A few days ago we were out of town visiting a family member when I suddenly realized that I couldn't remember putting the dawg back in the house before we left. Talk about panic! I was worried sick until we were able to contact a neighbor who was kind enough to run over and check. Thankfully, Mattie was safe and sound inside. Just how do certain animals get such a hold on our hearts?
Some years ago Daughter wanted to get a puppy. We already had a couple of cats, and the cats were fun, but she wanted a dog. She even took the initiative to learn how to use the computer to do an internet search and found a website for a local animal shelter. One particular picture caught her eye, and before I knew it I had agreed to bring home a big, hairy animal with an enormous fluffy tail. Half black lab, half husky, and all lovey, it didn't take long for her to become a member of the family. This dawg, and yes, she is a think-of-Goofy's-voice-aw-shucks-down-home-dawg, wants nothing more than to be hugged and petted and loved. A full seventy pounds, she firmly believes she is a lap dog and that movie night means everyone sits on the sofa and eats popcorn.
Mattie is the most gentle soul I've ever known. She never says a word unless asked if she'd like to go for a walk, and then there's jumping and whining and singing and impatience until we're finally out the door. She's the perfect fit for us. No recreational barking, no drooling all over, and no pestering when she's told to lay down, but let a stranger approach the door and she acts and sounds like the most fearsome of watch dogs. Brings just that little extra feeling of security to know she can scare bad guys, or at any rate the propane guy that delivers such frightfully expensive gas, and it's great to see the reactions of census takers, salesmen or other front porch pests when she goes into guard dog mode. Watching her run always brings a smile to my face - ears flopping, tongue hanging out, a huge grin on her face, she stretches each paw out as far as possible, reaching, pulling, flexing; flinging herself across the yard, bits of grass flying behind as she thunders along. "Joy" in the dictionary should be defined by a picture of my dawg running.
We started with an outdoor kennel for her to stay in while we're away. She has a good six inches of hair above an undercoat so thick her skin has never been wet, but I built a doghouse anyways, lined it with styrofoam and installed a heat lamp. She proceeded to eat the styrofoam so I covered it with scrap paneling. We all thought an insulated, heated, paneled doghouse was pretty awesome, until the fateful day she encountered a skunk in the back yard. Somehow she thought it was a good idea to chase the skunk. The skunk thought that house looked like a great place to hide until the dawg came flying through the door. Needless to say Mattie got a bath and the house was torn down. Then came a winter of bitter cold and frozen water dishes and, well, we now have an inside dawg.
We've had so much fun with this animal over the years. It was quite a sight to see our tiny, three pound calico cat completely terrorize her. If the cat sat in front of the food bowls, the dawg would go hungry. If the cat laid in the hallway Mattie stayed in the kitchen. The worst one was when the cat would sit at the top of the kitchen stairs. We would all come rushing in from outside, only to pile up one on another - bangbangbang - because Mattie would see the cat and stop dead, halfway up the steps. That silly cat would sit there with her tail wrapped neatly around her paws and smirk at the chaos while we tried to get back on our feet. Mattie would keep looking sideways or down, refusing to make eye contact like a toddler who figures if he covers his eyes, you can't see him. Our kitty is gone now, but I think Mattie remembers the humiliation she endured. A couple of adorable plucky kittens showed up in the yard this fall, but every effort to adopt them failed as Mattie showed an uncharacteristic aggression toward the little tykes.
This old dawg has been a lot of company for me these past weeks, as I'm home so much more and find myself adjusting to a different schedule, and working through the times of anger and depression that come with the loss of a job. She doesn't say much, but as I sit here at the computer she'll come up and plant a big ol' paw on my knee, shoving a wet nose under my hand and I can feel the stress ease off as we settle in for an ear scratching session. They do say that people with dogs live longer. I think God gave us dogs to help us through the bad times, and I'm thankful every day.