Our new rescue dog loved everyone, but Woofie took special delight in youngsters. He didn’t care if they were canine or human. In fact, his greatest day at the dog park involved a pack of ten-year-old boys. The kids didn’t appear to have a dog, just a Frisbee they threw around.
Woofie stole it immediately. They chased him for a half-hour. He’d let a boy get about a foot away, then he’d feint right, dart left, and leave them in the dust.
One kid laughed and shouted, “That dog’s got moves!”
They were good sports, those boys. When I finally called Woofie over to retrieve their Frisbee, they didn’t seem to mind its new holes.
“Thanks for playing with him,” I said. “Boys are his favorite playmates.”
One boy shook his head. “I think you’re his favorite. He wouldn’t come to us.”
I pulled a milkbone out of my pocket and held it up. Drool dripped out of Woofie’s mouth as he sat nicely in front of me. “It’s only because I cheat. Catch!” I tossed the treat to Woofie. He snatched it in midair and ate it in one gulp.
The boys laughed, and asked for more tricks. Woofie showed them how he could speak on command, lie down, play dead, roll over, high-five, and “dance” with me by putting his front paws on my shoulders and walking around with me on his hind legs.
Yeah, I taught him all that in a few weeks. What can I say? Woofie was a fast learner and I was unemployed.
Much as Woofie loved the dog park, the place was filthy. A bath followed every trip to the park. Does that seem like overkill? It’s not. Imagine hundreds of dogs peeing in the same place daily, plus some inconsiderate owners who don’t pick up poop. Imagine your dog rolling in that same place, then being coated in the drool of twenty other dogs, and rolling again. Woofie smelled as foul as a Tijuana port-a-potty on a midsummer day, and then some.
He also caught mange, kennel cough, and multiple canine noro-viruses. The dog park became a once-a-week treat.
Woofie moped. Tug-o-war with me was not enough. Chucking the tennis ball across a field near our house was not enough. Walking dozens of miles a week was not enough. Playing with random dogs we met on our dozens of miles was not enough.
Woofie schemed. One day I opened the door to find the owner of World Champion Show Dog Basset Hounds on my porch. Woofie was cavorting with the hounds in the street. The little bonnets that kept Champion Basset Ears off the ground were themselves on the ground. There was drool everywhere.
I dragged Woofie inside and padlocked the gate.
The next afternoon, a boy rang my doorbell. As I opened the door, he pointed at the sidewalk. A bicycle lay on its side. Woofie stood next to it, tongue lolling, and tail wagging. The boy scowled. “Is that your dog?!”
“It is. So sorry. No idea how he got out.” I collared Woofie, dragged him inside, and padlocked the other gate. From the outside.
The following evening, Andy and I couldn’t find Woofie. We searched high and low, up and down the block, and put up signs.
Eventually we found him in the crawl space under the house. He’d pried the frame off the access route, dug a hole, and wallowed on his back, yipping and growling in ecstasy.
When our neighborhood closed off the block for a Labor Day party, eight or nine people brought their dogs. We figured Woofie could come out and join the fun – with plenty of other dogs around, we were sure he wouldn’t run off.
He didn’t run off, exactly.
He peed on the kid’s picnic table and stole a hot dog.
He ran into a neighbor’s backyard and jumped in their swimming pool.
Sopping wet, Woofie then bolted across the street, into my neatest, cleanest neighbor’s house, shook himself dry, stole some cookies, and ran out again.
We finally caught him and locked him back up. He howled at the unfairness of it all.
Our neighbors nicknamed him “Woofie Gone Wild.”
I gave out a lot of cookies and apologies to the neighbors the next day.
When an unwary friend came over, Woofie escaped out the front door. He ran to the end of the block and across the street, into a middle school. By the time I caught up with him, Woofie was prancing around the science classroom, thrilled that he had finally found where all the wonderful human puppies were kept.
Half the kids were on top of their desks. The other half petted Woofie until I dragged him away by the scruff of his neck.
Woofie objected to leaving his new friends. When I got him to the sidewalk in front of the school, he did his best sixties protest move, falling on his back and refusing to budge.
I had to drag my ninety-pound dog across the street by his front paws. The middle school shop class, outdoors with their skill saw, booed me the whole way.
In between choice bits of profanity, I may have threatened my dog with the Yulin Dogmeat Festival. Not my proudest moment.
That night, Andy laughed until he cried when I told him the story of “When Woofie Went To Earth Science.”
I wasn’t laughing. I was lying flat on my aching back with a heating pad. “What are we gonna do?” I wailed.
“Well, since he likes kids so much, we could maybe think about–”
“BITE YOUR TONGUE. We are not having a kid to make the DOG happy.” I shuddered, then yelped. Shuddering hurt. “Besides, that’s like the cure being worse than a disease. And it would be years before a kid would even be big enough to play with Woofie.”
Andy made a pouty face and left the room. I found him on the computer when I went to get more Advil. Looking over his shoulder at the screen, I saw a pair of beautiful eyes, almost amber, staring out of eyelids that appeared to be ringed with kohl.
Doggie eyes. The eyes of a female dog, rescued from the streets of South Central Los Angeles. She had reddish-orange fur, and tiny little ears that folded forward.
“Isn’t she pretty?” Andy gushed. “There’s a rescue group called MuchLove.org, and she’s about six months old and waiting to be adopted and they say she’s great with other dogs and cats and Woofie needs a friend to play with and we could meet her on Sunday at the Farmer’s Market in Malibu—”
“Sunday?” I interrupted. “Sunday…that’s our anniversary.”
“Yeah.” Andy gave me a cheesy, hopeful grin. “You wouldn’t even have to get me a present!”
On our first anniversary, Andy and I drove up the coast and met his anniversary gift. Even though I’d already gotten him a present.
Because really, she was a present for Woofie.
And he was thrilled.
Addendum: I’d like to say Woofie never ran away again. You don’t know how much I’d like to say that.
Let’s just say he ran away…less.