Thursday, May 6, 2010

my dogs-final

Call it misplaced nostalgia. Call it 'seeking our youth'. Call it simply crazy...A year or so after Sadie died, we decided to get another Puli.

We talked about a Labra-Doodle--we've never really had a 'big' dog...or a lab...or another mutt. All would have been well but somehow we got enamored of another dog like Finney. So we found a breeder up near Syracuse, asked for a girl, thinking a female would be easier, but the litter only had one female and it was promised. So we drove to Syracuse, spent a night in a motel and went to see the puppies.

Puli puppies look the same coming or going. It's hard to tell which end is which. And they move like little dervishes and are hard to catch, even in a contained space. We spent a long time with the five boys and finally Bern picked up the one...the One...Bad Dog Bela.

Bela is a bad dog. He bit a good friend and we don't trust him half as far as we could throw him. He gets consigned to the car when guests come unless they are on the Bela List.

Once you are on the Bela List you will be welcomed raucously and be assured he would lay down his life for you--which he would. But the Bela List is short and it is hard to get on it.

Part of it is genetics--remember Atilla bred these dogs to be guards and alarms and to give up their lives for the sheep. On a leash with me Bela is hyper-protective. He is so adorable looking that people want to pet him but I say, "Oh please don't try". He is better with Bern. She walks him on the Canal almost everyday for a mile or so and tells me he is not nearly so aggressive as he is with me walking him.

We took him to training and had the trainer come to our house. That trainer, when we told him on the phone we had a Puli, said, simply, "Why?" They have a reputation. At one of the training sessions Bela, who performed beautifully, was sitting like the other dogs--or some of them--and watching everything very intently. There were 20 dogs or so--huge to tiny--in the room and the trainer said, "there is more DOG in that Puli than in any of your dogs. Pulis are really DOGS."

I'm not sure what that meant, but Bela seemed pleased.

He is not affectionate. Oh, when we come home he leaps and yips and goes nearly crazy--but that's because he thinks a lost sheep has returned to the fold. And when people on the Bela List try to leave he is inconsolable. He's not doing his job. When the granddaughters are here--Top of the Bela List--he stays between them and the nearest door lest a lion or tiger or bear appear unexpectedly. He is not overtly friendly to the twins, but he guards them like his life depended on it. Genetics--thousands of years of them.

He is Finney on steroids. Bern's long walks have calmed him some and he's on drugs to calm him some and calming him a lot seems to require general anesthetics.

And Bern loves him--loves him like a rock. She is much more realistic about how bad he is than I am. She is more cautious with him around strangers than I am. She's the one who locks him in the car when people are around while I'd like to see if they could make Bela's List. She knows him through and through and knows he's bad and loves him devoutly. He's seen 3 of our 4 cats die since he's been with us--he's 5 1/2 or so. His only companion feline now is Luke, our yellow cat, who, like most yellow cats is a dear. Bela tries to herd him and when Luke jumps up on something we can hear Bela barking like crazy, trying to make Luke behave. (Luke has the same name as Luke the dog who prompted these reflections and is the same color Luke the Dog was and I call him the puppy-cat because he comes when you call him--unlike bad dog Bela, who considers coming for a while--and is as loving as a dog usually is. He was our favorite of our four cats and the other three have died one after another, of natural causes. Sometimes you get lucky....The cat lovers will get on me for such an observation!)

Bela loves to sleep on 'the big bed'. That's the one thing he always reacts to. "Let's go to the big bed" one of us can say and before we get there he's on someone's pillow sound asleep.

As bad as he is, he is our companion and we love him, love him like a rock. So, we'll keep him away from people he might bite and put up with his barking--we were on the deck and there was a line of traffic, unusual enough, on Cornwall, and Bela was barking at the cars. Two turned around and went to find a better way to Route 10 and he laid down, satisfied he'd gotten rid of those Lions and Tigers and Bears.

When he's in the car with me he jumps and barks and turns off the radio and sometimes knocks the car out of gear at stop lights. Bern tells me that in her truck he sits patiently and doesn't bark. I'm not sure whether to believe her, but, hey, why not. She seems to have the nack with him that I don't.

And she loves him so, bad as he is....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.