My American Gentleman

Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category

By:  Sarah Du

Some time over the summer I came across an article which listed the various lessons a woman learned about love from her dog. She suggested that as humans we apply the fundamental aspects of dog personality, and relationships with their owners, to the romance in our own lives.  I began thinking about my own relationship with my dog and how my attachment to him has grown beyond just being “the hand that feeds.” He cannot talk or hug back but the tilt of his doggy head goes beyond puppy love.

My dog is the American made, born, and bred Boston Terrier names Kermit; mascot of Boston U and oddly not considered a true “terrier” by the AKC. His eyes bulge beyond his skull and his ears are better suited for a bat than a dog.  His short snout continuously producing a sound similar to pigs, Kermit is anything but what I had been used to in dogs. The I brought him home when he wa s just under six month and small enough to sleep in a shoe box; his body not well suited for his ego or personality. Kermit has often been mistaken for a small Boxer, a French/American Bulldog, or a Pit Bull mix of some sort. Only a few people we pass identify him as a Boston Terrier of course this really doesn’t matter to Kermit but I became intrigued by how he shares similar features with other dogs. So I began my research on the history of Boston Terriers.

Bred to catch small rodents Kermit does not stand true to his ancestors.  My dog cannot catch a thing, hence why we have a cat. The day Kermit saw a mouse run by, his ears perked and he ran to it, sniffing then walking away only to find me and stare suggesting the cat had something in the other room. The only time I saw Kermit do anything with a mouse was when he came across a fresh kill by the cat, and he began rolling its lifeless carcass across the carpet with his paws. This doesn’t suggest stupidity, only that perhaps the whole “product of your environment” theory can be true, at least for Kermit. While his playful nature is entertaining I am a true believer that pets act upon instinct as their minds are not spoiled by technology and their worlds less practical due the lack of opposable thumbs. They are not human therefore whatever domestication has occurred cannot override nature. I believed in my dog and the facts from Boston Terrier days past that Kermit could hunt and kill a rodent. Another opportunity came when I saw a small mouse scurry across our dining room floor and Kermit, being the only non human in the room, I yelled “Go Kermit, get the mouse!” pointing at Mickey on my carpet. Kermit began shaking the little tail he had and ran full force to the mouse that stopped and watched as he shoved his cold, wet nose against his body. Hope took over as I peaked over top of them, anticipating Kermit to pick up the mouse with his mouth. This fearless mouse became anxious and lunged at my dog, who jumped backwards and trotted to me as if to say “Ew get it.” Soon the cat came to save the day, immediately breaking Mickey’s legs. I often set the little ones free but today I allowed my cat to take him out of his misery. I walked away and returned to find Kermit again rolling the dead carcass across the carpet. I promptly wrapped the dead mouse in a paper towel and disposed of it. With Kermit at my feet my curiosity was crushed by the acceptance that my dog will never catch mice, and so I fed him a Milk Bone and he remained content in knowing he is not a mouse catcher.

When Halloween arrived I fell into the trend of dressing your dog in ridiculous costumes .  I made a trip to Petsmart and found a lobster costume, if you could even call it that, sized “medium.”  The “costume” was more like a lobster cape, as the lobster’s head was to be wrapped and velcroed around Kermit’s neck with the lobster body lying on top of his.  Any time you can dress your animal as another animal it is considered 100% adorable, thus I spent the $10 and planned to take amazingly cute pictures to post on Facebook of my dog as a bright red, freshly boiled crustacean.  Upon arriving home, Kermit greeted me at the door and I told him I had a surprise.  I immediately told him to sit, stay and pulled out his costume, ready to rip off the tag and place it on him.  It all played out perfectly in my mind, in the store  and on the way home that my rambunctious 3 year old Boston Terrier would be more than happy to don an outfit resembling nothing he could fathom, or for any reason he could imagine, just because I thought it would be “cute.”  The lobster made it to Kermit’s head but soon it was ripped off as his face filled with panic and he suddenly seemed to think he was under attack.  He rolled on the floor, took the lobster in his mouth, and began thrashing, banging it against the ground as I started to hear it tear apart I immediately grabbed it from him and placed it on the shelf in my room.

Never a quitter I thought I would give Kermit more time before I decided to dress him later that evening.  I let him relax, gave him a few treats and waited until he was in a comfortable position.  When I thought he wasn’t looking, I reached on top of my shelf, and slowly moved towards him ready to velcroe at top speed if he tried to run away.  Now looking back and reading everything I am writing, this entire determination of costume and Kermit exploitation is borderline animal cruelty.  In any case Plan B did not work and once again Kermit dragged that poor lobster across the floor and this time he was going in for the kill.  He began pulling and trying to dismember this lobster, his saliva and Boston Terrier grunts eager for the taste and spill of fluff.  I grabbed the lobster and placed it back on my shelf, which it now lives and will never be brought down again.  I had plans on returning it but it was covered in Kermit’s spit and no longer looked like a happy costume so I kept in case someone else ever decided they wished to dress their pets…or until Kermit was too old and feeble to care about being one.

So what did I learn about relationships from these moments with my dog?  That persistence can be both a blessing and a curse, that acceptance goes beyond tolerance and while we never gain what we ideally sought it doesn’t mean that the opposite outcomes are negative.  Persisting for a large cause, one of which does not require exposing and forcing the other person (or house pet) to face their weaknesses,  fears, scars and boundaries, can be healthy and worthwhile but people (and in my case a Boston Terrier) will come out and share when they are ready.  Even if the moment is wrong, or the timing is a bit off, the bond and closeness is worth the wait.  We can all sit and plan, plan, plan.  We all have expectations and our beliefs of what is appropriate and worthy at that moment but if we reschedule our route and make exceptions it doesn’t mean our entire life goes off course.  I still believe that everything happens for a reason and if a person is compelled to act or speak at a certain moment, they take the risk of being judged or facing disappointment.  And if their true intentions and desires do not occur at that time but rather further down the road it only means that the world just wasn’t quite ready.

Kermit may never enjoy being dressed up and my persistence can never change that even if I gave him Benedryl and a belly rub.  For now I plan on “ooo-ing” and “aww-ing” at the adorable pictures of dogs dressed as monkeys and hotdogs and pigs but will not longer imagine Kermit as any of these things.  Instead I will hug him, and kiss him, and continue feeding him Milk Bones as I accept my dog as the only Boston Terrier who cannot catch a mouse, who despises lobster capes, and may never agree with me aboutdress up, but accepts and agrees that from this day forward he will always be my dog and I will always be his human, even when the timing isn’t always right.

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