Thursday, January 14, 2010

Puppy Chow

© 2009 David’s Harp and Pen

I’ve never been much of a dog person. The last experience I had with a dog left me bearing a striking resemblance to a pincushion. I’ve always preferred cats. The thing is, dogs are overbearing, and slobbery, and they love a person right off the bat, whereas cats make a person earn their love, and since I’m addicted to rejection, that works out well!

In December, I moved into the basement of the home of some good friends. The location was great and the price couldn’t be beat. Another plus was that they had lots of animals, which meant lots of company for me. I was happy that the kitty hotel for the landlords’ two cats was in my place, so I’d get to the little fluff-a-lumps whenever I wanted. However, there would soon be trouble in Paradise.

The owners also had three dogs. There was Larry, the German Shepherd. Larry was 12 years old and as docile and compliant as they come. Then there was Sparky, who was a little bit of everything. Also around 12, she was sweet and obedient, not to mention a great foot-warmer. Then, there was HIM.

Bruno was about three, but was still all puppy. He was half Saint Bernard, half horse. Bruno wasn’t allowed upstairs in the landlords’ house any more since they had a kid, mostly because Bruno was too klutzy to be around small children. So, Bruno spent all of his time in the back yard. When I moved in and I was told Bruno’s history, I was also told that, since I would have to go through the back yard and gate to get in and out of my apartment, I would have to make sure Bruno didn’t escape when I used the gate. I wholeheartedly agreed, thinking, “How hard could that be?”

Little did I know that underneath that happy, dopey-looking furry exterior beat the heart of the world’s biggest mischief-maker and the brain of a brilliant military strategist, rivaling even Churchill himself.

It was 7:30 PM. I was going to impress the socks off my boss by getting to work super early. I had just moved in and everything was still in boxes. I walked to the gate with Bruno running close behind me. I turned to him and told him to stay back because I had to leave. As soon as I opened the gate, he charged into me, knocking me over and ran straight into the dark, cruel night. I went after him, calling to him and trying to grab him, all to no avail.

An hour passed. No matter how close I got to him, he would always slip away. I followed in horror as he made his rounds in a poor, unsuspecting subdivision. There was no shrub he wouldn’t mark. There was no other dog he wouldn’t…gosh, I can’t say it, but I’m sure you know what I mean. Time was now my enemy. I had to be at work soon, and I couldn’t face the landlords without having returned Bruno safely to his yard. So, I stayed a reasonable distance behind him as he traipsed through another backyard. There was another dog there to keep Bruno’s attention, so I thought this time for sure I had him. I was about three steps away when Bruno saw me and darted. I went after him, and then I sank. Straight down into a mud pit. All the way down to my knees. Bruno sat and watched, a blank look on his face, as I uttered multiple expletives in English, Spanish, and Yiddish, unable to free myself from his ingenious trap. The landlords, who by this time had joined in the chase, heard me screaming and pulled me out. However, the mud was so thick that when I finally got out, it ripped the soles right off my shoes. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except since I’d just moved in, these were the only shoes that had been unpacked.

As if he knew, Bruno finally stopped for me to catch him at the time I would be officially late for work. I held on to him with all I had until the landlady arrived with the minivan. Since I didn’t have the foresight to bring a leash with me before the chase began, the only way I could be sure to get him to the minivan was to physically carry him. The biggest casualties of the evening were my shoes, my back, and my dignity.

When I arrived back home the next morning (I was working third shift), I saw Bruno galloping about the yard, as if nothing happened. I carefully slipped through the gate undetected. When Bruno saw me, however, he ran right to me, like I was his best friend or something. I proceeded to scold him about his naughtiness the night before, as if he had any kind of inkling of what I was saying. I then turned my back to him and unlocked my door, wanting nothing more than to collapse into unconsciousness.

BOOM! Next thing I knew, my head was throbbing from the impact of the storm door, and Bruno was circling my couch like wagons during an Indian raid. I commanded him to get out. He stuck his nose up at me. I asked politely for him to leave. He barked and wagged his tail so fast it sounded like a helicopter about to launch. Seeing this was a losing battle, and I was exhausted, I said, “The heck with that crazy dog. I’m going to bed.”

I got into my PJs and hopped into bed. So did Bruno. This was getting weird. I tried to push him out, scream him out, beg him out. He wouldn’t budge.

“Leave me alone, you big, brown, hairy beast! I don’t like dogs. Besides, I’m mad at you. I’m sleep-deprived, in trouble with my boss, and barefoot now because of you,” I said.

He nuzzled his head into my side.

“I’m a cat person!”

He put his paw on my chest.

“If you think this is getting you any where, you’re sadly mistaken.”

He licked my face, then snuggled himself next to me.

“Oh, c’mon! This is emotional blackmail of the highest order!”

Then, he fell asleep. What was happening here? Maybe this is the same scenario as the little girl & the class bully. He tortures her and makes her life a living hell because he really likes her but doesn’t know how to say it. Or maybe he’s just a lower life form who has no idea of what he does from one moment to the next. I decided I’d think about it after I finally got some sleep.

I woke up 9 hours later and, to my amazement, Bruno was still next to me. I admit, he was much nicer than my teddy bear, not to mention the best alarm clock money couldn’t buy. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Maybe the whole mud pit incident was isolated.
“Good morning, Bruno!” I said cheerily as I patted him on the head. He looked at me, smiled, jumped off the bed, and proceeded to scarf down the entire contents of the cats’ litter boxes. Okay, maybe he was crazy after all.

More great escapes and daring food raids would follow. I became convinced his stomach was a ravenous, insatiable black hole, and no food, plant, article of clothing, live animal, exercise equipment, purse, or cell phone were safe. And his skill for getting out of the yard was unparalleled. The acrobatics with which he circumvented that gate would give even Cirque de Soleil a run for their money.

The landlords grew wearier and wearier of Bruno’s escapades, but I had to admit, for all of his antics, I found myself laughing more than I had in a long time. Not to mention some of the perks, like always having someone to come home to and the ego boost of knowing there was at least one guy out there still interested in my legs.

The phone rang at 11 PM. It was the landlady. She told me Bruno had eaten a skunk, the second in two weeks. When she opened the door to see what all the noise was about, Bruno ran inside, stinking the house to high heaven. Bruno was going to the pound in the morning. End of story. I didn’t say much, but when we hung up, I felt like I was about to lose my best friend. I knew the landlady was right to be angry, and that Bruno was getting to be too much, and his propensity to eat everything in sight, including their new above-ground swimming pool, had finally gone too far. Also, let’s face it, giving Bruno tomato baths was getting old very quickly. After seven months, though, I’d gotten used to seeing that happy face when I came home, and life wouldn’t be the same otherwise. I prayed and asked God what to do, and He answered very clearly, “Fight for him.”

I walked to my door and looked out the window. There was Bruno, sitting in the middle of the steps leading to the upstairs deck. His silly grin was replaced with a look of utter terror. He looked at me, as if to say, “You’re the only one who can help me.”

My campaign began first thing in the morning. I told the landlady I’d adopt Bruno, bathe him, take him the vet, enroll him in doggy reform school, and as an added punishment, chain him to the TV and force him to watch every Lassie episode and movie ever made. She said she’d think about it. Then came the moment of truth.

The landlady made up a special mixture of peroxide, herbs, and sulfuric acid to bathe Bruno in order to get rid of the skunk smell. I offered to help her. I’d never given a dog a bath before, so I was going to learn something. Now, Bruno has a thick fur coat, so it took a lot of water to get him totally wet. After the garden hose was turned off, I looked at Bruno and discovered, to my dismay, that I could see Bruno’s ribs and his spine! He was woefully skinny, so much so that he almost resembled a greyhound! Why in the world was he so thin?
I made an appointment with the vet right away. When Bruno was weighed, the vet said he was 18 pounds underweight!

“Bruno’s only 62 lbs. He needs to weigh around 80. How much food is he getting?” the vet asked.

“The owners give him four cups a day,” I answered.

“Oh, that’s not enough. For a dog Bruno’s size, he needs to have at least five cups a day. No wonder he’s skin and bones.”

“So, the reason he tries stealing my food and eating skunks and escaping from the yard is because he’s been hungry?”


I never felt so guilty in my life. Why hadn’t I noticed all those months? I was Michael Vick, only cuter.

I sprang into action. I stocked up on all the necessary doggy meds, then went to the store and bought gourmet puppy chow, which the vet said would fatten up Bruno. When I told the owners what the vet had said, they felt awful, because they’d only been feeding Bruno according to the previous vet’s instructions.

After only a week of feeding Bruno according to the vet’s instructions, it’s as if he’s a new dog. He’s calmed down tremendously. At the end of that week, I looked at Bruno as he lay curled up at the foot of my bed, and the Lord began to speak to me.

“Sharon, you looked at Bruno with compassion. And when you saw that he was hungry, your solution for him wasn’t to tell him, ‘Well, just stop being hungry.’ You got him the food that he needed so he could be well again. That’s what I do for you.”

You see, I had been very much like Bruno. I had a serious problem: I had an emptiness inside me that I couldn’t fill on my own. It made me do crazy things, and because of that, most people wrote me off as being some kind of defective. But God looked down and saw past my junk to my need and filled that hole and healed that gaping wound inside me, knowing that once I got what I needed, most of that mess that was my life would take care of itself.

We’re all screwed up, and sometimes it’s not even really anyone’s fault. My landlords weren’t intentionally starving Bruno. They were doing what they thought was the right thing. We get so hurt in life because of the best of intentions and those we go to for help sometimes can’t see past our mess on the outside to the hollowness on the inside. Then there are those who, when we tell them we’re hungry, tell us to stop being hungry, or when we’re hurting, tell us to stop feeling.

What a great God we have. Not only does He see our need, He looks on us with compassion and meets us on the deepest level imaginable so that we can truly be satisfied, for He knows that holiness and purpose start when our innermost beings are completely consumed by His passion for us. C.S. Lewis said, “God doesn't love us because we're good. He makes us good because He loves us.”

Bruno knows I fought for him and I am giving him what he needs for a long and happy life. Now he never leaves my side. Yes, he still mistakes the kitchen trash can for the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, and he still has bouts with wanderlust. When he ran out this last time, though, he didn’t go far, and when he saw me go after him, he came right to me. I know God fought for me and believed in me when no one else would. It only takes one very great God to believe in me. When I fully trust that, He changes me, and then those around me begin to see the value that He saw all along. Yes, God did all that, and I will never leave His Side!



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