Re-run: Jan 2009
The New Economy
The dog showed up on my doorstep, shivering and whimpering, lost and hungry, minus collar, tags, or known history. Yes, I know. I know. Wisdom says, if you feed him, he will never leave. But what would you do?
The leaves had fled the poplar trees in my yard. The rime of frost was thicker each morning. Day light was migrating south. The mercury plummeted. Snow flakes gathered, reading for the long-dark-night-of-the-soul Montana winter.
I am a cat person. I do not want a dog.
The dog wagged his tail, sat on my foot and leaned into my leg. He said, “I am here to work on your relationship skills.”
Fool that I am, I opened the door and he walked in. I laid down the rules: You will not lounge on the couch. You will not track mud over the floors. You will not put your paws on me. You will bathe frequently.
But true to form, the only one making any lifestyle changes is me. I learn new habits. I make space for him. I buy and prepare special foods. I provide treats, toys and a new bed. I use a term of endearment when I call him for dinner. I change my routine. I check with him before I make plans for the weekend. I say to myself, “This is really sick.”
One day, while sitting at my desk paying bills, I say, “Dog, it is time you start to carry your own weight around here. There will be no slackers in this family,” I say this sternly. “Everyone contributes, each according to his means.”
The next day, Dog, after an expedition roaming the neighborhood, drags home the thigh bone of a tyrannosaurus rex. I heave a sigh. I imagine mountains of debris that I will have to pick up when the yard next appears, probably in May. I know Dog isn’t going to clean it up. I watch as he buries the bone in a mid-size drift, then sits, tail gouging angel wings in the snow, altogether pleased with himself.
Then I have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. That is when our relationship began to turn around. I wait until dark. I don’t want the neighbors to see me. A sliver of moon guides me to the spot marked in my memory. I pry t-rex from its frozen grave and drag it into the house. I fill the stock pot with water and boil the bone with the butt of a celery stalk, a couple onions, a few cloves of garlic, some carrot tops and assorted dried herbs from my garden. I simmer the bone about thirty hours, strain the whole mess and put up six quarts of prime soup stock. I toss the boiled bone back into the yard.
Several days later I serve dinner to friends. They rave about the soup. I smile sweetly and say, “The secret’s in the stock.”
Every few days, Dog drags home a new animal part. I note where he hides it, and under cover of night, slip outside and dig it up, throw it in the stock pot and simmer a new batch. I pat Dog on the head. Best relationship I ever had.
Havre Daily News
January 26, 2009