Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Ivory (Dog O'My Heart)
My husband has been bugging me for some time to write a post exclusively about Ivory. Ivory is our dog, one of our two dogs, and as you can clearly see, the most beautiful dog on the planet. Oh I know, many of you are thinking that YOUR dog is the most beautiful dog on the planet, and I feel for you. I really do. You are laboring under a very common delusion, a delusion called "being flat-out wrong." I've run into this delusion before, on the very rare occasions when somebody thinks their children are cuter or more intelligent than mine.
We have had Ivory since the very first days of our marriage, which means she is just about ten years old now. Before Ivory, I had never had a dog of my own. My mother had a dog during my early childhood - a cocker spaniel named Pepper - but since I went out on my own I had not lived a lifestyle conducive to dog ownership (cough cough), and moreover had self-identified as a cat person. We all make embarrassing mistakes during adolescence, don't we? The story of how I acquired my first dog is kind of cute: one day my seven year old daughter came home from school and burst in the door yelling "Mom! Mom! Come quick! There's a hurt crow on the sidewalk!"
I followed her out the door and found a very large and healthy looking crow which did not, however, fly away when I approached. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but clearly it couldn't fly or it would have as our sleek cat got closer and closer. I was about to give my daughter the "circle of life" speech when she looked up at me with gigantic china-blue eyes and asked "can't we try to save it, Mama, please?"
Lucky for her - and the crow - it only took one phone call to locate a wildlife rehabilitation shelter willing to take a crow. I found a small cardboard box and a towel, and gingerly approached the fierce looking bird. "I'm only to try this ONCE," I warned my daughter. "If it doesn't work on the first try I don't want to hear a word about it." I will never forget how the crow, as I crept up on it with a towel in my hand, looked at me out of one bright eye and then lay down on it's side and went still. Silly as the idea is, it seemed to me - and it still does - that somehow the bird knew I intended to help it. I threw the towel over it and then gathered it up and put it into the box. Not once did it struggle.
The PAWS wildlife shelter accepted the crow and told me that there was no immediate reason to think it wouldn't recover completely. I couldn't help but notice that the adoption shelter was right next door to the wildlife rehabilitation shelter. "Since we are right here," I said to Rowan, "Do you want to go take a look at the animals? But I'm warning you, we are NOT getting a kitten."
Well we didn't get a kitten. But there was a litter of six puppies, white puppies with spots, that were heartbreakingly adorable. I asked about them and was told that they had just been neutered that day and wouldn't be ready for adoption until the following day. "If you are seriously interested," said the lady at the desk, "get here early. There's been a lot of interest in those puppies."
There was a lot of beseeching around the dinner table that night. Homero had been talking about a dog for quite some time, and I asked him to come with us the next morning, but he couldn't get the time off work. I took my sister instead. At PAWS, when you are interested in adopting an animal, you can take it to a special "interaction room" (or whatever they call it) to play with it for a little while and make up your mind. We took Ivory - the smallest of the puppies and the only one that was pure white - to this room and played for a while. She was bold, friendly, roly-poly, and we all pretty much fell for her. "Wait here," I told my sister, "I'm going to go tell them I want this puppy."
When I came back, my sister grabbed my arm. "You should have seen it," she said. "As soon as you left the room, the puppy ran over to the door and started whining and scratching, even though there are still four people in here who want to play with her. That's your dog, Aimee! You can't leave without her!" I had to tell a fib in order to take her home: PAWS won't let you adopt a dog unless everyone in the household has met the animal. But I lied and said my husband had met her on the previous day. I wasn't going to let this dog slip through my fingers. When I stopped by Homero's work to show him the new puppy, he actually thought she was homely beyond belief and that I might have made a major mistake. That is funny now, because no-one loves Ivory as much as my husband does. He dotes on her so devotedly that it has occasionally made me jealous. C'mon, if your husband thought his dog was more attractive than you are, you'd be jealous too, right? Especially if it were true?
Ten years later, Ivory is still the best dog ever. No member of the family has enjoyed the move out of the city and into the country more than Ivory has; no member of the family tears through the blackberries to catch rabbits like she does; nobody else has learned to herd goats like Ivory has. I moved out here for my children, but I think Ivory has benefitted the most. Ivory is the all-around American dog: she is fierce enough to protect the house and family, yet gentle enough to sleep with a newborn baby. She kills rats mercilessly, but has never killed a chicken.
She is endlessly elegant and beautiful. As an artist, I appreciate her gorgeous lines. She literally can't strike an awkward pose. Yet she can be silly and clownish. She is playful, athletic, graceful, rambunctious, and energetic.
She effortlessly learned to help me with the goats, and even learned to protect the little girls from aggressive pigs.
Ivory was born to be a farm dog. She was born to be OUR dog. Nobody knows what kind of dog she is - although everybody asks. "What a pretty dog!" They always say. "What kind of dog is she?" Even the vet can't guess, but we know she is largely whippet and most likely part pit bull. That leads us to call her a "whippet-pit." But there could easily be a bit of shepherd or just about anything else in there as well. All we care about is that she is OUR dog; a fantastic family dog and a very, very good friend.
At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I will share with you a song we made up for Ivory, back when she was still a young dog. Please refer to the first picture at the top of this post; and then play this to the tune of that old schoolyard favorite "do your ears hang low?"
Do your ears stand high
do they almost touch the sky?
if you flapped them do you think you could fly?
are they tri-an-gu-lar
and covered with fur?
the ears of
the dog that