The Devil's Lapdog, Part 1
Paw used to like to tell this story: Once there was a dog that took up at our house. She was a fairly large yellow dog, gentle and ingratiating. The kind that follows you, and follows you, and follows you everywhere.
The kind that would give you a hurt little look when you shouted for her to get out, go on, shoo, which is what Paw did every time he saw this dog. He liked to wave his arms and rush at her, take a couple stomping steps toward her until she bowed her head and turned away.
While the sweet yellow dog (later called “Butter”) worked her magic on Maw and me – I was in college at the time, but still living at home – Paw resolutely rejected her. He only liked purebred dogs. Pugs, to be exact. He liked to give them foreign names and let them sleep on his chest while he napped on the couch. But Butter was way too big to lie on his chest and anyway, giving such a plain country dog a foreign name would have been patently ridiculous. She was as common as could be. She liked hunting and whooping (her bark was somehow decidedly female, almost hysterical) and rooting around in dead things. She chased cars. She collected garbage and stored it under the front porch in a reeking fetid pile. So before things got out of hand and Maw and I got all attached, Paw put his foot down. “It’s me or the dog,” he’d recall saying, at this point in his story. And as if on cue, Butter would come over to wherever he was sitting and lay her head on his knee.
Butter died about fifteen years ago. Eventually blind and brain-damaged from the fateful day she caught a car, she shared the couch with Paw – him on one end, her on the other – until one final seizure stopped her heart. Maw says Paw carried the ninety-pound dog out to the car and rushed her to the vet in the middle of the night. But it was too late.
Paw was despondent for months. Butter died late in the summer and by Christmas of that year, it still took a good deal of prodding to get Paw to even talk about a new dog. I was married by then; Gary and I lived in California. I spent hours on the phone tracking down a couple of pug breeders before Maw told me Paw had decided that mixed-breed dogs were clearly superior, even to pugs. So instead we got him a gift certificate from his local Humane Society. I remember the day I called him when he’d just returned from picking out the new puppy. He sounded as if he were being tickled to death. He couldn’t speak for laughing. Lucy was a licker, a toe-nibbler, hell-on-paws and then some. None of us could have been happier.
Today, Lucy is nearly fifteen years old. She’s about the meanest, nastiest, most unpleasant animal you will ever meet...
Parts Two and Three can be found at my blog.
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By Kathy Benson