We have a dog named Pete. He’s part Rottweiler and part Shar-Pei. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us he is 100% dork. His nickname around the homestead is Sir Dork of Dorkchester. He is also his own worst enemy. But we love him just the same even when he does dumb things like trying to eat an entire broccoli plant from the garden.
Before Pete we had a sweet little Cocker Spaniel named Honey. She was the happiest thing alive. When she wiggled her tail it wagged so fast it was impossible to see. She wasn’t awarded the Wiggliest Tail in Mississauga three years in a row for nothing. She was a champion. But she was also a big goof. A clown. And so smart.
People who own dogs know that when you have one you also start learning where every dog in the neighbourhood is. You also start making friends of people you would normally never see on a day-to-day basis. Dogs bring people together. But one of the side effects of dog ownership is also the fact that you become a person other dog people trust. The result is that you become the go-to person if someone needs an emergency dog sitter. Not a problem for us because we love dogs, are usually home and have a large enough house to accommodate two rambunctious beasts. And this is how we come to Mara.
Mara is a beauty. She possesses tons of personality. She is so sweet-natured and happy that I almost considered moving and not telling anyone just so I could keep her. She is a tawny coloured bundle of cuddly love. She is also 125lbs. She is a Cane Corso. A.K.A. Italian Mastiff. Large dog. Drooly jowls. Gigantic feet. Massive head. Biiiiiiiig dog.
Her owner left us with her for two and a half weeks while he and his wife took a pilgrimage through Turkey and Greece. When he left her at the door he said, “Walk her a couple of times a day, give her one or two carrots and six cups of food and she should be fine.” And he was right. The problem was what he didn’t say which was that taking her for a walk could turn into a full body core workout. She was a very well-behaved dog, really, but if she saw someone she knew it took all my strength and body weight to stop her from dashing over and bestowing upon them one of her wet, drooly kisses. Let me just say that being licked by that tongue was like being slapped with a piece of warm liver. Which is to say that it really wasn’t a pleasant experience. But we loved her anyway.
She was the biggest goof on our walks. We live near a huge untouched park that nevertheless has a good walking path through it. Mara would spend the entire walk looking for the biggest piece of wood that she could carry. When she found it, and it was usually the size of a small tree, she would proudly try to run away with it. Now since she wasn’t my dog I couldn’t let the leash go so that meant that either her and I or her and my daughter would end up running down the path at full speed. It must have been quite a sight. This huge dog carrying a 50lb tree in her mouth while I ran behind her trying not to fall. When she tired of carrying the log she would drop it and then proceed to rip it into pieces. I was always grateful that her owner had socialized her and trained her well because it gave me a new respect for her jaws. I’m sure glad she liked me. I would pity the fool who tried to rob me when she was around except I wouldn’t pity him because, you know, he was trying to rob me. Watching her was rather amusing and frightening at the same time.
In the house Mara was a dream. She and Pete would argue over who was going to get the good bed (memory foam is apparently a popular material for animals. My cats like the bed, too). It never came to blows but there was a lot of whining and a few warning woofs until they worked it out. Their arguments weren’t anything serious and usually Pete won. Mara quickly learned that Pete got better food than her and went on a hunger strike until we added some of his to her kibble. Then Pete wanted the kibble too. And you think raising a couple of kids is hard.
By the end of the two and a half weeks Mara had become such a part of the household that it was a bit heart-breaking to give her back. It was only when I saw her go out of her mind when she saw her owner that I felt happy to see her go. The house is certainly much quieter. Did I mention that when anything moved outside she would run to the window and bark? Did I mention that included her reflection in the window? Yeah. A big baritone of a bark which meant that Pete had to then run to the window to see what the problem was. Good thing he isn’t a barker although he has been known to bark at lawn ornaments, Christmas decorations and once a piece of cardboard stuck in a snowdrift at the bottom of a neighbours driveway.
It’s been three days since Mara went home and the house is a bit emptier, a lot quieter and mostly dry. It is also a bit lonelier. It’s hard to imagine how one dog, one big dog, could steal your heart to such a degree that I almost want to go to her house and tell the owner that I would be happy to take her for a walk. Or ask if I could come in just to cuddle with her. Or maybe take her in the backyard and throw her toy for her. Anything just to spend some time with her again. Poor Pete. I love that dog to death. He is sweet and people have been known to stop their cars and get out to give him a pat but I still miss Mara.