By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
Technically, the dog belongs to both of us. No question about it. Both of us. Period.
Granted, I spend more time with her. She is, after all, a hunting dog and Sally has not hunted of late so yes, I do spend more time with Bella. But we share the house with the pup, each feeding her, each of us giving her attention or discipline, the two of us refereeing tussles between Bella, at 16 months, and the two Boston Terriers, Fenway and Winslow. It is joint ownership, no matter how you cut it.
So when there is an assignment of ownership it should not be taken as a good omen. Specifically, when Sally calls me at work to say, “You won’t believe what your dog did” my hackles rise. “Your dog.” The two words carry a weight.
I have long known this, back in the days when our old dogs Riika and Thor had their days of havoc and destruction too numerous to delineate in the space allotted for this. Let one example stand to illuminate the rest. Thor learned to open the refrigerator (he was clever with his paws even though dogs lack opposable thumbs to aid in manipulation) and one day pawed it open and helped himself to a mix of leftover duck, bacon, eggs and assorted leftovers.
On that day a call at work: “Your dog…” was all I needed to hear to know trouble was afoot.
I have heard the same is true of miscreant children, certainly the product of a pairing of parents and irrefutably a joint and shared responsibility. A friend once said the words, “your son” boded ill in a manner few words normally can. The power of words condensed to a one-two punch as it were.
This week a call: “I can’t believe what your dog did.”
There is no easy way to avoid a further discussion, no opportunity to ask how Sally’s day was going, how work was unwinding for her, no real chance to duck and dodge as it were, no quick and easy manner to change the subject or prolong the suspense.
A bit of background before I unravel this any further. Two things. One, Bella is a digger. She digs holes, most often in the backyard. Any pretense to us having a lawn has long been tossed to the winds as the dirt of her excavations has been tossed to the walkway in the yard. Our yard, never an exemplary testament to modern American greenery of so many lush yards lies tattered and torn, great gaping holes appearing at random, the entire sorry expanse ragged and pockmarked.
So there is that. Then there is the cable service to the house. Our internet was balky and slow and in that, annoying. We tested it and in technical terms the flow of data into the house was about the speed of a garden slug. Which is to say not very frisky.
Technicians descended, diagnosed the problem (the cable had been compromised before it got to our yard) and replaced the cable with a bright orange one and buried it in the yard.
You may see where this is going. A dog that has tendencies to dig (we feel we could hire her out as an excavator) and a new cable, buried in the yard.
The phone call: “Your dog,” the stage set for the denouement as it were. My dog, my Bella, had dug up the cable and, not satisfied with merely digging it up, had chewed on it. Sally had seen her computer screen flicker a few times and had gone out to investigate. And there found my dog looking quite satisfied with her efforts, the orange cable exposed to the open air.
Bella had gnawed through the orange sheath and, never one to settle for less, bit deeper, into the guts of the cable where the magic of the internet flows. Sally seemed displeased with that and quite frankly I wasn’t one to disagree.
Another phone call; another visit by a tech; the cable spliced and patched and buried one more time.
On my return home that evening I was tasked for a quick trip to buy a dozen large cast concrete pavers, followed by a session with shovel and rake and the careful placement of the stepping stones to follow the path of the underground cable. I finished as the sun was dipping below the tree line and an evening chill was settling it. My back was achy and I did not bask in the joy of an October evening and a rose colored sky to the west.
My dog watched it all, bright eyed and attentive. I sulked.
Bella redeemed herself the next day, pointing a grouse in a picture perfect point and finding a downed woodcock that I’d likely lost. She ranged well, worked the woods hard, hunted with enthusiasm and drive.
When we came home to the back yard she walked to the new pavers laid out in their ragged line and regarded them as objects fallen from the sky. Then we went inside.
Sally was at her desk, the computer humming like a well-tuned engine chock full of data from the cable, data gushing like a surge of water in a stream. There may be a more technical description of this but you get my drift.
Bella walked to Sally, rested her head on her lap and looked up at her with her amber eyes. Sally asked how Bella had done and I said she’d done very well and I was very happy with that. Sally rubbed Bella behind the ears and Bella regarded her with adoring eyes and Sally told Bella she was a good dog. Then looked at me and told me she was glad that our dog was doing so well.
Our dog. Not “your dog.” “Our dog.” I took that as a good sign.
Bella, back on good graces; our dog, not my dog, our dog.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.