Dogs are basically toddlers with fur and equal amounts of drool. Like little humans, they can sometimes exasperate you. But they always melt your heart and teach you about what’s important.
I was reminded these things when, like a happy idiot, I jumped at another chance to watch my favorite creature.
Sheriff, who belongs to my son and his fiancée, was under our care for a couple of days. The knucklehead is 10 months old, yet he still has the same reckless, klutzy exuberance of his early weeks. Now his brand of enthusiasm is backed by more than 50 pounds of what seems like mostly muscle. And bigger teeth. We must not forget the teeth.
I mention the canine’s canines because during his last visit, I forgot about his mouth o’ blades. It was off radar probably because Sheriff has never been a shoe or furniture destroyer. His chew-to-annihilate repertoire is as quirky as he is. He likes expensive backpacks, chenille gloves, favorite jeans — and, it turns out, something else.
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The first morning I had Sheriff all to myself I took him on an expedition around the neighborhood. As usual, I engaged in awkward leash detangling pirouettes, low-boil panic and constant “drop it, drop it, drop it” commands. That’s my mantra because his mouth is an outdoor Dyson.
We took turns pulling each other and blurting our respective utterances of frustration. (He sighed. I barked.) It was a typical, pleasant walk.
Once we returned home, we sparred over a pilfered sharp stick and the de-harnessing process.
“Give me that!”
“No, it’s mine!”
After our game, we both needed to regroup. He flopped on the foyer floor with his rawhide. Chew, chew, chew. I flopped on the sofa with my phone. Check, check, check.
Pup-sitting was a piece of cake, I thought. And so I fell into some rabbit holes: Twitter and Facebook. Sheriff was in my peripheral vision happily chewing away.
As I was sucked into videos of ’70s Swedish guys disco dancing in tube socks, and a Canadian beaver herding cattle, I paused to think that a rawhide is to a dog-watcher what a pacifier is to a babysitter. Salvation. I gave a spiritual tip of the hat to untanned leather. Then I retweeted the quips of strangers and heart-ed the homemade scones of acquaintances.
What a mistake. In that mere 10 or so minutes, Sheriff picked up the leash I had forgotten on the floor during our threshold-crossing scuffle. He sliced off the hand loop. The hand loop! Why?
We did not have a spare leash. After gasping and pacing it was time for mental lemonade. I said, “Sheriff! We’ll hit the doggie store together!” Then, sad tuba, I realized there was no way I could go public with a strong, excitable pup on loop-less tether. It would’ve been like guiding a Pamplona bull on a balloon string.
I put Edward Scissor Teeth in his kennel, rushed to the pet emporium and agonized over the 9,000 leash choices. I returned home with something substantial. (I would have bought a titanium one.)
We went out again for a test-run. The new leash was aces. Sheriff didn’t notice. There were too many squirrels to intimidate.
But then, an unexpected thing happened. Once we circled back home, he insisted on rolling in the grass under our maple tree. He wanted to stay there. A stubborn attack. Tired of forced “let’s go!” enthusiasm, I plopped next to him.
This might sound like corny Victorian prose, but for a long time we just sat in the sun-dappled shade observing nature. There was a gentle spring breeze that carried the sweet scent of a nearby blooming Canadian cherry. It was heaven.
I’m not one to lounge on the grass beneath a tree. Sheriff made that happen. Over the course of this last gig, my beloved “grand” dog taught me several important human tricks:
Drop the phone. (“Drop it. Drop it. Drop it.”)
Reach Denise Snodell at email@example.com. On Twitter @DeniseSnodell