Oh those lumps and bumps
Bacha my Border Collie mix is now a healthy 10 years old, she will be 11 in May. She still has a lot of bounce in her step. I credit that to good health and lots of mental stimulation. Right now she is vigerously working on her “Lambchop” stuffed toy I gave her for Christmas switching her focus on the 5 different squeakers within the toy. As we snuggle I work my way through her hair and find some new little skin tabs and bumps from time to time. Lima bean, grain of rice, pea… I categorize and memorize the size and shape of each little lump and bump on her little body. The vet always asks if they change so I make sure I know each time we visit. We have aspirated and tested a few and they are always of no real concern but they are constant reminders to me that she is growing older.
Bacha was my puppy in college. I got her between my freshmen and sophomore year when I didn’t have a thing to do. As the years passed I continued to gain knowledge and work experience in the dog world working in at a rescue, as a vet assistant and kennel manager. Bacha continued to frustrate me and challenge what I thought I knew. There is nothing more humbling than a dog that is way too smart for their own good. That is a curious statement. “Too smart for your own good”, but there is not a herding dog owner out there who doesn’t know the feeling and expression well. I will never forget a few days into my sophomore year I was taking 17 credits and had started working part time at a restaurant when Bacha decided I was neglecting our time and her exercise regiment.
I saw her looking out the window for me but as I approach the door she vanished. I come in surprised not to be greeted with the usual excitement she usually had stored up for our greeting before we head out for our walk. An erie chill runs through my bones as I make my way down to my room calling her name curious what she is trying to pull. I walk into my room to find pure animalistic destruction. My room looked like a mosaic collection of plastic, leather and paper that should be photographed and hung in the museum of modern art. The entire floor is covered in a mix of text book shredded paper, what used to be my beloved pair of Birkenstocks, a few computer discs and cd’s, two eaten sharpies and a lot of stuffing from all her toys she had gutted. As my eyes take in the destruction my gaze drifts up to my bed which looks fairly untouched with the exception of a solitary hiking shoe placed carefully in the center of my queen size bed. I approach perplexed not angry but in sheer disbelief of the crime scene I have walked into. My roommate Dan is in the next room watching the God Father completely oblivious of the carniage that has happened in the room adjacent to him. How could he not hear her frustration being released on my every possession? It dawns on me as I step over what was once my computer discs and text books that my dog actually ate my homework but my focus is locked on the mystery shoe in the center of the neatly made bed. I pick it up and hear what sounds like a solitary dice being rolled in a cup. I turn the shoe upside down with my hand held out and a perfect circular poo ball drops into my hand. I am mortified as I realize I am now watching a solitary small ball of poop roll in my palm leaving a streaky trail like a melting chocolate. I refrain from dropping it on my bed and grab a paper scrap from the floor, what was once the cover of my military history text now holds the scary scat message. I frown in disbelief as I try to fathom her squatting over the shoe and squeezing off this small circle of vengence into the open mouth of my shoe. Did she poo first then place the shoe or did she do the whole thing up on my bed? I picture myself walking in on the occasion and studying her choices.
Then I notice Bacha slinking into the room tail tucked in a croutch as she follows the wall closely avoiding eye contact. The music from the God Father chimes in as Neri rows Fredo out into Lake Tahoe, as he begins to say his hail mary’s in preparation for the punishment he knows is coming, I am reminded of another famous God Father scene where the infamous horse head is found in his beloved owners bed. A message sent and recieved. I look at Bacha in disbelief and then and there I feel a shiver creep down my spine. Wow, this dog is mad at me. She sent me a message one born of frustration. Where words fail this gesture is recieved loud and clear. I look at her and say quietly, “I know it was you Bacha and it breaks my heart” trying to keep some sense of humor about the whole scene. I flush the perfect circular ball and wash my hands and we go for the quietest walk of our life together.
Right then and there I knew this dog was going to challenge everything I was sure I understood about dogs. She had destroyed my belongings and told me that I was ignoring her. Even negative attention is better than no attention at all in a dogs eyes. I remember this day with a fond smirk on my face knowing that it was a catalyst to the rest of my life. A political science major has 3 routes, teach, law school or government work. Any of these choices would have been one I could buckle down and follow but I would have come home to this grizzly scene on a regular occasion. I now take Bacha to work with me everyday and thank her for realigning my perception. I adopted a cute fuzzy puppy as a guy in college. All it took was a scary smart dog to send me a message and my father asking how long until “he dumps that dog on us” when I first brought her home for my path to forever change. Now as a certified professional dog trainer I spend my days listening to owners stories of their dog’s behavior incidents.
We have come a long way since that faithful day. Every lump reminds me of the hardest part of falling in love with these amazing creatures, they have a unfairly shorter shelf life than us. We watch them develop quickly form helpless fur balls to capable predatory creatures. Bacha has a long time to go but another day another bump and another memory seems further away. The SUV is getting a bit high for the dog with gazelle like leaps from a stand still position to make it every time. At night she lays down with a hard thud in the rather than her gentle ballerina moves of the past. Oh how I wish she could be my work partner forever my lovely lumpy dog. Enjoy them while you can, they give us so very much.