Archive for May, 2013

Twinkle Twinkle

I’ve always been a girl who needs a dog. Not a girl who wants a dog. Not a girl who loves dogs. A girl who needs a dog simply to maintain functional levels of sanity and purpose.

In my agonizingly dogless years, I tried to slake that thirst with a staggering assortment of pets, generally illicit ones, and occasionally wholly inappropriate ones as well. I started modestly enough as a small girl with hermit crabs and house plants, but over the years I progressed to full-blown apartment menageries. Halfway litter-trained rabbits and frequently un-caged finches and massive tanks of tropical fish ensured that only the rare soul volunteered to be a college roommate (one very saintly ECM). Much was learned about stealthy animal husbandry and straight-faced deceit.

Ardley and a Guppy breeding tank

Ardley the hamster and a 55g guppy breeding tank

After a failed attempt to disguise a hamster cage as a storage bin, I constructed a more discrete enclosure by renovating the closet drawers. By arranging the hay and nest box underneath the bed, I could stack the odds that the guinea pigs would be quietly munching in their covert lair if an authority figure stopped by. By squirming sideways with my arms a little stiff, I could ensure that my RA wouldn’t notice the mouse in my pocket that one time she popped in for a surprise hug.

The jig was quite nearly up when I arranged to return for the fall semester with a dog to hide in the dorms. Though petite, he was very vocal and just a bit unpredictably aggressive, but my poor judgment was thankfully intercepted by a very good friend with a better grasp on reality (thanks again, dear ECM). Though now mostly rehabilitated from those rebellious spells of animal hoarding, I still have harrowing nightmares of smuggling animals around a college campus – essentially Rambo III with a satchel of ferrets.

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Oh, just another box of Norwegian sweaters here…

So, at long, long last I found Joy, and she kept the madness in check, reasonably limited to some foster rodents, a few generations of finches, and two cats that made rather quick work of that household bird population. After Joy, the unquenchable emptiness was kept at bay by my most wonderful cat, Cecil. Perhaps hoping to stave off any impulsive trips to the animal shelter, he thoughtfully provided me with a steady supply of rodents and rabbits, albeit generally in critical condition if not completely disassembled. He even joined me on the occasional walk and made me feel at least appreciated and noticed, if not adored and needed. A cat does have his limits on dignity after all.

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So. Much. Dignity.

But for all his marvelous qualities, even the very best of cats simply can’t fuel my joy for endorphin-packed adventure, and he cannot pretend to care which mood is lighting up my face, and any exertion spent training him would be better spent learning Cantonese.  After a long ten months of emotionally overburdening Cecil, I was blessed with the arrival of Wilbur, and my dog requirement was again abundantly satisfied.  I had a dear creature to adore me unconditionally, an endless sponge to sop up all the love I could muster, a hooligan to tax my patience and creativity, a ward to require ungrudging selflessness.

Picture courtesy of Tim Lucking :)

So. Much. Love. (Pic courtesy of Tim Lucking)

I had my dog, but not long after I began to realize that Wilbur needed one too.

So, as soon as he had mastered essentials of dog obedience (coming when called and not eating chickens), we got down-right serious about finding him a companion. I started haunting shelter websites and cold calling rescues, on the prowl for other border collie mixes. Despite his complications, Wilbur had won my heart completely, and I found myself filtering through available dogs in search of his carbon copy. We met with several candidates, but didn’t find quite the right mix of sweet and exuberant, the right combination of athlete and love bug.

Towards the end of our first summer together, we were happily working the morning away on the newly electrified goat paddock with the second-dog search far from our minds*. Crunching gravel and a coughing engine caught our attention, and we turned to watch a neighbor maneuver his dusty white Ford into the cluttered farm yard.  The bed was packed with turkeys and guineas he was looking to rehome before his imminent move to Montana, the cab full of farm dogs along for the ride. A fourth dog looked on from the truck bed, swaying like a seasoned sailor atop a rickety kennel of birds, a long-tongued grin conveying inquisitive glee.

After unloading the birds, our conversation turned to his dogs, whom Wilbur was exuberantly getting acquainted with, rising above the challenge of the truck’s lift kit with some awkward vertical bouncing.  He had a massive roan hound-husky mix and a beautiful merle Aussie and one of those troublesome black lab mixes with that unnerving whale-eyed, coiled-spring look about him. The animal shelter was the truck’s very next stop, where the neighbor was eager to unload – not the ticking-time-bomb lab – but the petite border collie in the back, his ex-girlfriend’s unwanted dog and one too many to take to his new life in Montana.

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* With a rescue border collie, the pronoun I becomes rather obsolete