“Hey, Jon!” Dr. East, our vet, entered the room. “You have a dog for me to look at?”
“Yes, sir.. Should be here any minute.”
For weeks, Rina had been searching for a dog to guard our flock and had finally found one. She made arrangements with his current owner to take him to our vet for vaccinations and I’d been assigned the task of bringing him home. Although I’d heard of dogs protecting livestock, I doubted our ability to find and train one, but Rina assured me this dog had been raised as a guardian and would be perfect for the job. I was skeptical, but willing to try.
“Pretty little girls.” Dr. East smiled at my daughters and I followed his gaze. Ages 9, 8 and 6, the girls looked like their mother and, despite my irritation, I returned his smile.
I turned at the sound of blaring music as a truck with tinted windows and tricked-out rims pulled into the parking lot. The vehicle stopped and a man emerged, followed by the largest Rottweiler I had ever seen. The man’s tattooed arms bulged against the fabric of his wifebeater as he struggled to drag the dog toward the building with an inch-thick horse rope.
Dr. East whistled. “That’s not the dog you’re taking, is it?”
“God, I hope not.”
Man and beast entered the office with a crash as the dog knocked over a display table and hurled himself across the room. “Damn it, Cujo!” the man shouted, “settle down!” Slobber hung from the dog’s gaping jowls, and his feet left saucer-sized mud prints on the floor. I placed an arm against my daughters and positioned myself in front of them.
“Are you Jon?” the man asked.
“Yea, I’m Jon.”
“Hey, man, I’m Joe.” Joe smiled through yellowed, rotting teeth. His eyes were bloodshot above his sunken cheeks, and it occurred to me that this dog had likely <not> been used to guard chickens. Joe’s knuckles turned white as he jerked against the rope. “He’s a good dog.”
I can see that.
With the help of Joe and two assistants, Dr. East managed to give the dog his shots and proclaimed him perfectly healthy after quick visual examination from across the room. The five of us then wrestled him back across the parking lot and into my van.
Joe lit a cigarette and climbed into his truck. “See ya later.” Music filled the parking lot as he revved the engine and drove away.
“Good luck with that,” Dr. East said, his expression sympathetic.
Leaning against the door, dazed, I dug the phone out of my pocket and called home.
When my wife answered, I could hear our six month old cooing in the background and looked at my girl’s small faces pressed against the window, anxious to get their new pet home.
“Rina,” I asked. “How much do you know about this dog?”
From the moment we brought him home, the dog fell deeply, madly, passionately in love with me. Despite Jon’s fears, he walked beautifully on a leash so long as I held the other end, let my small children cuddle him, and made it his life’s ambition to position himself right beside me at all times. In fact, he was the perfect dog, with just one small exception. If I left the room, even for a moment, he would cry like his heart was broken.
So he went everywhere with me, one part of his 150 pound body resting against some part of mine until bedtime. It was somewhat charming, really, the way he clung to me, but I drew the line at sleeping with him. That night, we bedded him down in our living room and shut the doors. Between that and the fan my husband slept with each night, we were able to block out the sound of his lament fairly well.
The bed creaked as my husband rose to start coffee. Moments later, he climbed back in beside me and lay atop the covers, staring at the ceiling in silence. I opened an eye. “What’s wrong?”
When he finally spoke, only his lips moved. “That dog.. shit.. all over.. everything.”
“What do you mean, ‘everything?’”
“I mean everything.”
I studied his face. His eyes remained fixed on the ceiling, his mouth set in a grim line. Surely, he exaggerated. Yes, of course he did. The dog probably had a bit of diarrhea and Jon was being dramatic. I rolled my eyes and rose to grab a washcloth.
I opened the living room door and stopped as if I’d walked into a wall, gagging against the wave of stench that penetrated my nose and mouth. Excrement covered the floors, the couches, the end tables, even the walls. Feces of every shape, size and color… a watery gray atop the couch, a chunky brown smeared against the wall, a clump of black adorning the face of my son’s teddy bear. This dog hadn’t just pooped, he’d artistically expressed his anguish from–literally–the very deepest part of himself the way only a 150lb Rottweiler can.
It was a day of marital firsts. Something warned me not to even ask my husband for help with this plague of misery. The man who had scrubbed fleas off infested goats, covered infections with smelly creams, and recessed a prolapsed vagina had reached the end of his considerable tolerance. He didn’t yell. He didn’t fuss. He remained in the bedroom, as far away from that mephitic stench as he could get, while I cleaned every inch of the room by myself. It took hours to clean. It took days for the smell to go away.
That 150lb Rottweiler slept on a leash at the foot of our bed for the remainder of his time with us. We never had another incident and if the experience of walking into that brown, malodorous room hadn’t been permanently seared into the deepest parts of my husband’s soul, we would have kept that dog because I grew to love him dearly. Instead, we found a home for him with a woman who understood that she would never, ever, sleep alone again.