I grew up with dogs. I mean, I wasn’t raised by them or anything like that, but up until the point I moved out of my parents house at nineteen, we had a dog in the house pretty much every day. And I was crazy about each of these mutts, from Sheba, the fly-covered drool machine that lived with my grandparents (and who now resides somewhere underneath my back yard), down to Luke, the gentle Dobleman Pinscher who we had to put down after his arthritis got so bad he couldn’t walk. In between, we had a German Shepherd, two golden retrievers, and a homicidal Chow Chow named Bear that tried to eat my four-year old cousin.
But, with one six-month exception, I’ve never owned a dog as an adult. Of course, the main reason may be that very six-month exception, when – in a fit of insanity – we adopted a half black lab, half hellhound the kids named Rocco.
Rocco was chaos personified, more Tasmanian Devil than dog. He lulled us in with those soulful puppy dog eyes…
He started with small things, an occasional spilled water dish here, some midnight barking there; but by the time his reign of terror ended, he had eaten half of the household woodwork, torn up the kitchen linoleum, reduced a screen door to kindling, dug up part of the aforementioned Sheba (it was either her or Jimmy Hoffa), and peppered the yard with neurotically dug 1 inch wide holes that I’m still tripping over ten years later.
We tried taking him to doggie training class and after three weeks the instructor paid us to stay away. We though exorcist, but they wouldn’t allow dogs in church (and after seeing him make the water in his doggy dish boil, I wasn’t sure it would be effective.) The doggie trainer recommended one of those invisible fences; and Rocco taunted me, daring me to turn it up; and laughing off the shock like a rhino swatting a fly.
Somewhere between him uninstalling my rain gutters (don’t ask how he got on the roof) and eating the neighborhood garbage cans, I realized that it was only a matter of time before he opened a hellmouth and invited the rest of his demonic litter into our household. I consulted the texts looking for banishment spells, but lacking the appropriate protective talismans, opted to take the simpler route. I called Mom and took him back to the shelter.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m better off as a doggie uncle, someone good for an occasional scratch behind the ear. Still, I often wonder whatever became of Rocco. My Mom said he was adopted by someone with a good insurance policy and a never-ending supply of holy water; but then again she told me every cat and dog we owned was shipped off to a farm in Texas, so I’m not sure I believe her.
It’s likely he’s running things in the outer ring of the sixth circle of hell, hanging with the Centaurs, tearing up brimstone cobblestones and flinging them at the other destroyers of property. But I like to think he’s lying around someone’s farm, that manic puppy fire banked to warm coals. That he’s somebody’s good, old dog who still begs for kitchen scraps and licks the tears from grandkids faces and brings joy to the house in only the way that good, old dogs can.
I just hope they stocked up on the holy water!