A Dog is a Dog

“A Commentary on Life with a Canine”

By Roberta Giroux
Recently a friend e-mailed me photos of her latest completed project. Her client was an interior designer’s dream come true, wealthy and in need of a total home renovation. As I viewed the slide show, I marveled at the gleaming hardwood, luxurious Persian rugs, raw silk draperies flowing to form puddles of fabric on the floor, velvet couches, and leather ottomans, to name just a few of the very fine elements. Many thoughts ran through my mind… Where was this house located? What did the owners do for a living? What did this lavishness cost? But, foremost was the realization that there was no way these people had a dog, a big dog, a seventy pound long-haired shedding dog. A dog that was losing his summer coat to make way for the even thicker winter coat, a dog with dirty paws and pieces of dried leaves stuck to his bottom; who pants and drools at the mention of a kitty-cat. Like the dog that is living in my house.

We call him Bentley, as in the classic British sedan. It sounds distinguished, refined and sensible. His looks compliment his name. “Your dog is gorgeous” we often hear from strangers. My husband and I thank them, beaming with pride as if we were somehow responsible. A white coat, with large swatches of golden-red lightly freckle his snout and front legs. His wavy soft hair and glorious feathery tail, a colleague once observed look like a plume on a lady’s hat. His almond shaped eyes match the color of his spots and appear to be rimmed with black eye liner. Sometimes when he is enjoying the sun on the back patio, calmly sitting, face to the sky, I absolutely think he is one top dog.

The truth is, Bentley is a mutt. From various accounts he appears to have a Saint Bernard, Golden Retriever, and Border Collie hodgepodge of traits, some more desirable than others. He and his sister Mercedes were guesstimated to be about eight weeks old when they were brought to a rescue shelter in rural Mississippi. The pair had been abandoned on a backcountry road, and at the time of their arrival the staff was using automobile names to identify the strays. We weren’t sure that we liked “Bentley”, but he answered to it. Since he had already been through who knows what, we decided to keep it and him, in spite of his questionable background. If anything, because he was so adorable, we felt regret that we hadn’t met him sooner – robbed so to speak of those months of puppy cuteness.

We were a bit nervous too. It had been nearly four years since our painful loss of Lizzie, another rescue puppy we had acquired at seven months. She came with a bowl, collar, leash and severe anxiety. More than one veterinarian had explained that the first four months are critical…everything that happens up to that time is cement in a dog’s memory bank. So what did Bentley’s hold?

Well it turns out that Bentley is not that complicated and a great deal less sophisticated than his name implies. His behaviors are motivated by his constant desire to be part of the pack, and he views my husband Steve as the leader. If Bentley could write a “Top Ten List of Favorites” this is how it would look:
1. Steve
2. Hiking with Steve
3. Riding in Steve’s truck
4. Getting to stay in the truck when we get back home and take a nap
5. Running with Steve
6. Catching Steve’s Frisbee
7. Eating peanut butter Kongs
8. Chewing plastic stuff, cardboard tubes, used dinner napkins
9. Playing at The Ranch with my buddies
10. Roberta

Now, Steve would try to tell you that I’m at least number five on the list, but I know better. Bentley is very good at what we call “interruptus betweenus”. He can be in a deep sleep, yet suddenly appear when he realizes that we’re talking, or cooking, or in the studio fiddling with paint – it doesn’t matter. Hearing both of our voices means that it is time for him to participate too. He needs the reassurance that he is still in the pack, and if at all possible he will sit on my foot to show me where I belong in the hierarchy. A good example of this is the day I was upstairs and Steve came to the bottom of the stairs to ask me something. I sat down on the top stair to have the conversation and sure enough, Bentley arrived on the scene, climbed the stairs, turned around, and sat on the stair in front of me so that he could face Steve. Of course he managed to sit on my feet.

So I suppose he does have a touch of insecurity that comes with his history. I hate to say that he came with baggage – that is such a human term. Through our rose colored glasses of love we try to remember that he is a dog, and dogs like to be dogs, doing dog things. That’s what all the dog experts say. Still, if you came to my home, even if we had just finished vacuuming, Bentley’s presence makes a statement that lets you know, he might just be a little bit more than that.

Roberta Giroux is a managing partner at BowWowMedia.tv She welcomes your comments via e-mail: roberta@bowwowmedia.tv