Before I tell you about Edsel attacking the puppy, you gotta promise me you won't hate Edsel. I did. For, like, an hour. I don't know if I've ever been so angry at a dog. But she's fine, and I really thought about it from his perspective, and now I love that damn dog more than ever. So.
Now this picture makes me nervous as shit.
I did what you were supposed to do, which was introduce the dogs gradually, although I didn't do it on "neutral territory," because part of Edsel's Carolina Dog-ness is that he's a completely different person outside these doors. In here, he's sweet and welcoming and ties on his hostess apron and whips up a snack. Outside, he puts his ears back and curls his leash around me to get away from hands. Carolina Dogs are notoriously shy outside, so I figured meeting her "outside" would make him way nervouser.
And the thing was, I wasn't worried. He was so sweet to the cats, he loved Tallulah, he'd welcomed Violet and friends' dogs and Stanley and I was all, oh please. But still, I carried Ava in and took her straight into the back bedroom, shut the door. Let Edsel in only after he wasn't obsessively sniffing the door anymore. Limited exchanges to 15 minutes at a time all night and yesterday and otherwise kept him on one side of the gate and her on the other. That tail bite up there was the only time Ava initiated any play, really, and it seemed fine.
Then yesterday morning I was on the floor with both of them and from seemingly nowhere Eds attacked. Full-on attacked. It was awful. I had to grab him by the scruff of his neck and pull him off her. I was furious with him. This wasn't a big dog correcting a puppy. It was an attack.
He slunk from the room, and I was glad. Oh my god, I hated that dog right then. I held poor Ava, who was horrified, but unhurt. I held her for a long time. I knew I shouldn't be crying and upset, that I had to act like the calm, assertive pack leader. Fucking Caesar. I don't even know what precipitated it! There was no food. There was a toy nearby, but they hadn't both gone to it or anything. I shouldn't have had a toy nearby, though. It's hard when you have a puppy and a dog and yourself. But that's also my own fault. I'm the one who opted for this hard scenario.
I held her for a long, long time, trying to act calm and assertive. I knew what would have to happen is that I'd have to keep them separate for a long time, months, maybe. Get a trainer in here. Ava does not like to be alone–when I put her in a crate just to shower she had a fit. I put her in the bedroom with the door closed just so I could dress and she had another fit. I worked on my statistics book with her on my lap, because she cried otherwise. And how was I going to walk Edsel for 40 minutes every day? I'd been planning to crate her or walk both of them, and now that was out.
I felt so sad and overwhelmed. I felt acutely alone, is what I felt. You know, I really don't mind living alone, and I don't even mind not having a man person. I mean, okay, sure, IT WOULD BE NICE, but this hasn't been that bad. Except for times like this. Like, if someone were just here to talk me down, to say, "Oh my god, we can do this. It'll be fine; I'll come home from work and be with the puppy while you walk Edsel." That sort of thing. But instead it was just me and my catastrophic thoughts.
I thought about Edsel, too, yesterday, and all he's been through. He loved the crap out of Ned; both dogs did. So, for six weeks in October and November, I was just gone, then I come back and drag them away from Ned's house. We come back here in mid-November, then Tallulah gets sick. In retrospect, I can recall signs that she was sick as far back as Thanksgiving. I wonder if Edsel could tell then? He knew; he was forever sniffing her back there where her tumor was. And then his Tallulah was gone. And what do I do? Bring in not one but two puppies a short while later.
I put on my shoes and went outside, teary-eyed. The only times I'd been outside in 24 hours were to let the puppy out, which by the way she'd been EXCELLENT at. She totally already knew that's what you did when you went outside! Anyway, I held her like a baby and just walked down my street. I was trying to just clear my head, not feel so overwhelmed, not fucking cry, be the goddamn pack fucking leader.
That's when I passed the family down the street, the people who live next to Paul, although as they say, Paul Is Dead. You knew my old neighbor-on-the-glider, Paul, finally died, right? He made it to a hundred. But every time I walk the dogs past his house I miss him.
Anyway, next to his house is this family I know I've mentioned once or twice. He's a retired Jewish doctor, she still works at the fancy rehab, for when you're a rich drunk person. I mention they're Jewish because I identify with the Jewish people–I'm not Jewish but having been married to a Jew, I've had a little in me.
She has a hip short gray 'do. I like them a lot. They have two grandkids who are around often, and I know I've told you about them. Their grandson was much younger when Talu and I walked past one day when she was in one of her rolling-in-the-berries-in-my-yard looks.
"I wish I had a blue-and-yellow-dog," he told me.
"Well, she'd not usually bl–" I started to tell him.
"What kind of dog is she?" I may not have mentioned to you back then that he is a very attractive child, which is important because being attractive always is. He and his sister are of mixed race, and they have good hair. I know I seem racist with the whole she's Jewish/he's mixed descriptions, but I wanted you to get their vibe. Hip, cool, ethnic, good-hair vibe.
"She's a pit bull/beagle," I said to the kid, as he petted Lu's head, which I miss very much as I write this. "Do you have a dog?" I never know what to say to people under the drinking age.
"Yeah," he said. "What kind?" I asked. "Oh, she's a pet bull and a beagle."
And right then I knew. That kid was full of shit.
I told you that story like six years ago, and there that family was yesterday, in their yard: the grandma with the hep 'do, her very pretty daughter in nurse's scrubs, and the nurse's two kids with good hair. "Are you…walking with a puppy?" the nurse mom asked.
"I am," I said, and naturally the kids, who must be older than six, see above reference, asked to pet her. Actually I'd put them both at not adolescent yet, but maybe like 9 and 11. Look at me, homing in on kids' ages.
"Can I hold her?" the little girl asked. Her hair was phenomenal, and Ava was already chewing it. So I said okay. The next thing I knew, Ava was chasing those kids all over the yard, and the mom and I were sitting in the grass, watching. I told the mom the blue-and-yellow dog story. She laughed.
"We had to leave our dog behind," she said. "I'm…separated. I'm getting divorced." She looked uncomfortable. "I just moved back in with my parents. Our dog was really my ex-husband's, and they miss having a dog."
"Oh, what kind?"
"Oh, some kind of a pit/beagle mix, maybe."
All those years I'd accused that kid of lying.
I told her that story, too, then, and I told her the story of Ava, and why I was on a walk and the grandma with the hip hair stood next to us, leaning on her car. "I just feel so overwhelmed," I told them, tearing up again.
"We can take that puppy," said the grandmother.
"We can?" asked the daughter?
"WE CAN?" screeched the kids. "Honey, shh," said the mom.
"Well, of course we can. Someone's always here, and look at her."
"That means vet bills, and taking her out 400 times a day, and walking her…" the mom began. "I know it does," said the grandmother. "How many dogs have we had? Let me go talk to your father." She went indoors. The grandfather came out. "My father is the voice of reason," the nurse mom said to me.
The father came out with his hands on his hips. He saw Ava prancing in the yard after the kids. It was the most I'd seen her play in 24 hours. He saw his daughter's face and he looked at me. "How much do you want for that dog?" he asked me.
"Oh my god, nothing!' I said. "I want you all to keep me updated on her every time I walk past here." And with that, the entire family and I created a parade as we headed to my house to get Ava's dish and leash that's 10394924 times too big for her, her toys and her bed and her pee pads and her food.
The little girl with the fabulous hair put her hand on her chest. "My heart is literally beating so hard I can feel it. I didn't know I was going to feel this happy today," she told me.
And that is when I voluntarily hugged a child. "I didn't know I was going to, either," I said.
When I got to my house, the mom held Ava outside while we went in and got the stuff. "I like your house very much. I enjoy the way you have it organized," the boy told me, and right then I loved him. I wonder when his dad will feel ready to date?
We all walked back together and got Ava set up, and her little puppy eyes were gleaming, she was so happy and playful. I knew I'd done the right thing. They all stood on the porch waving at me. It made me think of one of my tarot cards.
"This was like God or something! This was meant to be!" the mom cried at me as I walked away in the sunset.
I think it really was.
When I got home, I had a talk with Edsel. I apologized, and I promised, NO MORE PUPPIES.
Then I called my friend Marty Martin and told him the whole story. "You're like a puppy halfway house," he said.
"You know, all this time, I kept wanting puppies, but what I really want is …Tallulah," I said, and I started to cry. "There's just been so much upheaval lately."
"You know how when you step in shallow water and the ground is muddy, and it's all murky on the bottom? You have a choice right then. You can keep walking and muddy the waters further, or you can stand still and wait for the water to clear. Right now might be a stand still time," he said.
"God, you're like a fortune cookie or something," I said, blowing my nose.
But he's right. I feel worn out and hung over, yet happy for Ava. But now I just want to stand still. And miss my pet bull and beagle.