Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Secret Life of Dogs

Have you ever wondered about what your dog does during the day? Does she lead a double life-- one where she's traversing across the country side, saving little Timmy or perhaps learning the language of pugs and terriers?

To be quite honest, I never did.

Delilah was 135 pounds of pure horse. She slept in a converted child's bed with the legs sawn off so she could clamber onto the mattress. She had her blanky and a vast assortment of squeaky toys, fluffy rabbits and dog bones. She was fed twice a day; two cups of dry food at each meal. (She was a bit on the voluptuous side and was hence on a very strict diet.) She was sweet and loving and had practiced the art of the con to such perfection she could convince even the most staunch of dog-haters to rub her over-sized belly.

But a secret life? Never. She never made it outside the 20 acres surrounding my parent's home.

Boy, was I wrong.

Unbeknownst to her entire family, she was the "neighborhood dog" in a small subdivision a quarter mile down the road. She had two very close friends; a tan pug and a black terrier. Apparently the neighborhood children found our slow-moving canine the source of many afternoons of fetch and frisbee. Not to mention the pounds of food she conned out of gullible neighbors. (Which certainly explains why her diet of four years had lost her not a pound.)

When my mother came home last night, Delilah responded to not one single call. More annoyed than worried, Mama just figured she was sulking in the woods. Lord Almighty, how she hated being put outside when her family left for more than a few hours. But by midnight, Mama knew something was wrong. That dog never missed a meal--and meal time had come and gone five hours before.

Mama found her this morning on her way to take my grandmother her Sunday lunch. She had driven up and down the farm roads, hoping she'd spot her in a field. She found her in the last place she would have thought to look--in that subdivision down the road a bit. She was lying in someone's yard, peaceful as you like. But our sweet-natured Delilah wasn't sleeping.

She apparently had the strength to walk out of the road and onto the grass of a friend's yard. I hope and pray to God it didn't hurt. I hope she didn't cry. I hope she didn't know. I hope she knew how much her family loved her. And I hope her two canine friends sent her off with a song.

I can't go home and look at her bed or find an errant fluffy rabbit hiding under my bed. I can't go home and see her blanky, dirty and smelly and ripped to shreds. I can't see the picture on the kitchen counter, taken when she was still svelte enough to fit in the recliner, crammed between my brother and I on a Christmas morning eight years ago. I just can't.

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