For the record, my dog’s name is Rudy.
But given the frequency and volume with which I utter the following words, I’m pretty sure he thinks it’s “Stop It.”
As in, stop chewing.
Just … stop it.
He doesn’t walk. He prances. He lunges. He launches.
He doesn’t sit. He paws. He stretches. He sprawls.
Given his full throttle run into the kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I am convinced his dog food is the equivalent of canine crack.
He loves to root around unattended garbage cans, garbage bags and the recycling bin.
He has an insatiable appetite for paper towels, tissues and toilet paper straight off the roll (and preferably shredded all over the bathroom floor).
When he was just a few months old, he was capable of generating enough forward momentum in his crate, a wire-frame puppy playpen, that he was able to move the thing several feet across the bedroom.
At first, it was just a few inches. Which brought him within range of our bed. He nibbled on the sheets and came within a fraction of an inch of chomping on the corner of our brand-new king-size mattress.
I called the insurance company to find out whether or not “act of dog” would be covered by our homeowner’s insurance. It’s not.
Another time, he managed to drag items from the top of my vanity through the top grate of the crate. He gnawed on a metal picture frame. The photo inside ended up being reduced into a picture of my husband standing next to … nothing (I had literally been chewed out). A necklace was neatly severed into three strands of gold. Shards from a small clay bowl, a souvenir from a trip to a pueblo in New Mexico, lay like splinters on the crate floor.
Then there was the lamp. The metal base stood on top of the vanity, a naked light bulb forlornly screwed into the socket. But the lampshade — vintage fabric dotted with buttons — was gone. The wire stays that formed the shade and a few buttons were found on the crate floor. To this day, it remains a feat that defies my understanding of physics and volume and matter.
We still don’t talk about the day Rudy moved the crate a good six feet across the bedroom floor to within paw range of my dresser. From where he was able to knock a leather-bound journal into his crate. My journal. The one I had laboriously covered pages and pages in my cramped, loopy style, which combines printing and cursive into a nearly undecipherable hand. The one that recounted family history that my dad shared with me over hours and hours together, and I had dutifully written down, word by word.
I salvaged gummy scraps of paper, in shapes and sizes resembling pencil erasers, flower petals, teardrops, that littered the crate floor.
I still have those bits of paper in a plastic bag, waiting for the day when I will try to piece together loosely knit memories.
That journal must have given Rudy a taste for leather. Rudy is partial to shoes. Particularly flip-flops. Especially mine.
Last summer, I splurged on a pair of flip-flops advertised to be anatomically designed for comfort. Less than 48 hours after making said purchase, before I could put that advertising to the test, Rudy managed to get a hold of the right one and quickly reduced it by three shoe sizes. Twenty-four hours after that, I was the owner of another pair of what in our household have become known as “the most expensive shoes ever.” And I’ve even worn them while walking the dog.
One last thing about Rudy, with the exception of my husband, Rudy doesn’t like men.
I think he just tolerates me.
When Mark was away fishing the other week, I kept reminding Rudy that I was all he had and that he better not eat the hand that was feeding him. By the end of the week, I joked that the whole undivided attention thing was getting old.
On the day I set out to write this, I received a text message from my sister-in-law letting me know that Chief, the spunky Jack Russell that had scampered through my brother’s and her home and hearts for the past 15 years, had to be put to sleep.
I called her and cried with her and tried, without much success, to say something comforting on such a hard, heartbreaking day.
And when I came home, and Rudy greeted me at the door, wiggling in 20 places at once, showing his teeth in that goofy curl of his lips that my husband and I insist is a smile.
And he followed me from the kitchen to the bedroom.
And licked my cheek.
And nuzzled my hand.
And curled up beside me.
Chris Arbutina writes a monthly column for the CDT.