9 Years Ago My World Changed

When I was a kid I had a dog. She was a giant, gentle, german shepherd-labrador mix. She slept next to my bed. She kept a watchful eye on my siblings and me. I have a home video of her running and jumping to see me as my parents brought me home from the hospital. She was my best friend. I loved her dearly.

She died when I was nine. I cried with all the fury that a nine year old boy who doesn’t understand the world can.

I thought I’d never want another dog.

In fact, I was vehement about the subject. I even avoided dogs. I didn’t want to be around them.

Nine years ago today that changed. There a was a woman looking for a permanent home for a dog that she took in as she worked for a rescue organization.

She had been returned twice. She was aggressive and wouldn’t listen, though you would be too if you had been found in a garbage bag. For the first year I essentially lived with a wild animal. She wouldn’t stay in the house and instead spent the nights outside hunting down small woodland creatures and would only come in at daybreak.

Luckily, I had a flexible schedule and I could stay up all night. She stalked the backyard. It was unnerving. She was completely silent. It was like being outside with a four legged Batman.

She wouldn’t listen. Apparently in addition to being part direwolf, she’s also part Chow. And she essentially spent the first year eating when she wanted, and staying out for as long she cared to.

I’ve leashed trained a dozen dogs. My dog basically decided that the human part of the walk was unnecessary. It took years of struggle and finally she decided I could accompany her on her walks. She also has the strongest prey drive of any dog I’ve seen. For the longest time, any small beast was an appetizer waiting to happen. This too eventually passed. Except cats, apparently she has some ancient blood feud with felines (things get real interesting when my neighbor inflates giant purple cat as part of a Halloween display.)

She also grew, and grew, and grew. When I got her. They thought she would weigh between 50 and 60 pounds. This is true for the other dogs in her litter. Each one of them ended up in this range. However, my dog shot past them. She’s a a hundred thirty pound behemoth and she stands a head taller. She’s the size of what I always imagined Buck from Call of the Wild to look like.

She also has a deep distrust of men. She won’t let any guy she hasn’t met properly within thirty of her.

She also makes the world’s best guard dog. She has this unearthly growl that makes her sound as though she’s the Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ve been outside with a black gear and she has the same unnerving grunt. It’s rather intimidating.

Slowly though, she warmed up to us. You would never know she was basically a wolf her first two years. She lets little kids grab her and poke her. She even has another dog companion now and she lets him nip at her and steal her food.

She has made the backyard her domain. She guards it from squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional groundhog.

I never thought I’d even like another dog again, but after nine years, hundreds of bags of dog food, and about five thousand miles of walking later; here is she is. And I love her just as much. I couldn’t imagine a day without her.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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