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It's Nelly's World

Good vs. Evil

alec vanderboom


I am glad I have the dog I do. But sometimes I look at other people's placid labs and shepherds, plodding along next to them as if that human were the only interesting thing on earth, or lying quietly in another room during dinner, and I go, Damn!

I've ended up with a flying monkey out of Wizard of Oz. She is one place one second, an entirely different (and unpredictable) one the next. She launches herself out of the house into cars, out of cars into parking lots, out of windows into whatever is on the other side, and onto picnic tables and you know why. Other people shake their heads at me: This person does not know what she's doing.

May I get a small dispensation for having a "difficult dog"? This would be the kind Kim the Trainer (I'll be back soon, Kim, I hope . . . Phase II of life is to begin soon!) calls "the dog you need." It's mysterious, indeed. Did I need this difficulty? Apparently so, apparently so. You're supposed to think about it for a while, deeply, and then you'll uncover the reason.

Jolanta tells the story of how, when she got her first dog, the incomparable Izzy, she congratulated herself on being an incredibly good trainer: Izzy was so well-mannered! Then Jolanta ended up with Juni, too, and that's when she realized (as she will tell you) she knew absolutely nothing about dog training. Izzy was just one of those easy dogs that make you look good. But Juni burst that smug bubble in a hurry. Jolanta had to educate herself, or else. Now she has a second career as a trainer and behaviorist--as well as accomplished proselytizer for the Way of Kindness: positive reinforcement training. I guess that's why she got Juni.

I'm still puzzling over why I needed Nelly.

Put this under heading of "Nuff Said." After our rail trail walk yesterday, Janet was kind enough to chauffeur Nelly home so I could switch gears and go wrangle children instead of dogs. Nelly jumped right into Janet's car--as why shouldn't she? It's the Dogmobile, with comfy pillows and always a jug of cool, refreshing water. At the end of the trip, at Janet's house, there is often a plate of fresh-cooked chicken livers. This, my friends, is the canine Ritz.

Then Nelly saw I was getting into the other car. She stood up on the arm rest and pressed her distraught face against the glass. Nelly is one of us "I want my cake and eat it too!" kind of beings. I realized that if the window had been open just another inch or two, Nelly would have clambered up somehow, lit the fuse, and shot out in one detonating second. I remembered to later e-mail Janet about the need for caution when transporting the Devil Dog.

Me: >She can squeeze herself, like a mouse, through
incredibly small openings.< Janet: Charles Manson was good at that, also.

Do you know now why I love her so? Not Nelly--I mean Janet. A friend with Saharan wit is a joy indeed.

(Plus, in addition to treating Nelly with kindness and understanding, and having seen me through the worst year of my life, she saves the New York Times for me so I don't have to pay for it. It doesn't matter that I get it a few days late--I'm lucky if I can find the time to read the paper two weeks later. It's all fresh news to me!)

Remember how I mentioned my friends remarking on a vague whiff of good karma they felt was emanating from my new house? Tell me what you make of this, then. The Verizon technician who came to attempt to give me telephone service in that frustrating first week without a phone told me that many years ago, she used to come riding here when they had horses. (My unpacked boxes sit waiting in the unused barn now; I seem to specialize in living on former horse farms, alas.) She told me, yeah, they used to take in farm animals, too, in the winters from a sort of zoo in the city. And apparently did to them what people usually do to farm animals. "You know what your house was?" she asked. "It was the smokehouse."

A thirty-year vegetarian, living in a former smokehouse. Is that karma? Maybe. And, maybe, it's just inexplicable. Woo-woo.