I used to think part of the reason I loved Dozer so much was because I raised him from a puppy. Turns out, it doesn’t work that way.
About three years ago I ended up borrowing a black Labrador named Junior, from my boyfriends dad, Jack to keep Dozer company while I was at work. A guy who went off to college and just never picked him back up had left Junior there.
I couldn’t be happier that a person basically abandoned another living thing, because I was able to take over.
The deciding factor was a particular day I was picking Dozer up from Jack. I had drill that weekend and he was kind enough to take care of Dozer for me. I grabbed Dozer’s collar and gathered his other stuff, bowls, toys, etc. When Junior saw the collar and leash he went balls to the wall. Mind you, this lab was around ten years old or so. He flung himself in circles and let out a little howl.
“I’ve never seen him do that before,” said Jack. He said he usually just laid around, chewing on himself.
So, that was it, he came home with me and has been stinking up the house with his old man farts ever since.
He came with his own challenges though. Apparently dogs can have thyroid problems and can require medication twice a day to keep them from chewing themselves raw. Oh and they can be allergic to chicken so you have to buy them special, ‘Ocean fish’ food and also make sure their treats don’t have any chicken byproduct in them.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what did you eat?” I asked one night. The stench rivaling that of a rotting corpse.
“The question should be, what haven’t I eaten, eh eh,” he said.
His favorite thing to get into is the bathroom trash.
“Hey, get out of there!” I’d yell at him when I caught him inhaling toilet paper- wrapped tampons.
“Shit, shit, shit, I’m sorry,” he said, immediately shrinking out of the bathroom. “I can’t help it, I have a problem.”
His other favorite activity was coming into the bedroom, and breathing heavily in my face until I woke up.
“I left you something downstairs,” he said one morning, two inches from my mouth, his tail wagging, causing a ridiculously loud bang on the wall as he wagged it.
“I’m not even going to ask you what it is, just go away and I’ll see it when I go down there in about an hour,” I said.
“Your call,” he said. “But I can’t be entirely sure whether it came out of my mouth or my anus, I forgot.”
One day, I came into the kitchen to find the Foreman grill on the floor, both Dozer and Junior sitting in front of it, looking at me.
“I’m only going to ask you two once, how did the Foreman get from the counter, to the floor,” I said.
“The black one did it,” Dozer said immediately, with his head down. Junior looked at him in awe.
“You racist sum’ a bitch, how dare you throw me under the big thing on wheels,” said Junior.
I took a breathe, and said, “First of all Dozer, I taught you better than that. Second, when you put your head down and refuse to look at me, that’s when I know you’ve done whatever it is that I’m asking about.”
“Don’t hit me,” said Dozer.
He shrunk down to make himself as small as possible, which only pissed me off more, because I’ve never hit him, well, once I smacked his butt, but he was eating my original 1910 wooden banister. I felt really bad after and swore I’d never do it again.
“Really, really, you’re going to say that to me, you act like I beat you, you little shit,” I yelled.
“Kisses,” they both yelled and attacked me by slamming their bodies into my legs and tongue lashing me when I bent over.
I guess my whole point of this story is to say, you kind of have to earn someone’s love. When Junior first came, whenever I opened the front door, he would squeeze out and try to run away. He didn’t run very fast, being old as shit, but it still made me feel bad.
Now, I can open the door, go out into the front yard and he will just lie on the porch, breathing heavy as usual.
When I look at Dozer, I feel myself swell with pride. He is muscular, his coat is shiny and he has bright eyes. Every time we walk down the street, strangers compliment him and ask if he’s fixed. Um gross, I don’t even know you but you’re trying to coordinate a dog sex thing that makes me super uncomfortable.
Junior has a gray beard. When I run my hands along his body, I feel weird gross warts. He has bare spots where he’s rubbed the fur off from licking himself. He falls down all the time when he gets too excited. His elbows are dry, bald and wrinkly from the years of laying on them. He has fatty deposits on his belly, along with scars I was told he got from getting stuck on a fence while trying to get away. He occasionally starts dry heaving for no reason and he smells a little musty. On walks he drags and trips over sidewalks. To me, he is beautiful and I adore when his ears go forward, I imagine he looked like this as a young pup. He is very picky with his kisses, he is more likely to lick my feet than my face and I’m totally ok with this.
I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I find a certain amount of satisfaction knowing I’m not disgusted by his malignant tumors, but I adore him even more because he isn’t smooth, he isn’t flawless. That despite his usual role of sleeping most of the day away, every once in awhile, he pounces and bounces on toys and for a second, he is a few months old and we have all the time in the world to learn new tricks.