Like a five-year-old, he jumped up and down in our doorway. “Call your student!” he cried in such desperation that my heart couldn’t help but soften to this grown boy who was interrupting my shower.
“We really don’t want a dog right now…” I reminded, or more accurately, pleaded with Matt.
But it was too late. The damage was done. I made the mistake of recounting the dream I had about us having a dog, and I made the bigger mistake of telling Matt that one of my students was giving away puppies. And the biggest mistake of all was going on the internet to find a picture showing Matt exactly what these puppies looked like.
That day we drove to the country to see this litter of Jack Russell-Rat Terrier mixed puppies. I felt awkward walking into the home of a student, but my defenses immediately melted with the word ‘Puppies!’ At that word the whole litter emerged from under the table where they were sleeping in their basket. Eight or nine manic puppies crawled all over me in unison, bounced back and forth, and licked and nipped and wouldn’t leave me alone.
Except for one.
One of the puppies was by far the cutest, but she had her own agenda. She pranced around the room as if to say she was definitely not one of the boys.
We picked her. I remember feeling such guilt as I walked out the door holding our new puppy. We had broken up her family. But I quickly learned that that sweet puppy who had curled up on my black sweater and slept through the long car ride home was more than enough dog for me to handle.
Scout was insane as a puppy. She ran laps around the house so quickly you’d swear she was running on the actual wall. She jumped as if springs, instead of muscles, were inside her legs. And she smiled–she always had a smile on her face as she panted two inches away from my nose. With her smooth white fur and dark patches to match her big eyes, she was beautiful and perfect in her craziness.
Scout wanted to play all the time, and she played hard. Matt and I had no idea how to train a dog, so we failed her in that regard. She still jumps on everyone in her attempt to say, “See me?! See me?! Come play!”
But then life changed a little, as did her once smooth hair, now a coarse, wiry mix. After our son Caleb was born, she was uncomfortable and a little unsure. I watched her carefully and Caleb carefully as he grew. I did my best to ensure he played nicely with Scout, but the inevitable happened. One day he grabbed her tail, and Scout snapped at him. She didn’t bite, but she gave her warning. And after her warning, she ran upstairs and went under our bed.
A year and a half after Caleb was born, we added another baby. Twenty months later, we added another, and Scout started spending most of her day under our bed.
At nighttime when Matt and I are on the couch, she’ll come downstairs and sit on top of my stretched-out legs, pinning me in, but I can’t push her off the sofa. It’s one of the few times during the day that I actually see her.
The backyard is where Scout gets her walks–with only two hands to corral three young kids, I can’t hold a leash, too, especially since we never trained Scout how to walk without trying to drag me down the street while choking herself. The promises of a bath this weekend turn out empty as a few more weekends will pass by before I lift her in the tub. The date to the vet for her teeth cleaning–that gets pushed back with every car repair that comes our way.
Now when people come to the house, Scout seems to say, “Take me! Take me! Take me!” in time with every jump.
I try to be a good pet owner. I’ve never missed a vet check-up for Scout, I faithfully administer her heart worm prevention, and I do the best I can to show her love and attention…when she comes out from under the bed. But, oh, the guilt! The guilt is what allows Scout to sleep on our bed when she wants to snuggle in the winter, even though I want nothing more than a pet hair-free pillow.
I was convinced Scout didn’t love me. I had noticed that she didn’t run to the door, anymore, when we come home–only sometimes when we’re leaving, as if to say, “What about me?”
I should’ve known better.
Many times when Matt travels or any other time the invitation is extended, I’ll pack up the kids and eat dinner at my parents. Sometimes I’ll bring Scout along, too. I’ll brush the kids teeth and put on their pajamas after we eat in the hopes that they’ll fall asleep on the car ride home.
One night I had perfect luck. All three kids were out like a light. It was just Scout and me awake during the thirty minute drive home. After I parked the car in the dark driveway, I unbuckled my youngest in her carseat and let her collapse against my shoulder.
“Come on, Scout,” I softly called, but she sat in the car.
Inside I went with Chloe, up the stairs, and back down to retrieve kid number two. I crawled into the back of the minivan and unbuckled Caleb who was closest to me. Again, I called to Scout, but she remained. Up the stairs, back down, and now, panting a little bit, I unbuckled Hannah Grace in the back corner of the van. I drug her to the open door and got out so I could lift her over my shoulder.
As I lifted her, Scout jumped out the car and followed behind, her job as protector complete now that no child was left unattended. And my loyal dog, who has found herself in a different place than when she joined our family nine years ago, followed me up to bed.
Do you have a pet with whom your relationship has changed a little over the years? How has your pet shown you loyalty?
Last week got a little crazy, but I had wanted to write about Scout for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. So here’s my addition…a little late.