This Dog Don't Hunt
Riley, our 8-month-old Goldie, lives a charmed life, as it turns out.
He is a mammoth mutt. A golden-hair retriever whose ears look like they have been styled with a crimper whenever he goes swimming. His paws are wooly-mammoth big, and when he runs, his hind legs lag, pulling his rump off to the side. This makes him look like a ladder truck heading for a fire.
We went camping this summer, and he slept in the tent with my wife and I. Every night, he would circle our air mattress twice, then flop down between us, but at a queer angle: his rump landing on my chest, while his front end rested solidly at my wife's head. He really needs to fix that alignment.
On one night, I had to leave our tent to relieve my bladder, which involves a trip to an outhouse some 50 yards up a hill, in the dark, at the end of a bramble and root-rutted path. Riley, never one to miss any part of the action, popped up and expected me to take him with me. I whispered a hoarse No. Sit. Stay. Heal. Go. Stop it. Let go of my arm, you hairy freak until he relented and sauntered into the tent and over to the window. I struggled up the path, every so often flashing the light back to that little window, and his beady little canine pupils reflected the light, Cujo-like.
On coming back, I feared he would start yelping. I was sure his guard-dog instinct would erupt in him, and that he would start pouncing my wife's back in an attempt to alert her to THE STRANGER ON THE PATH. This is what loyal dogs do for their families: they bark obscenities at angry bears while the family can escape; they catch white-shirted Bible-thumpers in mid sentence and rush them off your lawn. ("Good morning, have you found...JESUS!")
Yeah, right. Riley didn't so much as fart when I entered the tent. I could have been carrying a machete. I could have been growling. All he did was try to muscle his way out of the tent as I opened the zipper to get in, cursing him in hushed camp-sized tones Git. Knock it off. Don't lick me there. Rest. Go. Stop it. Break this tent and I'll break your arms.