Puppy love is so easy
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Old dogs don’t get pet as much. That’s a fact. Maybe that’s why a fear of age paws across my chest sometimes when I watch ol’ Zeke gimp along the dirt road.
The yellow, dust-caked Lab drools dripping puddles as he approaches. I’m repulsed by both the animal and myself. The dog, I know, only craves the touch of another, yet I refuse to give it to him. It’s not like I can’t scratch him once in a while before washing my hands. Something holds me back from extending the love I know should be so easy to give. “Ew!” pretty much explains it.
Zeke would encroach on my lunch every day when I started working at the mountain greenhouse outside New Castle. He would slowly sneak up while I sat on a rock focusing on my sandwich. I’d be getting ready to take a bite of stacked ham when a line of drool would splat the plate in my lap. Even after I stood up and barked at him he refused to back off in the least. I had no peace to eat on my precious break. I eventually persisted in fighting him off, finally making it clear that I would never give him anything. So to this day, months later, Zeke has an added strike against him with me besides being gross.
Meanwhile, I spread gobs of love over Rissa and Maddie, especially lil’ Rissa. Arf! Maddie is a sweet shepherd/border collie, but often smells like skunk and turds. Rissa is a little, black fuzz-puff-I-don’t-know-what. I took her for a joke when I first saw her, looking at me with bubbly, dark eyes behind her tiny wet nose and fluffy fur. Her yip-yap bark sounds so arrogant it’s cute. She struts on Popsicle-stick legs wherever she pleases, fearless, even when it’s next to a big, noisy skid-steer grinding along with a load of rocks raised over her puny body. It’s obvious she’s the most loved animal on the ranch. Poor Zeke has to watch while I slather attention on Rissa, my hand nearly covering her entire mass. Her petite pink tongue licks my other hand, and Zeke drools a few feet away.
Some people, creatures and things are loved more than others, and who can help loving what they do? Even Zeke loves Rissa. Rissa went into heat last month. Poor Z didn’t know what to do, so he just followed her around and licked and licked until Riss looked like a dried-up shower sponge. For as much love as he gave, though, I don’t see him getting much back.
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The thing for me with Zeke is that I have no shared past with him. He was never my faithful pooch, and now he’s just needy and nasty in my eyes. Zoe, however, is a different story. I know all her right spots – where to rub her, how to talk to her, how to walk with her downtown. That’s why the sexy bitch won’t stop licking me and rolling onto her back, in public, legs splayed in the air, begging for my touch. I’m that good, which is why I think that Aussie-shepherd-mix loves me more than her true master, my mom. No matter how old she gets, and even when she’s gone, I will only ever see the dog I love so much. I imagine she will live longer because of this, too. That’s the beauty of family, I think.
When I contemplate my future, I wonder if I will have the fortune of affection running deeper than wrinkled skin and liver spots. I think of those people alone in nursing homes – or even in homes next to mine – and I have to admit I’m not the best at reaching out to them. I have no past with them, no immediate reason to go out of my routine to spread some extra love, which is something we all desire as long as we live.
When I see those who do pet Zeke, I feel a bit better – and a bit more obligated to warm up to the pooch who has obviously been a faithful companion to mankind for many years. He still ain’t gettin’ my sandwich, though.
Derek Franz has generally considered himself more of a cat person, but lately it’s more on a case-by-case basis. He can be reached at rockgripper8000@ yahoo.com.
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