“You know that saying about it taking a village to raise a child?” my daughter asked the other day as she and I were weeding down by our creek.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I think the same goes for dogs,” she said.
Celeste pointed toward our neighbor’s yard, where our dog, Ash, was visiting with Becca, who lives next door.
Ash is stealthy, capable of being beside you one moment and halfway down the street the next. And then right back beside you again. He’s sneaky but also guilt-ridden, returning with such a genuinely apologetic expression it’s impossible to scold.
“No worries,” Becca called out to us. “I’ve got him. He came for a cookie.”
His bad behavior amply rewarded, Ash returned with his Milk-Bone and stretched out nearby. He would later sneak off to Ansley’s house, two doors down, for an unscheduled playdate with her golden. And two doors the opposite direction to survey their tree house construction. At each place, we could hear him being greeted warmly.
Everyone who lives around us knows his name. He’s like the dog version of Norm from Cheers.
We’ve had people tell us they’re afraid of dogs yet approached Ash because he’s so obviously gentle. There’s a gooberness to him that billboards his harmlessness. I could live a thousand years and would never hope to have another dog as genuinely good as him. Dogs like him come along once in a lifetime.
Yet he has this one fault — he’s too social. His people are obviously failing to provide the level of interaction he desires, so he’s forced to take matters into his own paws and sneak off.
Years back, we had another sneaky dog, only that one wasn’t good 90 percent of the time. (The 10 percent accounted for sleep.)
He was little but loud, and when he escaped, he would terrorize the neighborhood — barking fiercely, chasing children, attacking lawnmowers. He was never happier than when he was being chased. It was his greatest joy. But he was so fast he wasn’t easily catch-able. I burned many calories chasing that dog.
Celeste and I would regularly walk the perimeter of our fenced in yard, searching for holes. We even tied balloons (and once, in desperation, an empty milk jug) to his collar hoping it would snag in the fence so we could identify his escape route, but that only worked on a single occasion. After that, he would make sure to remove the balloon before discreetly making his escape. I sort of suspected he climbed, though I never once saw him do so.
I once caught him clutching a transporting device. After I took it away, I found him stacking patio furniture. It was hopeless.
Our attempts to block his exits — using whatever we could find — resulted in a creation that appeared more fortress than fence. Like something from “Sanford and Son.” When we put our house on the market, it took two days to disassemble the many boards we’d attached to our fence.
We eventually found someone with lots of land who was willing to take him, and once he was gone, I announced my dog-owning days were over.
And then I was rewarded with Ash. The best bargain I ever struck of my life.
I say this because Celeste, who was not quite 18 at the time, took the pup from some guys who shouldn’t have had him. She originally insisted she was trying to find him a home, but she fell so deeply in love with the dog she began to offer things up — cleaning, cooking, yard work — if I let her keep him.
All easy no’s.
And then she offered to break up with her boyfriend, who was every mom’s nightmare.
I’d have agreed to take in an elephant to get that guy out of her life, so I count myself lucky to have landed a canine socialite instead.