Every day, I take my poor wee gigantic dog Stadler on a long run. More precisely: she runs, I ride my bike. Most precisely: she runs, and I hang on like a monkey on the back of a rampaging rhinoceros.
After about a mile, (I call this bit Cannonball Run) Stadler tires out enough that we slow down to the point that pedaling becomes necessary – except in moments of “Extreme Cat Temptation.” I should probably take a moment to apologize to the children of Montclair Elementary School for the highly articulate lesson they received in cursing the day Stadler saw a kitty and tried to run me directly into an oak tree. Sorry, kids, hang onto what’s left of your childhoods.
Head like a shovel
About this time last year, Stadler and I acquired a fellow running enthusiast. We were out on the dog jog, when suddenly a burly, brown, shovel-headed dog started barreling towards us. Protocol when we’re being chased by another dog is to stop, assess the threat, let everyone chill out and sniff, and then move on. The brown dog, however, wasn’t interested in saying hello. He wanted to go! So go we did. He jogged along beside the bike for about six miles and then happily followed us home. I opened the garage to let Stadler in the house, and the brown dog trotted off. I assumed that he’d had his fun, and that would be all.
The next morning at 8:30, I opened the garage door to pull the bike out, and there he was again. Waiting — smiling at me and bouncing a little bit in anticipation. Off we went, the chocolate lab and probable pit bull cross, running collar and leash-free along with us. This went on for about a week. He was never a second late, and sometimes would wait for over an hour to run with us. I thought maybe the stray had a home in the neighborhood, but then noticed him running around on his own all the time. He had no collar or tags, and was pretty grimy. Finally, after he was particularly good on the dog jog, I offered him a biscuit which he graciously took. “Bye brown dog,” I said, closing the garage door. He then sat in my driveway for five hours looking through my side window with an expression that said, “I am the saddest dog in the world.” “Don’t pee on my rug,” I told him as I I let him in. He didn’t.
Rowlfie is born
When the Rev met him, the love was both instant and true. I could see her trying to resist the old, shovel- headed bastard (and resistance was easier in the first few days – he made up for his post-bath lack-of-stink with room clearing flatulence), but he’s the Borg of dogs – resistance is futile. She collapsed the first time he climbed on to the couch with her. She agreed that we had to keep him. We were both worried about what the G.P. (currently sojourning in Mexico) would say upon his return. The G.P. is a life long pit bull hater, calling them “baby killers and vicious, satanic hell beasts” anytime the breed was brought up in conversation (expletives deleted in above quote).
The Rev named the brown dog “Rowlfie” and we started very deliberately referring to him as a “chocolate lab.” Really, there was no danger of Rowlfie having to go to a shelter. The Rev was in love, and once she digs her heels in on an issue, you couldn’t move her with a bulldozer. After about three weeks of searching for Rowlf’s family, we took him to the vet and made it official.
The G.P. finally came home and was predictably pretty angry that the Rev and I had adopted Rowlfie without his consent. He snidely offered that when we got sued because the dog crunched a kid like a candy bar, he wasn’t paying for it. However, since Rowlf was living at my place, and since the Rev told him to shut it, he relaxed into sulking silence.
When the G.P. is in town, Stadler goes to “Grandpa Daycare.” She and Dad keep each other company. Neither my neurotic dog nor my father like to be left alone for long periods of time, and at least one of them can’t be trusted. Now that Rowlfie was part of the family, he started heading over to the G.P.’s every morning, too. A week later, the G.P. and I took the dogs out to P.I.N.S. to play on the beach.
“Mom says Rowlfie can come live with us,” said the G.P., in a suspiciously plaintive tone. “That’s okay, Dad. I’ve got him,” I replied, paying more attention to the happy dogs scuffling in the sand than to my father’s gambit. I should’ve known better.
Easter was only a week away, and is an important holiday to the Rev. We always at least have to eat lunch together. Dogs are family in our world, and anywhere we can take them, they go. Rowlfie and Stadler were both under my parent’s small kitchen table (wagging tails visibly sticking out from under the table cloth). The dogs love it when we eat at that table because its roundness makes it possible to simultaneously get people food from every person eating. We’re not supposed to feed the dogs from the table, but we all do, sneakily.
We got through the meal (I to this day contend that my upcoming weakness was caused in part because I was plied with turkey and white wine), and there was a sight conversational lull. Again the G.P. said, after looking meaningfully at the Rev, “Mom says Rowlfie can come live with us.” Then he put his hand on Rowlfie’s head and said in an obviously affected old man voice, “This dog is going to keep me alive.” My eyes filled with tears. I choked out the words, “I guess he’ll have to stay with you then, Daddy.” My father grinned like a coyote, and I could swear he muttered, “Checkmate” under his breath. You gotta keep an eye on the G.P.
And so, Rowlfie stayed at my parents that day, and has lived with them ever since. It took about a week for him to form an incredibly solid bond with the G.P., who he now follows like a lamb just in case something fun might happen. The G.P. has put aside his lifelong hatred of pit bulls, and clearly loves the power the stocky dog conveys as he runs him around the neighborhood on his electric scooter. No one wants a piece of Rowlfie, that’s for sure. Rowlfie looks tough. Other guys out walking their wussy little dogs look at Dad enviously. Dad looks back at them like they’re wearing pink tutus. Life is good. Don’t believe everything they say about old dogs and new tricks.
However, since I am an evil child, and can’t quite forget the literally hundreds of arguments I’ve had with my father re: dangers of the pit bull, I have to take a tiny bit of vengeance. I now call Rowlfiie “Fifi,” just to annoy Dad. Rowlf doesn’t mind at all. He’s found his home.