John's World:

January 6, 2012 10:17 PM

Our resident dog, Maizey, landed at our place via drive-by delivery, just as the last few did. She wandered into the yard one day as if we should have been expecting her. And amazingly enough, we could not have ordered a more perfect fit between dog and owners.

We immediately noticed that she didn’t bark. In fact, it was more than two years before we heard her utter anything louder than a supper whine. For middle-aged folks in the middle of nowhere who like to sleep with the windows open, this was enough to guarantee her tenure at our farmstead. We are so accustomed to silence that we toss and turn when the surrounding corn is dry enough to rustle.

The second attribute to win our approval was her size. She was large enough to feign the appearance of a guard animal but not so large as to threaten lawn furniture or consume truckloads of chow. She also had a remarkably pedestrian appearance, with ears that sit straight up, giving the mistaken impression of intelligence. Few people ask her breed, as she is obviously an amalgam of genes from the entire canine pool.

Maizey was far removed from the little-yippy-dog antics that are so popular with many dog fanciers. Her behavior was placid to the point of comatose, except near suppertime or when grandchildren slammed car doors in the driveway. Even that excitement she eventually learned to manage after the children found that blowing in her face would stop the licks.

Maizey possesses a lush, silky coat that is nearly magical. I say this because, as far as we know, she produces and sheds more hair than the average alpaca or small herd of sheep. At all times of the year, every body movement, especially if done on light-colored carpet, deposits tufts of black hair that at first glance resemble either dead voles or grease stains from farmer work boots. By rights, she should have been bald within a month after her adoption, but she somehow continues to grow jet-black fur of amazing density. Personally, I think she is just trying to outcompete me for Jan’s attention by exploiting my own dismal follicle count.

Canine cunning. While certainly not to be confused with language-using chimps, Maizey does surprise us with acts of low cunning, even while affecting an attitude of adorable innocence. For example, while we have never had an "inside" dog, her terrified whimpering during thunderstorms led Jan to spread an old blanket by the patio door where she could wait out the bad weather. Stairs mystified her, so she was effectively confined to the main floor.

Maizey patiently continued her campaign, however. By dogged persistence, so to speak, she soon became a fixture in front of the TV, where she enjoys "Star Trek" reruns (earning mucho bonus points in my book). She even screwed up the courage to climb stairs, although years later she can still do this only on the left side at full speed.

Regardless of the weather, she exits at night. Part of our bedtime ritual is to escort her to the door. As the weather gets worse, she becomes more adept at finding obscure corners in which to nestle at about 10 p.m. Not coincidentally, she also develops impaired hearing. She will eventually, albeit sullenly, slink out, but clearly she has an agenda.

A few weeks ago, we got no response to our hails at bedtime and did not see her snoring in any of her usual places, so we turned in. About 2 a.m., a minor disagreement with Chinese food encouraged me to spend some time reading, and as I walked barefoot across the library carpet, I felt a warm spot. I immediately tried to imagine what was happening in the basement below, but a frantic trip downstairs showed nothing wrong.

I eventually returned to bed, and, the following dawn, discovered a dog face a few inches from mine. If dogs can gloat, she was doing her touchdown dance. To her credit, however, Maizey has an unblemished carpet damage record, another accomplishment I can only envy.

Dog owners supposedly live longer, but if you subtract the time spent feeding and petting them, it’s likely a wash. Still, having one resident in the house who is always on your side is an emotional asset. Finding an amenable housemate is no small accomplishment, judging by the number of advice columns and chick flicks on the subject, so quibbling about the particular species involved seems like small potatoes.

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