sailing center, where I got paid much less. At first, I cut my cable. Then I quit my gym…

Then I lost my apartment, and Pepper and I moved in with my parents. As I searched to find myself in the unfamiliar turf of depending on my parents, I was relieved to find that Pepper found pleasure in running around the acre long property, as well as the rest of the town.

I found personal defeat in Boston and sought relief in the New York industry, which had several job offers waiting upon my decision to move back. But how could I bring my now overweight and restlessly energetic dog to a tiny New York apartment? My parents agreed to take care of her. In fact, they had grown so attached to Pepper that they had their own aspirations for her. My mom enjoyed going on long morning walks with her, and my dad had plotted an evil plan to get back at the groundhog that had a vendetta against him and his garden.

But guilt still ensued. How could I have abandoned a dog that had been abandoned? I was finally back in New York making money, but I felt like I had pawned off something important to me. Furthermore, I could no longer give Pepper the opportunity to catch a squirrel, which had been a personal goal of mine. My dad would send me messages about how Pepper had adapted life in the country. Together, they flushed down a deer and sought revenge on wild turkeys.

A few months ago, while my dad was training Pepper to scare away the groundhog, she had cornered a wild rabbit that was 4 times the size of a squirrel, broke it's neck, and presented it to my dad as a present. This picture was texted to me during my lunch break at work.

Pepper found her catch, and from what I hear, she has been smiling ever since.