I was celebrating a significant birthday a while back when I got the harebrained idea that I should have a dog. You know, arbitrarily attach a significant choice to a somewhat irrelevant life event? Yeah. It was a rather weak excuse for making the best decision I’ve ever made.
You see, my brother and I weren’t raised with dogs. Other than Titanic, the unsinkable golden newt that I had in third grade, we didn’t have pets. Even Titanic met an untimely demise when I left him (her?) in a cereal bowl instead of his tank. He skulked off to somewhere, never to be seen again. I hold out hope that he’s a gargantuan creature dwelling in Lake Jennie between Dassel and Hutchinson, turning more into lore than a victim of my failed pet ownership. That would be the hero’s ending that Titanic would deserve. I fear that’s not the case.
A wayward newt is hardly a case against dog ownership, but I didn’t exactly have a stellar track record to build on. Something that I’m sure we could blame on my parents, my older brother got a dog as soon as he hit adulthood, marriage, and nesting. I took on the love and caring for Danny the Dog as part of my raison d’être. That big horse of a dog was the cat’s meow with me. He was big, fluffy, and Not Mine.
Then, Petfinder.com happened. Bored at work, my friend and I would pass links to profiles of cute dogs back and forth to each other. It started with a puggle (pug and beagle mix) and ended with Grendel.
Grendel is my dear, sweet Glen of Imaal Terrier. I didn’t know what that breed was, either, when he came up as a breed possibility for my lifestyle constraints: Lives in apartment in the city without a yard, doesn’t jog and won’t jog, has family members with allergies, and may subject animal to small children of blood relation. Petfinder located the only Glen within states of here at the Mower County Humane Society in Austin, Minnesota. Now, if you’re one to put credence in signs, not only was he the only one in reasonable proximity, but his profile said that he’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, hates cats, and doesn’t bark. That’s my boy.
Okay, I don’t hate cats. But, I don’t mind that he does.
I brought Grendel home without even knowing how to give a dog a bath—and boy, did he need one. We spent much of that first stretch of time learning how to take care of each other. First, we got really wet as I learned the baptism-by-fire way to give a dog a bath. Then, we figured out the rest of how to live with each other. And, we haven’t deviated much from the routine we set that first weekend that he came to live with me in my apartment in Minnetonka. Now, as I’m looking at his fifth anniversary of living with me, I can do our routine in my sleep. And, sometimes I do.
Grendel is my pet. I’m not a pet owner who is referred to in parental terms because I think a pet is even more revered in my world system. He’s my perpetual dependent who I am to love and cherish and make comfortable and happy. I don’t expect anything of him and he won’t develop much past where he already is. People ask me if I’ve had him trained and I usually respond somewhat shamefacedly that I have not. I’ve noticed, though, that we have trained each other. I don’t give a darn about whether or not I’m a pack leader, when I say things like, “Move over,” he moves to his side of the couch. When I say, “C’mere,” he does. When I say, “Wait,” I’m pretty sure he hears, “GO!” We’re still working out the glitches.
For someone who’s never owned a pet, I had no preconceived notions of how pets should be. He’s not my work dog; he’s too lackadaisical. He’s not my hunting dog; I’m still mortified when he killed a squirrel on one of our walks. He’s not a playful dog; he never brings anything back when we play “fetch.” He is simply my companion.
It’s a beautiful relationship.
And, though I don’t refer to myself as his parent, I certainly enjoy the irony of being “Grendel’s Mother.” If you’re unfamiliar with the story Beowulf, I’ll offer up the smallest of spoilers when I say that the real monster in the story isn’t Grendel, but his mother…which isn’t far from the truth in our lives, either.
You mess with my dog, you mess with me.
He was the best $50 I’ve ever spent. Every time I turn on the iPod music, grab the red Kong, fill it with a spoonful of peanut butter and say, “Kennel up,” I begin missing him until I can get home again…which is why it’s time to sign off now.
It’s time to go home.
To this guy.