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Gristmill: Trouble Dog

Wed, 05/01/2024 - 17:47
Duster in his favorite spot.
Julie Greene

They recommend you walk your dog even if you don’t have one, such are the health benefits. But what if you have one and he won’t go?

Behold Duster, rescue dog extraordinaire. Problem child who once enjoyed standing with all fours atop the dining room table, now a couch potato.

A beautiful day, Monday, wasn’t it? Sunny and warm as it was at 6 o’clock, I hooked Duster’s leash to his collar and tugged. He wouldn’t budge.

Like dads generally, I’m second fiddle to his human “mother” — viewed with a measure of suspicion, kept at a certain distance. I see this when I try to get him in the car and after our 10-year relationship he still thinks it means a trip back to the pound.

Lord knows I’ve tried. I used to run with him on occasion. Invariably he’d stop short after 30 yards and look up at me as if to ask, “Really?”

Though I gave that up in short order, now that he’s older, stiffer, heavier from too many Milk-Bone biscuits and table scraps, I find myself lifting his 70-odd pounds nightly onto the elevated four-poster bed. Surely my aiding his newfound incapacity would earn me some credit? On the contrary, I’m a mere conveyance.

But I will say that often, this chilly spring, his furnace of a body — white with a light speckling of black and brown, like an English pointer, of which he is part; the rest, I fear, is pit bull — called to mind the old “three dog night” lore of the Northern Hemisphere natives and the comfort derived from their shaggy beasts piled alongside. Just a hand resting on fur seems to trigger some kind of atavistic sense of well-being.

His brindled snout having gone gray, these days it takes his mom’s arrival to rouse him from the horizontal and muster the perched ears.

We used to speak in code in front of him — using “W” in place of “walk,” for instance — but the preternatural intelligence courtesy of his mutt’s genetic diversity quickly pierced the obfuscation.

What’s funny about the non-walking is the way he’ll bark at me with seeming anger when I exit the front door. He doesn’t want to come along, so, how dare I leave? This is the screw-loose rescue’s dilemma.

“Who saved who?” asks the bumper sticker sporting a graphical paw print. In Duster’s case, it was clear: He wasn’t going anywhere. We saved him.

Despite it all, old boy, I’m glad you’re here. You’ve been good company.

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