Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tale of Woofy

One of these days, a bear is going to explain to me why when he sees a hot guy, he says, “Woof.” Don’t bears say, “Grrrrr”? Dogs say woof, but then again, who wants to refer to his boyfriend as a dog? Puppy, yes. Dog, no.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with Woofy. But before I go on, I have a friend, Lee, who always refers to a hot guy by saying, “He’s woofy.” Now does that mean he is “woof-worthy” or does he feel the need to say “woof” when he sees him?  

My dog says woof to me all the time. Does that make me “woof-worthy”? Or does she just want to play or go outside? I am hardly a bear, so I rarely use woof or grrrr. But, I am getting closer to my point because this is all about a dog, and for once, not one of mine.

My father always told the story of our Uncle Stanley, who would take strays in, give them a bath and feed them then send them on their way. Those were the days before animal rescue leagues and apparently, an awareness of rabies. Now, I always found this story a little unbelievable because Uncle Stanley, a Battle of the Bulge war hero, was a little squeamish. He would not eat any food that looked questionable, and fish because of the bones was never served at his table. The family always said he found bones in milk. He also didn’t eat bananas. I don’t know why. So, someone that squeamish taking into his home a mangy stray dog, bathing and feeding it, is a little unbelievable; however, people do tend to do contradictory things.

I, for one, am germaphobic. I rarely eat food from the kitchen of someone I don’t know, yet I will eat a hot dog from a street vendor. If I enter a home that is unkempt, I politely decline a beverage and sometimes, a seat, yet I have pooped in a port-a-potty. I won’t kiss a guy with bad breath or allow him to … never mind, yet I let my dogs lick my face (Esmeralda still doesn’t do that). No one has ever slept in my bed without showering first, yet I let my dog, who gets bathed once a month, sleep in my bed, and often she sleeps on the pillow next to mine. Then again, my dog has good germs.  

But, this has nothing to do with being germaphobic either. In teaching, what just occurred is called bird walking. You start on one subject, and an hour passes before you realize you have completely forgotten your point.

Where the hell was I?

Oh yes, Woofy.

When I first moved to the park, I was told of the Akita who has roamed the neighborhood for seven years and is a stray but never bothers anyone or barks. A few weeks later, I encountered the Akita one morning while walking Esmeralda. He was sitting in someone’s yard, just looking at us. Esmeralda ignored him, and we went on our way.

As the story goes, he showed up one morning, and no one knew where he came from. He stays close to the houses near the woods, where I live. A gentleman, who died recently, would feed him regularly, but no one knew who was feeding him now.

From the looks of him, he was or is obviously someone’s dog. He is well fed; his fur is thick, his eyes are clear and healthy looking, and his nails are trimmed. They aren’t just short from walking on pavement; they are trimmed. His gait is healthy – no limps or apparent health problems.

Now, in seven years, the theories of his origin have proliferated, but two are the most popular. He belonged to someone who died and now lives in the woods. The problem with this theory is that the last time I checked dogs could not operate nail clippers. The other is that he belongs to someone who lives in the woods. This theory I can kind of grasp.

But, who lives in the woods? Blutbaden? Is his owner a Blutbad? Or maybe the Akita is the owner in his Blutbad form? Now, that would be cool, and to me that would make sense.

Yes, I have no problem believing fantastical things. Wait until I tell you the story of the ghost who has followed me from home to home. Oh sorry, bird walking again.

Back to the Akita.

Being the friendly guy that I am, I started saying hello to the Akita every time we walked by him. Esmeralda continued to ignore him. I worried that with the man who used to feed him being dead he was not eating, but the Akita does not look skinny.

One night, he was watching from across the street as Esmeralda and I finished our walk, so I decided to put some food out for him.  I put a bowl on the sidewalk in front of my house. I then went inside and watched from the window. He didn’t even sniff it. He walked right past it, through my yard, and into the woods.

For a stray, he sure was particular. That was name brand dog food I gave him. Esmeralda likes it, and I have tasted it myself – a little dry, but satisfying nonetheless.

Before you go all “Eeewww, you ate dog food!” Anyone who grew up in a house with a dog and an older brother has tasted dog food, or at the very least, a Milk Bone. You know what I am talking about. “Here, try this. It’s good.” Next thing you know, you are munching on Alpo.

I chalked up his refusal to touch the food to my putting it out by the sidewalk. Maybe like Uncle Stanley, he didn’t want anyone to watch him eat. Or, like Esmeralda, he was food shy? Or, he heard about my cooking.

As the week’s progressed, I didn’t put out food again because he had disappeared for a while. Then out of the blue one morning, he showed up as we began our walk – at 4:00 am. And, for the first time, he didn’t just watch us. He followed us around the entire perimeter of the park. I was told he never left our street. So much for that theory.

He kept a good fifty-foot distance, and I talked to him the entire time, asking him where he lived, who was his owner, if he was a Blutbad. That was also when I gave him his name. Woofy. Everyone deserves a name. I even said to him, “I am going to all you Woofy from now on.”

Woofy wouldn’t show up every morning, but when he did, he would follow us, and gradually he would come closer and closer. Then he did something that I never expected. He came up beside us and hopped around trying to get Esmeralda to play with him.

She played it cool. And, I thought, why us? In seven years, Woofy has never gone near another dog in the neighborhood. But, I realized something. Of all the dogs in the neighborhood, which are mostly around Esmeralda’s size and age, there are no other female dogs. She is the only woman in a land full of men. It’s as if she lives in Felton, Pennsylvania. I wonder if she is also Republican?

This behavior of Woofy’s continued whenever he saw us out. I would continue to talk to him, and he would continue to try and get Esmeralda’s attention.

One night it was raining very hard, and we went out for our walk, and Woofy followed us rather than seek shelter under someone’s porch. We were drenched, but after I let Esmeralda in the house, I decided to try and feed him again. I prepared another bowl of food, and I went outside. I called, “Woofy? Woofy? Where are you?” He then appeared from around my cute neighbor’s house. I looked right at him and said, “Here is some food, Woofy. I am going to put it over here, and you can eat it. OK?” I then put the food by my shed, which is near the woods. He watched me the whole time.

Then, I went inside. I didn’t look out the window right away this time. I figured if he didn’t eat it, the stray cats, which Mrs. E. had spayed at her own expense, would.  A half hour later, I looked out the window, and Woofy was eating the food.

I did find out a few days later that the neighbor of the man who died now feeds Woofy every night, and the night of the rainstorm, she was stuck at work, which explains why he ate my food. In desperate times even my cooking is edible. If she is home, he won’t eat my food, preferring hers instead. So, I only put food out if I know she is running late.

As Woofy has become more comfortable around us, he has also become a little bold. He nudged Esmeralda’s tail one morning, and she turned around, wagged her tail, then jumped at him to play. He jumped back and whined, which was the first time I heard him make a sound. Now, they greet each other with a nose sniff and a hop, but not quite play.

One morning, she turned around and while looking for a perfect spot to pee, Woofy, nudged her again. This time she was on a mission, so I said, “Woofy, you need to go away for a minute while she pees.” He turned and walked away, but not without looking back with the saddest eyes I ever saw.

I felt awful. He understood “go away.” He was someone’s dog. I had a pit in my stomach.

We did not see him for days after that. I even called for him at night. I worried something had happened to him or he was picked up.

This morning, he showed up again, and this time, he let Esmeralda have space to pee and poop before he hopped around her.   

Something tells me he isn’t just fascinated with Esmeralda because she is a girl; he realizes she is a kindred spirit – a dog with a sad childhood, who never learned how to play. She may be his first real friend.

If you like what you just read, follow me, get on my email list, say hello to the Woofy in your neighborhood.

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