As Gracie is settling I am indulging myself with the solace of writing her story. She is pacing in the pen next to the house as I am writing this, a place she would never tolerate when she was vigorous, but now that she does not see does not hear she seems to enjoy the safety of pacing within its secure borders. I take her out a stick of jerky doggie meat every so often to assure her she has not been abandoned.
Years ago, when we took her home, she was incorrigible even for a new dog/puppie we’re not at all sure how old she is/was. I took her to one of those doggie classes. They kicked me out because Gracie was just too disruptive. I know it’s my personality; Wallie the bulldog was also incorrigible and did not tolerate those classes either. Too militaristic, I used to say, but it was me. These people in class were no dog whisperers.
At home, Gracie worsened. Frightened and frenetic, she hid under the fancy Italian table and went about the systematic dismantling of our house. My wife had right away abandoned all ownership; Gracie was my dog and I was committed to her taming.
One night she pee’d again on the exotic tiles from New York the kiln that qualified the house for a place on the national register, etc. and in the middle of the night I trudged downstairs, cleaned it up, went back to bed. I was beaten.
I surrendered the next morning. I sat in front of Gracie, she was cute with that spaniel glee staring up at me — she always made excellent eye contact unless she was afraid which she was frequently — and I said out loud: the house is yours. I made a commitment to you, I took you home, I will take care of you the best I can until you die. Then I will repair whatever damage you have done to my house. I will take you to no more classes, I will not spank you nor rub your nose in your refuse, I won’t raise my voice when you eat my furniture. Go at it. You live here too.
I meant it, I swear on a stack of Torahs.
I could tell this story that then and there she turned around and became a model dog, that would be a cute story. It didn’t happen that way. It took a week.
In one week, she stopped doing every single thing that had turned our house upside down. She never ate another piece of furniture, she tired of her diet of rug, she didn’t pee anymore on the tiles from upstate New York, she became the best behaved dog I have ever had and I have had a few.
She had some quirks. She was fearful for another ten years, diminishing oh-so-gradually every year. She never barked. She absolutely would not take to a leash but she walked diligently by my side looking up at me every few seconds to make sure I had not abandoned her but she would not tolerate a leash which drove the city police mad when I took her to the park. She wouldn’t take off after a squirrel or another dog when walking with me but she would absolutely not budge with a leash attached to her neck.
When the police finally stopped me and read me the leash law riot act, I informed them that Gracie was a military dog. Perfectly trained. I was speaking so much nonsense that they believed me and from that day on whenever anybody on the street or in the park asked me how is it that dog is so well trained my response was always the same: she’s a military dog. Trained for war.
Her other quirk was that she was a one-person dog. She sat next to me wherever I was and stayed there as long as I did. She spoke to me with her eyes. When she was ready to go out, she looked at me one way. When she was hungry, another way. She never eliminated in the house; she could hold out for days. If she was a camel she could have crossed deserts.