I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I was a serial Golden Retriever owner. I wanted a life that was sunny and uncomplicated. I mean no offense to any good dogs out there, but one day I got a taste for something a bit more contrary. Goldens started to look like they all had low self-esteem; they were trying entirely too hard to please. Just like Eddie Haskel, you could almost hear them say, “Well, hello Anna. Have you lost weight?” *wag-wag-wag*
One day it started sounding just a bit insincere. That was clearly the kind of ungrateful thought that a bad-dog, or someone who liked bad-dogs, would think. They say people pick dogs that mirror them. No argument from me.
Then one day, Agatha became my dog but she found me only marginally passable company. She was a basset hound who drove all men wild, except the one whose heart she desired the most. Every Monday she patiently looked down the alley, waiting for the trash man. Then she would debase herself, flirting in the cheapest, most tawdry way. But she didn’t care, wherever he went, he had all that stinky, rotting garbage with him. She was a dog with a dream and I could respect that.
Disclaimer: I do have one not-quite-bad-dog now. Or maybe she just seems that way because she’s smarter and uses telepathy on the rest of us. Her name is Tomboy…she’s not very feminine. She and I share a cult of two hearts and there is no greater compliment to pay a dog. Tommi had her 12th birthday this week. She’s always been a wild child, but now she’s too old to bring half-dead bunnies in the house, although she does bag a tumbleweed every now and then. You can tell she’s a good dog because she hasn’t killed any corgis yet. Old dogs are not required to be polite to screaming toddlers or corgis. It’s common knowledge.
Agatha was the first in a long line of spectacular bad-dogs, but not the last. There were a couple of tough cattle dogs, Spam and Hero, that moved to the farm with me, and my big Briard boy, Howdy. I miss them everyday, but I try to honor their memory by welcoming more bad-dogs home.
That’s how Walter and Preacher Man got here.
I would like to say the little Corgi men are great barn dogs. It wouldn’t be true. When Walter comes to the barn, he considers himself a world-class mucker. But there are crucial steps in the process that he leaves out and when I call him out of a stall and he is gasping, chewing and licking with the effort. Readers have asked for an update on his health. Walter continues to have a total disregard for his terminal prognosis (read here) but he loves going to the vet where all the women coo and give him handfuls of treats. It’s a Corgi dream of a harem. After four huge meals a day and 5 meds, he is skinny and getting weaker. I can mainly tell because he is picking fights so everyone will know what a big bad-dog he is. He’s outlived his prognosis by 6 months, but science is boring, the ducks need some order in their lives, and there is barking to be done. Get over it.
When Walter had been here exactly a year, Preacher Man arrived at the airport, leaving a trail of broken hearts and eardrums in Texas. He was frantic with a case of canine Tourettes. If I put him in my lap, he unbuttoned my shirt and threw my glasses across the room, in some pathetically bad impression of a bodice-ripping novel, starring a swash-buckling orator-Corgi. Swash-buckling in that he prefers Pirate-themed belly bands (cummerbunds that position a feminine hygiene product appropriately, creating the illusion that the dog might have the occasional “accident.”) Preacher thinks being house-broken is for saps.
Preacher Man has never made it to the barn. If he gets out of the backyard with the other dogs, he bolts straight down the driveway, across the road and over the far horizon. He has wanderlust. And a leash on, which limits his mucking ability.
But they most prefer their inside job of waiting under my desk when I write like sleeping sharks. They love my writing, of course, and sometimes I drop my lunch. I’ve learned that the secret to living with screaming alarms, day and night, is to not be alarmed.
To be honest, when I was younger I was a lost dog myself. I desperately needed that unconditional Golden love for a while. Years later, I found my voice and I barked like Preacher. To love a bad-dog is to celebrate love in the form of chaos. It’s just as unconditional, just a bit more open to the uncontrollable. It means living in a place of constant forgiveness. Another word for that is rescue.
And now there are some days, when Preacher is able to sit quietly meditating, draped over my lap like a wet towel. He is soft and manages just a few sighs and moans, which is almost like being quiet… and I see a Corgi version of that look Aggie gave the trash man 30 years ago.
Dogs. Bless their big fat hearts. Where would we be without them?
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
And Happy Birthday to Tomboy, Happy Gotcha Day to Walter and Preacher Man.