Eight years ago, we brought two American Eskimo puppies into our home. This morning, one of the two was not following my wife around, as was her usual routine. I went outside and found her in the yard, having died of what must have been a heart attack. I often likened her to a cat, for her habit of lying in the middle of whatever is going on. Like many a cat, I suppose she went off on her own to die.
Earlier in her life, I wrote a piece about the two dogs and my love/hate relationship with them. It entertained by wife and so I thought I might share it in memory of Annie, who is pictured here.
Two dogs with one distorted personality define our days. One is incurably insecure and the other suffers from Tourette’s. One is a kleptomaniac, while the second barks for no reason, even in her sleep. Each in her own way is a carnival mirror image of her fraternal twin.
To protect the guilty, I will call them Annie and Becca, two good Jewish matriarchs. They are white hairballs with eyes, American Eskimo dogs that we took in as seemingly innocent puppies, only to find that we were taken in by a two-headed Cerberus. Weighing thirty-five pounds each, they shed a dog a day, leaving white clouds of fluff floating through the air to collect in corners like drifts of snow within a door left open to the elements. Each wears a tufted pig of a tail coiled above its behind that floats over its back to better spread its trail of hair. Negative energy in their coats attracts their hair to any and to all dark surfaces, especially and naturally black clothes. Being fond of marking their territory this way, they prefer sleeping on air vents in order to effortlessly spread their presence to every surface in our home.
Neither is the alpha to the other, because they are two parts of one wholly overwhelming whole. Never separated as puppies, they live as if connected by a leash, always within reach of the other. They howl, as if tortured, if separated. They race after each other in and out of the house, the second holding the leader’s tail in her mouth, only to tumble into a ball of fur rolling across the yard, collecting leaves and debris to deposit indoors. When not engaged in these “zoomies”, they entertain themselves by cleaning each other’s teeth and other acts of interpersonal hygiene.
“How do you tell them apart?” we are often asked by guests after their overwhelming initial greeting. “One is neurotic and the other ‘simple’”, I usually reply. The truth, however, is that they each have unique traits that meld, for better or worse, with the other. One, I say, thinks she is a person and the other is just a dog. Annie is depressed not to be invited to the table, while Becca is content to lie unerringly on the second stair nearby. Annie rests on the periphery of our presence, flat like a bear rug, while Becca prefers her bed, where she lies drooling, thinking she may have a dog treat coming.
Most days, Annie unravels a roll of toilet paper through the house and out the dog door. She steals shoes and sometimes bills, taking them to the fort she has dug underneath the evergreens in the farthest reaches of our yard. There we find, half-covered with dirt, whatever is missing from our household, although the pair of prescription glasses lost a year ago remains a mystery that Annie will not confess to. We did, however, find a missing box of cereal buried carefully in her corner of the world, full when she carried it through the dog door, but empty when we uncovered it. Most recently, she has been ridding my garden of unwanted soil, I assume to plant bones in hopes that they will grow.
Becca is content to be just a dog and doubtless assumes that we are as well. Her world is a simple one consisting of things to eat and others to bark at, generally for no reason, other than to see if they bark back. Although bred as a circus-performing breed, she seems never to know where her back feet are or what to do with them. She is simply a mouth-breather with more tongue than mouth. The only sign of intelligent life in her head appears when we tune in Animal Planet, which she barks at, as if cheering on her favorite football team.
We have been hounded this way for nearly four years, possessed by overgrown baby seals, albino dust balls, bleach-blonde gremlins. They began as cute puffs of cream, just eight weeks old. Hoping to raise them as “good dogs”, we knew we were in trouble when the first trainer we interviewed rejected us. We then tried taking them to class, or more accurately, group therapy. There a dachshund cowered, a poodle did something that rhymes with its name and a doberman stared warily, as if seeing double. Finally, we hired a commando dog trainer who came with a guarantee. The dogs came back from training acting as if they had been to sleepover camp.
In this early morning light, I sit here in my small office with the glow of a warm computer lighting up the two dogs lying here peacefully beside me, waiting patiently for me to finish my task and to welcome the day with them. I know that once I turn and rise they will greet me warmly, each in its own way, before racing off to create more material for what I fear will be a never-ending tale about two creatures and their pet owner.