This is the time of year when people ask what you’re thankful for.
Personally, I’ll be grateful if our new dog, Shadow, doesn’t burn the house down.
A too-tall Flat-Coated Retriever mix, Shadow has been with us for six weeks or so now, and has more separation anxiety from Marilyn and I than William Shatner has for his toupee. We try not to leave the house together very often because when we return, some new “remodeling” of our home has taken place.
We understand why Long Dog (one of his many nicknames) is a little nervous about being left alone. He has been passed around more than responsibility for the increase in gasoline prices. As near as we can figure out we are his fourth “owner” and he’s a bit unsure if we’re ever coming home or whether he’s being traded for a canine to be named later.
So far, he’s chewed through the wooden gate and slipped through the gap he created, an aperture that a hamster would have trouble navigating. And so, we’re driving back from lunch and we get a phone call asking. “Do you have a dog named Shadow”?
Yep. The Shadow took a powder and ended up at the local Toyota dealership. Thank goodness for his dog tags and all the phone numbers.
Since then, he’s knocked over a living room lamp twice and tore down the sheers in the front window, between bouts of gnawing on the gate that we’ve reinforced with sheet metal.
We got Mr. Shadow through a canine rescue society, frankly, because our beloved incumbent dog, Scout, was clearly headed for the last roundup. Twelve years old and a bit of a tubby, she was the queen of our canine world for 11 years and was admired by all for her loving ways, her spirited personality and – in her youth – striking good looks.
A white and brown Australian shepherd mix, The Scoutmaster was often fussed over at the park. “OOOOooh … what kind of dog is that?” girls would coo. “Nice-looking dog,” men would grunt.
But, as the saying goes, we don’t own dogs, we rent them from Heaven. Which is where Scouty went, peacefully, two weeks ago.
If we had any thoughts that life with Shadow would be peaceful, we quickly lost them. He’s a perfect gentleman in every other way except that he doesn’t want to be left alone and has big teeth and long, athletic legs to back up his intentions. He’s a first-class chewer and a near-Olympic leaper, so we’re always worried about the possibility of another jailbreak.
But, of course, it’s all worth it. He fills (mostly) the hole in our hearts left by the departure of Scout and is as loving and devoted as a dog can be. We write checks to handymen (to repair gates) and gardeners (who grind down stumps Shadow could have used as a launch pad to exit the premises) without much grumpiness.
For now, we know that the two of us represent “home” to Shadow. We are assured that, given time, Tall Dog will relax and allow us to someday see a movie or buy groceries without having to dread the end result of our very temporary absence.
Despite that, we are thankful to see him sleeping peacefully on our bed or next to it, knowing that he’s got a “forever home” and upholding Scout’s tradition of affection and loyalty. We’ll supply the patience for as long as it takes.
“Retorts” is posted every other week, alternating with “Usually Reliable Sources.”