Life goes on....
For proof look no further than this flop-eared, perpetual-motion scrap of life--this white and deep-amber pup who has captured the hearts and minds of our household. A she-beast the boys named Darby, we picked her from among eight or more squirming, yipping, dish-tipping siblings, all of them just two weeks fresh to the world.
I don't know about fate, or kismet, as the Arabs call it, but it feels pre-ordained that we found Darby when we did.
On the way home, Saturday, Sept. 8, after a day in the mountains, where we had celebrated my birthday, we stopped at an animal shelter. But none of the dogs amid the yips and howls, animal scents, disinfectant and waste, said, I'm the one for you. None spoke to our hearts in just the right language, even though we'd had success finding pets there before.
My 12-year-old son Justin was inconsolable. There were several pups he would have taken home, but lobby as he might, he couldn't muster a majority of the family, and so we went home without a new dog. That evening, his birthday card to me bore an awkwardly scrawled rebuke. It read, "Thanks for getting me a dog," but the words had a big line through them, where he had marked them out.
Then came Tuesday and... well, you know. Unsettling and distracting as the events of that day were, a promise is a promise, and so, toward the end of the week we scoured the want ads. We picked Darby from a fenced South Knoxville backyard the following Saturday. Or maybe she picked us. You see, she has these pale blue laser-intense eyes, set in golden patches that swath the sides of her head and her rangy little body. Those eyes drew mine like tractor beams, startling in their intensity, evidence of her Australian shepherd heritage--at least on her mama's side.
The boy giving the pups away said the other dogs had been picking on her. But each of us knew in turn as we cuddled all three pounds of her to our breasts, that she was the one for us. Justin especially knew, and on the way home, he granted absolution, saying in his husky voice, "Thanks for making me wait to get a dog, Dad."
The pleasure was mine. It's been my experience you can't go wrong with shepherds of any nationality, creed, color or mix. They're naturally warm-hearted and smart, and they tend to kids more than kids tend to them.
Our cats don't entirely agree with that assessment, of course. Maybe you've read about them in previous columns. Selene is radiance of moon glow, her soft plume of a tail gently twitching. Salem's patterns of deep gray and white are symmetrical, like a Rorschach test, as she stares sphinx-like upon the world, inscrutable.
Spayed and de-clawed, our cats are honed for the great indoors. Mostly they've been content to lie in residue of warmth pooled in the seat of a chair, or to bask in the breath of floor vents, with one eye on the cream dish beneath the coffeepot. Or to stalk our affections, seizing stray moments to settle in a lap and await petting hands and cooed comfort. But all that was pre-Darby.
Now they're convinced a troll has invaded the realm. A squirmy, toothy, pouncing troll with floppy ears and a raucous and raspy voice. Where formerly my cats lived mostly on the floor, now they inhabit mid-level regions. They leap and scurry, hissing and spitting, from chair to coffee table to bookcase, seldom touching down on the floor, where a troll has taken dominion.
Sometimes, during the day, we banish Darby to the outdoors, where she howls the lonesome blues at our doors. About a week ago we bought a fence-like baby-proof barrier and placed it in the hallway, so the cats are afforded some relief when she's inside. They can leap over it and Darby can't... just yet.
Still, at night you hear the cats meowing and muttering behind their wall. They're engaged in earnest, edgy discussions about how to deal with "the Darby problem" as they so euphemistically put it. Darby, of course, is oblivious. The cats are her playthings to chase and bark at and laugh about.
She is not so bold in the great outdoors.
About a week ago I took her running with me. She was having a rollicking good time chasing butterflies and sycamore leaves. Then we got to a neighbor's house where two fierce and beautiful white dogs--also with pale, piercing eyes--dwell at the ends of chains. Darby got within 50 feet of their barking mouths, then sped back the other way. My three-mile run wound up in the opposite direction.
The next time we ran, Darby deigned to let me carry her past the offending dogs, and finally, on the way back, she trotted right past them, head high, though sticking close to my heels and casting her laser eyes their way.
As I write this, she lies sleeping on our futon, her ample paws twitching now and again, as she dreams her unimaginable dreams, affirming dreamworld notions of dog-hood. Affirming life.