Monday, June 21, 2010

Last Bus to Crazytown

My husband and I are empty nesters. Our youngest child went off to college in the fall and last winter, anticipating this event, I did what any hormonally imbalanced woman would do.

I went down to the local animal shelter and adopted a rescue puppy.

And this is not just any rescue puppy, mind you. This is a rescue puppy with plenty of emotional baggage. (Think Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.) It seems our shy puppy, only three weeks old, had been found huddling with his three siblings under a bush on Christmas Eve after witnessing their stray mother get hit by a car. One of the puppies had already died of exposure. The others were taken in by a loving foster mother who rose every few hours for three weeks to hand-feed these poor orphans.

We named him Yoshi, which means “good” in Japanese.

We were as anxious as any new parents might be to raise this one right. We bought every dog-rearing book we could find. We’d had dogs before when the children were small, Jack Russell “Terrorists”, my husband called them, but we’d been too harried and over-burdened as parents to pay much attention to the dogs.

Yoshi has a group of plush animals, his “babies”, that he sucks every night as he’s falling asleep, as diligently as my children used to suck their thumbs. He rides with us in the car, goes for long walks in the park, sits between us on the sofa at night watching television.

Worrying about his socialization skills, we took him to the dog park. He didn’t do well. He seemed horrified by these strange four-legged creatures that bounded over, intent on ramming their noses up his ass. He sat down abruptly and leaned against my leg, humiliated and confused.

Thinking he might find a better class of playmate, we took him to a local doggy daycare. The woman in charge, who my husband fondly calls “The Commandant,” stuck him alone in a room with a large, overly friendly Doberman. (She raises Dobermans, of course). When Yoshi squealed in fright at the slobbery advances of the Doberman, the Commandant claimed that he was a “fearful dog” totally unsuitable for daycare. “You have no way of telling with these mixed breeds,” she told me. “Why he’s the way he is.”

Did I detect a bias against mixed-breeds? Oh no she did – ant.

I insisted Yoshi be given a week’s trial. As far as I was concerned, he showed more intelligence than any of these over bred, muscle-bound, pedigreed dogs she seemed so proud of. Every morning Yoshi rose and when told he was “going to school”, pranced, tail-wagging with excitement, toward the door. Every day at naptime I picked him up from daycare, hopeful that he’d managed to make a few friends. On Friday, the Commandant crooked her finger and indicated I should follow her into the office. Yoshi was being expelled. He had only made two friends but they were in the little dog class and he was too big to play with them. The big dogs didn’t like him. He wasn’t a team player.

I came home with a lump in my throat, imagining Yoshi friendless on the playground. Sitting by himself at the lunchroom table. Not being invited for slumber parties at the more popular dogs’ houses.

“Never mind,” my husband sniffed. “We both know Yoshi is gifted. He’s too intelligent and sensitive for those other dogs.”

I blew my nose, pouring us both a stiff drink. “Do you think we should adopt again?” I asked . “So he won’t have to be an only dog?”