My guest dog has mastered the art of sproinging her hair into the air so that her black hairs embed themselves in my white sweater, and her white hairs cling for dear life to my black trousers. Even now, two days after she has been repatriated home, I am still picking off dog hair.
It is well known that mothers will do anything for their children. Proof of this is that for eleven days over Christmas, I was the designated looker-after for The Son’s 50 pound, very enthusiastic Appenzeller Sennenhund (or Swiss Mountain Dog.) This Appenzeller – Helvetica, by name – is mostly a good dog: gentle, loveable, generally obedient.
That’s not to say she never hears her “naughty name,” which is “Helvetica Sans Serif!” (the exclamation mark being part of her name, not the end of the sentence.) Helvetica Sans Serif! is opinionated, determined and stubborn – good qualities for herding cows and sheep in the Swiss Alps, but not absolutely necessary in a suburban dog.
I like dogs, but I’ve never felt the need to have one in residence. If I need a fur fix or get the urge to go scritch something, I can walk down the street and show some love to Gunther, the enormous German Shepherd who lives at the corner. Gunther and I are good friends, yet, go figure; I never get the urge to visit him when it’s cold or rainy or 5 a.m. And when I give his tummy a good rub, and fur explodes all over the place, it doesn’t settle in my living room.
With the young Moose away visiting his other grandparents for Christmas, I had hoped that even though his partner-in-crime Helvetica was staying with us, we might still enjoy a bit of a slower start in the morning. What follows are some excerpts from my diary detailing how that went:
Thursday, December 20: Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be torrential rain and wind. Clearly not a day to walk the dog, although I can bet I will anyway.
Friday, December 21: It rained hard all day. It is not possible to walk a dog between the raindrops.
Wednesday, December 26: At the moment, I am viewing the day through somewhat bleary eyes, having been rousted out of bed at 5:58 by The Hound. She is very determined when she figures she’s given you more than enough time for a lie-in. She puts her snout under your shoulder and heaves, rolling you out of bed if you are anywhere near the edge.
Now, having returned from a mile plus walk (trot is more like it) in the 15 degree frosty cold, I am definitely too awake to go back to bed (although that’s what she has done, having perfected the art of Lazy Dog to a tee).
Friday, December 28: The hound let me sleep until 5 this morning before needing to go out in the backyard; she then kindly let me go back to sleep until 7 before insisting she needed a walk. It was raining, lightly but steadily, so we were soaked by the time we reached the end of the driveway. We did the usual mile plus circuit, anyway.
Sunday, December 30: The Dog wanted to go out to pee this morning at 1. At 5 she wanted to go out to poop. And she was insistent. And since the only way she will poop is with a run beforehand, I had to get dressed and take her out for that run. It was as short as I could make it – just around the corner. Once she accomplished her mission, back we came.
But just like every other morning this week, I am now dressed (after a fashion), I am cold, I am awake and it is not even 5:30 a.m. I am probably not wide-awake enough to operate power machinery, but I am definitely too wide-awake to go back to bed, so I made some tea, ate some Christmas cookies and growled at The Dog. Then, I read the news until about 7 when The Hunter got up and The Dog insisted she needed to go out again.
The Hunter came down for coffee while The Hound and I went out into the cold. As we trotted down the street, I decided that when we got back, tea and coffee be damned. A Bloody Mary was much more soothing.
And it was. I don’t think, even in my more degenerate youth, I’ve ever started imbibing before 8 a.m. Good thing The Hound goes home tomorrow. It will save me from turning into a sad alcoholic
Many days, Helvetica and The Hunter added to the general festive atmosphere about the house by engaging in their own repeated call and response chorus (strophe and antistrophe) consisting of barrages of emphatic barking followed by an equally emphatic “What the hell are you barking at?” These first lines were followed up, every time, with more barking (on the part of Helvetica) and “Shut the hell up” (on the part of The Hunter.) They had their lines and timing down perfectly; neither ever forgot their lines or entrances. Like an old professional road act, their timing was perfect. The only variable was the cue for this chorus: sometimes it began with Helvetica staring out the window and a dog or stranger coming into view; sometimes it was the mailman or UPS truck; and sometimes – most of the time, really – it was nothing. We concluded there must be ghosts walking up and down the street…
Then there were the supervised bathroom visits. This is a Moose specialty and it would appear before he left for Christmas vacation, he briefed The Dog on the correct procedure: stay close to her and follow her in. If she beats you in there and shuts the door, push it open and go right in after her. If she shuts and locks the door, sit outside and cry. Helvetica was an apt pupil. She followed those instructions to the letter. Every time.
And oh, the vacuuming. Every day there was enough hair in the vacuum canister to make three new dogs. How can anything lose so much hair and not look like a Chihuahua? Although, to give credit where credit is due in the cleaning up department: I never once dropped anything on the floor while baking or preparing the Christmas feast that Helvetica didn’t clean up promptly and thoroughly.
Looking back on those 11 days, Helvetica’s large brown eyes and very expressive soft black velvety ears were some compensation for the early mornings and the Greek chorus. And if they aren’t quite enough to make me say, immediately, “yes of course, any time, I will watch her again,” the pleasure of greeting each new dawn with a Bloody Mary definitely tips the scales towards a return performance.