I’m going to take a small detour from food today. I got “the call” yesterday on the bus on my way home.
My mother called to tell me I needed to come home because it was time to put Audrey, our half Lab-half Great Dane “pound puppy”, to sleep.
Audrey found us about 12 years ago. My younger sister and I were staying with my aunt for a week in Hampton, VA. My uncle returned home from work to find a strange dog sitting outside his car door when he pulled into the carport. He called the house and my aunt, sister, and I ran to the door. We begged him to let us bring the dog in, but he refused. So we put food and water out for her (she had a beautiful coat, but was skin and bones). The next day, she was caught by the local dogcatcher. My mom arrived that day and my sister went into hysterics until my mom agreed that we could go get Audrey from the pound and adopt her.
We brought her home and in the first week, she ate a broom, my mother’s favorite purse and several pairs of shoes. She dumped a giant peace lily out in the middle of the living room carpet so she could play with the plastic pot. She stole socks. She pulled gross things out of the trashcan. She chewed off the handle on the rocking horse I’ve had forever. She climbed on counters and ate cakes and chicken and bacon grease. We nicknamed her Houdini- she squeezed through the back fence and ran into the neighbor’s yard to chase squirrels. She dug a hole under the fence and through two bags of compost (put there to keep her in) and ran into the front yard to chase squirrels. She blew out her knee and had to have reconstructive surgery after she climbed on top of the woodpile and jumped over the fence to chase squirrels. She pulled one of my friends out of his chair and humped him repeatedly. She harassed a flock of Canadian Geese in the park near my house until they chased her home. Our scrawny pound puppy grew to be heavier than my sister and more strong-willed and intelligent that we could have imagined.
She also woke my mom up every morning so they could have their walk. She would give her toys to my mom’s friend’s little girls and let them put their fingers in her eyes, ears, and nose and climb all over her. When my aunt had her first daughter, M, they came for a visit. With M’s first whimper or dirty diaper, Audrey would go find my aunt and harass her until she went to check on the baby. When it got cold, she would curl up in front of the fireplace and grumble to my mother until she built a fire. She was amazed at the snow (much like many North Carolinians). She slept in my bed every night I was home, even though as she got older, I had to help her get in and out of it. She took naps with my sister, both of them asleep under the dining room table. My other uncle had a Giant Schnauzer, Onyx, that my mom kept for a while. When he developed bone cancer and my mother had to put him to sleep, Audrey moped for days. She still drinks out of his water bowl. When my sister and I graduated and left for school, she kept my mother company, even as debilitating arthritis set in, first in her back legs, then her front. I know my mom can’t work too long, because she has to come home to take care of Audrey. Their 4-mile morning walks have slowly dwindled to a block. But Audrey still wakes my mom up every morning to go. I’m not sure if Audrey gets up every morning for my mom, or my mom gets up for her.
She has led a charmed life. We have completely spoiled her, she is lady of the manor. She eats gross things (rabbit shit, rotten apples, dead possums) and rolls in gross things. She turns her nose up at certain cheeses, and stands guard over the Thanksgiving turkey every year. She likes nothing better than to fly through the muddy swamp in the back of the yard after the rain, then run into the house and shake all over everything. She has charmed the entire office at our vet- everyone knows her by name. My mom made one trip up here to see my grandparents without Audrey. My grandfather was so upset that she never did it again.
For some people, a dog is just a pet. We’re dog people in my family. When the holidays roll around, we inevitably spend a few hours telling stories about the ridiculous dogs we’ve had over the years and the ridiculous things they’ve done. Like Useless the poodle, who would crawl under then bed and drink from the glass of JD my grandfather always put there (so he wouldn’t step on it in the morning). Or Shogun the doberman, who used to let the foxes eat his dog food. Or Kelly the poodle, who would unwind toilet paper all over the house without breaking a sheet. Or Bandit, the Jack Russell, my grandfather’s constant companion, who jumped out of a car window and peed all over the National Arboretum. Or Audrey, who has an unhealthy obsession with the men in my family.
So with any luck, I’ll be headed home next weekend to say my goodbyes to Audrey. I couldn’t have wished for a better dog.