Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An ode to Auntie K

(As told by the Beast)

**********

My Auntie K smells great.

Well, at least my girl human thinks so. Personally, I prefer the smell of rotting plant material and dog pee, which I like to roll in when no one is looking. But Auntie K smells okay too, I guess. And every time I see her, I end up smelling like her. Because she gives me great big human hugs and kisses, and her smell lingers in the fur behind my ears for days. Then my girl human comes and gives me great big ear scratches and says things like, "You smell great, Fergus. Just like your Auntie K!" Followed by, "Hmm... I wonder what perfume she wears?"

I don't know what kind of perfume she wears... I don't really know what perfume is. Does it taste good?

Well, I do know this. My Auntie K is the greatest person I ever met. Well, the greatest person after my girl and boy humans, of course. But she is right after them!

There are SOOOOO MANY REASONS why Auntie K is the (almost) greatest! First of all, whenever she comes over and girl and boy human try to stop me from jumping all over her, she says, "It's okay, Fergus! Come on!" And then she lets me jump all over her and kiss her and lick her and bark in her ear! She's the only person who doesn't get all freaked out whenever I come barrelling towards the door to say hi. All she does is giggle and smile and give me lots of love. No one else in the whole world does that.

AND... she knows that when she is scratching my bum, and I turn and look up at her and show my teeth, I am really just smiling. Everybody else gets scared and thinks that I am going to snap. Which makes me nervous, so I start to bark, and then they get even more scared! But not Auntie K! She is so smart, and she knows that this is how Aussies smile!

AND... she has a car. I love my girl and boy humans, but they don't have a car. And I LOVE car rides! They are the BEST! Well, after running around in the Arboretum and wrestling with my favourite dog pals, anyway... Whenever she pulls into the driveway in her car, and opens the door, I hop right in! And she doesn't even mind that there's no blanket on the seat! Sometimes, she even takes me for rides in her car, and the whole time, she looks back at me as I sit nicely in the backseat and says things like, "You are such a good boy, Fergus."

AND... sometimes, when my girl and boy humans are gone, she takes me to her place for a few days. And do you know what she has at her place? She has CATS!!!!!!!!  And I love cats!!!!! All I ever want to do is play with the cats!!!!! Well, after running around in the Arboretum, wrestling with my dog pals, and going for car rides... Then all I want to do is play with cats. So I spend hours trying to figure out where the little one is hiding (obviously, hide and seek is her favourite game...). And I keep trying to sneak up on the big one so that I can get close to him just once, but he's too fast for me. So I end up running up and down the stairs all day long, looking for and chasing cats. It's so much fun!

AND... she has another dog! With no tail, just like me! So him and I spend hours hip checking each other. It's my signature move. I think I must have taught it to him cause now he does it really well. Anyway, he also has WAY more toys than me! (My girl and boy humans say that Auntie K spoils him a lot!) And do you know what?!?! He doesn't even play with them!!!! They all just sit there in his toy box while he carries around the same frog all day long!!! So I get to play with them. And I do. I take every single toy out of the toy box, and run around the house with it while I am hip checking the dog and chasing the cats, and then, at the end of my visit, Auntie K always stuffs a couple in my bag so that I can take them home with me! No one else has ever given me so many great toys! Not even my girl and boy human!

AND... when I stay with Auntie K, she even takes me out running. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but I heard my girl human say to my boy human once that Auntie K hates running. Now I don't understand how anyone could hate running. I mean, the wind feels so good blowing through the fur behind my ears, and I love lifting my snout up to breath in all the great smells around me. Maybe it's because Auntie K doesn't have a big nose or ear fur. I don't really get it, but I do know that she is the greatest (after my girl and boy humans) for taking me out running when my girl human can't. No one else has ever done that for me!!!!!

AND... Auntie K mixes wet cat food in with my dinner! She does this when I won't eat everything in my bowl. My girl and boy humans don't do this. They just take my food away if I don't eat it and won't give it back to me until the next meal time. Maybe they don't realize that I am not eating because I am waiting for something better. Like WET CAT FOOD!!!!!  Auntie K is so good to me!!!

AND....  she lets me sit on her couch!!!!  I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, never, never, ever, ever, never been allowed to sit on the couch at girl and boy humans' house. I tried to sneak up there once when boy and girl human were falling asleep watching t.v., but that didn't work. They made me get right back down on the floor. I mean, don't get me wrong. I like the floor, especially in the summer when it is so hot outside and the hardwood feels so cool against my belly. And I especially like that sometimes, boy or girl human will come sit with me on the floor and scratch my belly or rub my ears while they watch tv. But I gotta tell you, Auntie K's couch is w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y-y-y more comfortable than my dog bed! And it's fun to curl up with her and rest my head in her lap. Until one of the cats tries to come by. Then I bolt up and chase it up and down the stairs!

Sometimes, I think that living at Auntie K's all the time would just be the greatest. Well, the greatest after running through the Arboretum, wrestling with my doggie pals, going for a car ride, and chasing cats. It would be the fifth greatest thing in the whole world. No, the sixth. Because living with my girl and boy human is the super greatest thing of all time, and I would miss them so much if they were gone. But if anything ever happened to my girl and boy human, I would want to be with my Auntie K. She just loves me so much! I know she does because she lets me do so many fun things! And....

WAIT.... What's that noise? There are kids playing out in MY street! I think they are going to try to attack the house! I'd better get over there and warn girl and boy human!!!!

"Wooooffffffff, wwwwooooooooffffffff, baaaaaaarrrrrrrrkkkkkkkkk!!!!!"

*************

(As told by girl human)

"Fergus! OUT!"

...Sorry about that, Auntie K. I think what Fergus was trying to say before he got distracted by children who have the nerve to play outside on his street is that you are very special to him. Lots of people meet our little Beast for the first time and wonder why he can't be nicer, quieter, and more polite. You know, like so-and-so's dog. But you have never once wondered that. You have always accepted him for who he is, even during his loudest, most beastly moments.

I admit that sometimes, I think that you spoil him a little too much, that you let him get away with things that he should not be allowed to get away with (ahem... that would be allowing him to get up on your couch, young lady....), and that you are too much of a pushover with him. But then, when I see how excited he gets every time you come over, I know that he is so lucky to have such a great Auntie K who loves him unconditionally.

So thank you for being ready and willing to take him on a few days notice when Hubby and I need to get away for a few days. Thank you for being so understanding about all of his foibles. Thank you for reminding me to be patient with him because he is just a puppy. Thank you for listening to the million Fergus stories that I tell. Thank you for spoiling him rotten, like all good aunties should. And most of all, thank you for being the only person who has ever met him to call him an angel.

Fergus loves you, Auntie K. And so does girl human.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The meaning of life

An interesting side effect of getting a dog is that I have begun to read a lot of books about dogs.

Now I've always been an avid reader. When I was nine years old, I spent my summer vacation reading all nine volumes of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. (What a geek!) Over the years, my tastes have bounced all over the map: non-fiction, political biographies, CanLit, fantasy, and historical fiction. But I'd never really read a book about canines until I picked up A Dog Year by Jon Katz, lent to me by a friend when I started talking about adopting a dog of my own. Now, almost two years later, my book shelves - physical and electronic - are filled with "doggie lit". Books about training, books about herding, books about breeds, (auto)biographical works about dogs and their people, and most recently, novels about dogs.

One of the most recent books that I read is called A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron.

I first stumbled across it last Easter long weekend, when I ended up stranded at Regan International Airport for four very long hours. After drinking a couple of overly-expensive and even-more-overly-watered-down American beers in the airport bar, I wandered over to the bookstore. And there it was - this little black doggie snout looking up at me from a blue cover. "Huh. I wonder what this is?" I said to myself. So I picked it up and started to read Chapter 1. And quickly realized that the novel was written from the perspective of a newborn pup. Cute, right?

So I bought it. And finally got around to reading it this summer. Without giving too much of it away, this book is about a dog (d'uh) who lives a number of lives (it's not just for felines anymore). Four, in fact. Each time he dies, he comes back as another dog - a different breed, sometimes a different sex, who lives a very different life surrounded by very different people in very different circumstances. About mid-way through his lives, he realizes that he is going to keep coming back as another dog until he fulfills his true purpose in life. He spends a great deal of time trying to figure out what that true purpose might be. And every time he thinks that he has figured it out and that he will escape reincarnation, he opens his eyes and finds himself a suckling pup yet again.

On each new quest, the hero understands that his life has meaning because of what he does for the humans around him. And all of his lives bring him back full circle to helping one human in particular, who is in dire need of friendship and loyalty. And therein lies the message behind the book. Dogs love humans with selfless abandon. Their needs, their wants, and their desires are ultimately sacrificed so that they can fulfill their destiny as "man's best friend."

I do have to admit that this touching tale made me cry a little a lot. And like any crazy dog person who reads novels about dogs good dog owner, I could not help but think about my own wee Fergus as I read the lovable protagonist and his many personalities.

Now admittedly, there are times when I don't think that Fergus really cares too much about what Hubby and I want, and that all meaning in his life revolves around fulfilling his basest needs. Why else would he terrorize the neighbourhood children by barking at the top of his lungs whenever they play out on the street. Or jump in the swampy, disgusting, smelly Arboretum pond when I tell him not to. Or roll around in rotting plant material that sticks to his fur for days on end. Or go on periodic hunger strikes in a bid to get us to feed him human food instead of kibble. Or howl at the church bells like a dog possessed when we walk down the street. Or... well, you get the picture. He does a lot of things that aren't exactly designed to make me happy...

So then what the heck is his purpose? Surely, it can't be to drive me crazy with his bad behaviour?

For days after finishing the book, I tried to figure out Fergus' true purpose in life. But I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I mean, there are lots of things that he does to make me smile. But some grand destiny related to making my life infinitely better - I just couldn't see it. And it was bothering me. I mean, I just read a book that promised me that every dog had a purpose in life! Mine had to have one too, dammit!

So, after about a week of still not being quite able to put my finger on it, I gave up and asked Hubby. He seemed puzzled. "Isn't it obvious?" he said. "His purpose is to make you happy!"

"Well of course, he makes me happy!" I said. "That's not what I mean! I mean what is his, you know, ultimate purpose for being on this planet? What is his destiny? Why did we end up with him? Is it because the universe sensed that we needed something that only he could give? What is it about being with us that gives his life meaning?"

Long pause, followed by, "I think you should stop reading novels about dogs." He is ever helpful, that Hubby of mine...

Still, his answer got me thinking. Can it really be that simple? Is Fergus here simply to make me a happier person?

To answer that, I've considered all the ways that my life has changed since the Beast galloped through the door in a blur of red and white fur:

  • I feel safer on my runs. And since running is something that I love to do, and since there are times when I'm too scared to be out there on my own, well, having the Beast makes me happy.
  • I have better work-life balance. Sure, I still work long hours and weekends, but I never do so at the expense of coming home and caring for my boy. Having him forces me to take a time out, which might, on the surface, be for him, but ultimately benefits me. And this makes me happier.
  • On a related note, I don't feel as much stress as I used to. And this despite having the most stressful job of my career thus far. Again, this is because I have to take the time to take care of the Beast, which means that I have to park any negative feelings I am having about work or my uber-sensitive primadonna will know it and act out. This means that I am forced to take better care of myself. Which makes me happier.
  • I spend more quality time with my husband. Almost every weekend, he and I take the dog out for a walk together, giving us precious time to catch up. Which makes me happier.
  • My husband and I work better as a team now, a phenomenon which, I am convinced, is because of all the hours that we have had to put into training Fergus. We don't often find ourselves on the same page when it comes to how things should be done (ask him one time to tell you how I have banned him from painting because he doesn't do it right), but for the Beast's sake, we had to agree early on to the rules of canine engagement so that our overly-intelligent pup could not play us off of one another in a bid to take over. I know this makes Hubby happier because I am not constantly nagging him. And it makes me happier because, well, he is not constantly ignoring me nagging him.
  • I'm more excited to come home, especially because it means being greeted by a bum that won't stop wagging and a head that just wants to bury itself in my lap so that I can give it ear scratches. It doesn't matter how bad of a day I might have had. The Beast's overly exuberant reaction, each and every time I walk through the door, makes me happy.
  • I'm more patient. I'm far from being Mother Theresa, but learning to deal with Fergus' behaviours - both good and bad - has forced me to take a step back from being the neurotic, emotionally-driven gong show that is my standard default whenever something doesn't go my way. I've learned to take a deeper breath and collect myself before I react, which is no small feat for a girl like me. And which, I realize, makes me happier than I was when I was flying off the handle at the slightest little thing.
So maybe it really is that simple. Maybe I'm not some kid who fell down a well and needs to be rescued. Maybe I'm not some old, lonely bachelorette who needs companionship in her dying days. And maybe I'm not a policewoman who needs a new partner to help me catch the bad guys. 

Maybe I am just a regular girl, who has a pretty good life, but who just needs to take a little better care of herself, to better appreciate the people around her, and to simply smile a little bit more every now and then. 

In which case, Fergus is the perfect dog for me. And if you don't believe me, just look at this face:


Or this one:

Or this one:


How could that little bugger not be meant to make me happy?