Madame N is allegedly a Collie X. We got her from the SPCA in 2005 when she was 9 weeks old. This is her story.
As I opened and closed the sundeck door for the millionth time this weekend, it struck me: our dog, Madame N, had morphed into a living, breathing piece of furniture that needed to be let outside once in a while. Did the girls even know what true dog ownership was about?
Sure we let them feed her, give her treats, and encouraged them to encourage her to chase the squirrel who sits in our walnut tree and robs us of fresh walnuts every year, but aside from that, Madame N’s existence in our life is pretty low-key.
When I adopted Madame N, the stout matron at the S.P.C.A. gave me the hairy eyeball when she reached the part of her schpeel that included previous dog owners who had dumped dogs back at the S.P.C.A. because of children. “And what will you do when you have children?” her accusing voice inquired.
“Keep her?” I said. I had meant the words to be stronger, more certain, of course when you have children you keep the dog. We would keep the dog. But my voice betrayed my brain and followed up weakly with, “My husband has grown up with dogs?”
I must have passed, because two hours later. Yes, two hours. A different worker whispered loudly, “That girl’s still here waiting for a dog.” I was taken back to the kennels where I found Madame N, right where I’d left her, curled up, snoozing hard.
“Well, pick her up, if this is the one you want.”
I hesitated, but not because she wasn’t the right dog. Madame N had chosen me: licked my hand, then curled up and fell asleep while her sisters barked and brew-ha-ha’d at my ankles.
I hesitated, because I equated picking a dog up with holding a hamster, or a guinea pig, both bony scratchy pets other people had in my life, not me. I was a cat girl, my husband was the one who knew what to do with dogs.
With an exasperated sigh, the woman lifted Madame N up and placed her into my arms. Madame N didn’t flinch, or wiggle as I carried her warm body out of the cement and steel cage and into the bright February sunlight: our own quiet Escape from Witch Mountain.
In her heyday, Madame N raced around climbing structures at the playgrounds, running up slides and running back down them. She dug holes to China, and sprinted head first into the frigid waters of the Pacific for pretty much anything you’d throw.
When we moved into our house, she met Crazy A, and together they’d wrestle and romp for hours. Back then, there wasn’t a chain-link fence separating our backyards and the two dogs would race from yard to yard for their playdates.
Then we started having children.
The words of the S.P.C.A. quality control agent were etched in my brain. I could hear her sneer, “And what will you do when you have children?” every time I hissed at Madame N to stop click-clacking her nails on our hardwood, because a baby was sleeping.
I could hear her voice the handful of times Madame N stepped in her business and tracked it into the house, sending the baby I was holding into the crib and me into a cleaning frenzy.
And I heard it again tonight, as I nursed on the couch and Madame N barked to be let in. Though she only barked twice, it was enough to make me grimace, “I’m only one woman, Madame N, give me a break.”
But alas, as intuitive as dogs are, they don’t know they’re annoying you with their long clackity-clacking, or tracking stuff through your house, or barking. In the case of Madame N, she just wants to have her nails clipped, backyard picked-up and to be let in; all her annoyances are human made.
So, in the spirit of celebrating this pooch who has been beside me through thick and thin (literally and figuratively) I decided to declare Tuesday: the day of the dog, which brings us to Tuesday…