I don’t know how long a dog has to be with you before they get over new dog status, but Dante’s on the verge of it. We adopted Dante from the local pound back in May — back when he was a couple of weeks at best away from getting the needle. Probably his face — he’s got a big head, mostly black, and a mouth like a two-car garage outfitted with a set of choppers that would do the lead in any werewolf picture proud. So that probably put people off — that, and he was going 75 pounds then, when he was off his feed and his ribs were jutting out through his coat like he was angling for a spot on America’s Next Top Model. But he’s mostly hound dog we guess, and he’s got those eyes, and when we were finally up to poking around for a new dog after we had to put down Shakespeare, the Shepherd mix we’d adopted from the same pound almost a dozen years earlier, he gave me this look with those eyes that said, “Yeah, I know I’m not at my best right now, but don’t let ’em take me out the back door, boss. If you give me a shot, I won’t let you down.” So we did, and he hasn’t.
So he’s not quite the new dog anymore. I mean at first, you always feel like you have to explain. You got to the dog park and people ask “Who’s this?” And you feel compelled to explain that this is Dante, the new dog, and then you go on about the old dog, and they go on about their old dog. Is this what guys used to do back when they’d lose three or four wives in childbirth?
“Hey, Joe, who’s this?”
“This? This is Lisa. Lost Collen in Childbirth you know, she was great.”
“Well, nice hips on this one, Joe, hope it works out. Say, what are you feeding her?”
Anyway, Dante likes to run. I remember the scene in Cool Hand Luke, where they guy is carrying his dead hound back to the truck and he says “Look Cap’n, look what he done to Blue. He run himself plum to death.” I remember thinking that that wouldn’t happen, I mean the dog would just get tired and lay down. But Dante would do that — run himself to death. I imagine his ancestors in some run-down pen living with some bad-ass – Angola gunbull named Big Alphonse, spending their days traipsing merrily through the swamps. As long as Dante’s got something to chase, then he’ll run.
We’re short of convicts, so we use tennis balls — and thank God for those long-handled plastic chuck-it gadgets that let you pick up the slobber-covered balls without touching them and then hurl them off into the far distance. Without that, I’d probably have dog Ebola from the slobber and I’d be in for rotator cuff surgery by now. But what’s funny is the focus. As soon as I have a ball, Dante’s entire universe shrinks to a small sphere of optic yellow felt.
Here’s how I know. The dogs at the park, they like to try humping each other — doesn’t really seem to matter what gender a dog is, every pooch with a member is looking for a ride. It’s a dominance thing, I’m told. And Dante doesn’t like that much. Like every pound refugee, Dante’s running around sans testes, but just because he’s not the man he used to be, that doesn’t mean he wants to play corn hole puppet for every Jack Russell who thinks he’s the big swinging dick on the yard. So when Fido jumps on board for a little round of hide the salami, Dante tends rebuff such advances energetically.
Until the day I had a ball in the launcher. I’m just getting ready to throw it when this particularly lecherous Jack Russell who wants to slide his schlong into any warm hole he can find jumps on board for a little of the ol’ in-out-in-out. And Dante doesn’t even flinch — not even when I toss the ball. Dante takes off — and he does zero to sixty like a fucking cruise missile — with the Jack Russell still on board. Give the terrier its props. It held on for a good fifteen yards.