"Lou, you've known me ten years now, just a few months short of your whole life," I told my dog, "I'm probably not going to kill you with the vacuum cleaner." Lou hates it when I vacuum. He hates it when the washer begins its spin cycle. He hates it when the dishwasher door swings open. In fact, about the only thing he doesn't hate is when I accidentally leave the room with dirty dishes on the coffee table, but hates it once I re-enter the room, to find him with his little spotted snout all but impaling a plastic container, his tongue dislodging every last molecule of flavor from it. He cowers under the dining room table when Sophie digs her play broom and mop out of her toy box and pretends to clean house. And there's something especially frightening about living entities inhaling or exhaling or opening the mail anywhere within a four mile radius of him while he's drinking from his water dish.
But don't let Lou's fragility fool you. Woe is the well-meaning fundraiser who comes to the front door to sell candy bars or memberships to one environmental organization or another. You Girl Scouts and your cookies better look out. And all you deer out there who think you can just walk up to one of the trees and start munching without having your eardrums burst wide open from the most ferocious bark in three states can think again. Losers. And just after I adopted him TEN years ago, he was pretty sure that performing stealth attacks to my head while I slept was the very best possible way to spend an early Saturday morning. "If I were going to kill you, Lou," I ducked down under the table to explain, "it would have been then, and by the way, I wouldn't use a Swiffer to do it." It's also for this reason that I don't usually reprimand Sophie for her propensity to body tackle Lou once he's sound asleep in his chair.
We've included in our last three moves a big, old, and now very gross and beat-up stuffed chair, simply because it's Lou's Chair(TM), and I swear that if we ever buy land, I'm putting at least one sheep on it so that Lou finally has a proper way to unleash his desperate instincts to herd things. He's Lou, a forty pound cattle dog-mutt and the exact behavioral replica of Alex, only in dog form. He's the little guy I found in a poor, drug-addled town on the Colorado-New Mexico border, trembling and growling in equal measure at anyone who might harm him. And from the looks of it, pretty much everyone did.
I was not prepared to take a four month old puppy with substantial mental and physical difficulties home. I had already stuffed a dog--a big one--into my tiny townhome, and was working all the time. But there was something about Lou that was ornery and sweet in all the right places, and that convinced me to ply him with hot dogs until he allowed me to put him in my lap and give him the petting of his life. (What no one would have guessed about Lou is that he's one big tickle spot.) He fell asleep there, much to the wonderment of people who never got the memo about how holding down a puppy and docking his tail with an ax pretty much puts the kibosh on a dog/human relationship based on love and trust. So there's that.
I took Lou home, where I promptly paid my vet's student loan every month trying to figure out what was the deal with the daily torrent of bloody diarrhea. I spent the rest of my cash undoing what I came to call Lou's little home improvement projects: The trench he dug down the middle of the living room carpet had to have been my favorite. A few months later, I met Alex, who I think actually married me to get to Lou. They are high-strung, skittish males who are annoying and lovable at the same time, and live to run and play. They are intent on rolling in dead stuff, passing gas in close quarters, messing up the house on a constant basis, and can't be bothered with listening to anything I have to say. Whenever I take either one of them out, I use a short leash that I abandon the second I catch a glimpse of a certain sad face...and a whiff of something that can trigger a coroner's gag reflex.
A few years ago, we added "cancer survivor" to Lou's resume, an impressive record that also includes "porcupine survivor" and "prairie dog catcher." And come to think of it, Lou has outlasted and survived just about every thing that was in my life the day he walked into my house and promptly peed all over it. The job, most of the people, the house, the cars, the late, great, incredibly soft Bobo Reale. He's seen a chunk of my adulthood that made me want to cower under my dining room table, and I'm thankful to have had his little furry body next to me for it, the nervous, ungrateful bastard that he is. He's our dog, Lou, the only one of his kind. Lucky us.