Don’t be fooled by this face.
Look, I understand: he’s difficult to resist. I know he looks all innocent and angelic. He’s using those eyebrows on you and he’s totally working it and all you can think is, “Aw, what a handsome fellow! He’s so well-behaved and charming!”
That’s what he wants you to think. He wants you to be impressed by his easy-going and affectionate nature. He’s trying to draw you in, and when you make the mistake of thinking that “adorable” is the same thing as “trustworthy”… well, then he’s got you.
Then when you least expect it, he’s gone.
A couple of weekends ago, we had a pretty good snow storm here. I spent most of my Saturday doing chores around the house. I took Trudeau with me to check the fencelines, because we have electric fencing all around our little pastures and dry lots, and the strands tend to sag pretty alarmingly when the snow clings to them.
At first I had Tru clipped to the leash that I’d looped around my belt, but it wasn’t terribly comfortable for either of us. It’s hard to get any work done when you’ve got a dog attached to you and he makes it his mission in life to step in front of you every two seconds and then stop dead. Or just suddenly jolt off in another direction, because all he really wants from life is to eat snow. (It wouldn’t exactly take an experienced wilderness tracker to follow Trudeau’s trail in the snow: just look for the giant paw prints punctuated every few feet by a huge bite-mark in the snow.)
So, to enrich both our lives and prevent myself from ending up on my butt in the snow, I let Trudeau off his leash.
I was prepared, mind you. I’ve been here and done this with Trudeau before, and I know very well that without proper incentive, his understanding of the word “come” is conditional at best, in addition to the tragic medical condition he has which causes him to be occasionally inexplicably struck deaf. This is why I had a comprehensive collection of hot dog bits in my pocket.
To give him credit where it’s due, the Sasquatch actually did great. We did a complete circuit of every fenceline on the place, shaking off the snow and checking that none of the strands were down. Tru didn’t stray more than ten feet from me, and he came when called every time, (because he knew me for the god I was, the all-powerful dispenser of hot dogs). We hauled more firewood into the house, cleared the snow from the top of the backyard trampoline, shoveled the front walk and the back deck, fed the barn cat, filled the stock tanks, then did another circuit of the fencelines, this time adding flags of vinyl taping at intervals to make the fence more visible for the horses.
It had been hours and hours, and many a piece of hot dog had passed between us, but Trudeau is a traitor, and he doesn’t understand these things that are supposed to keep us together, these bonds of love and processed meat. We were flagging the fenceline at the road, and he started to slip under the fence, and I made the designated sound that meant, “Don’t you dare, you little son of a bitch, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth.” And when he didn’t seem to find that convincing, I shouted, “Trudeau, COME!” in a tone of voice which is not to be disobeyed.
He stopped just outside the fence, and turned to look at me as if weighing up his options: the freedom of the open road versus the lure of hot dogs. His love for me versus the fact that somewhere out there, he might find new and interesting animals to chase. Maybe some that spray smells or shoot needle-sharp spines! What incredible adventures awaited him out in the snow-white world, if only he could throw off the shackles of his oppressor and his heroin-like addiction to hot dogs.
He stared at me for what felt like a long moment, completely ignoring another command to come, and then, clearly mistaking himself for Cool Hand Luke, he bolted.
I tell people that I started running for my health, and to keep my dog exercised, and because my toe shoes make it incredibly fun. These are all true, but sometimes I have to admit to myself that the most useful aspect of working out is that I’m better able to chase my dog down and destroy him.
It’s not that I get mad that he disobeys, it’s that I don’t react well to animals attempting to cause me heart attacks. Sometimes I’m a worst-case-scenario sort of person, and the moment something goes wrong with my dog, all I can think is that he’s going to be hit by a car or attack another dog or find himself drawn into the international arms trade. I worry.
Trudeau headed straight across the (thankfully not terribly busy) road and down one of the gravel side streets. I sprinted after him, and quickly encountered a driver moving very slowly down the road, obviously having just passed my dog and looking disapproving. I trust that by the manic and murderous look on my face, they can rest assured knowing that we weren’t just out for a nice weekend stroll.
Coming up the road, I got to experience a heart-stopping moment of panic when I realized I couldn’t see Trudeau anywhere. He’d disappeared that quickly, and he could be anywhere. There are mountain lions in the area, and I don’t expect they’d invite Trudeau over for poker night. I might never know what had happened to him; he might simply vanish, never to be seen again.
I had just long enough to consider every possible nightmare scenario and how I was so going to kill the recalcitrant beast when I found him, and then my idiot dog wandered back onto the road from the bushes he’d been studiously sniffing, and he caught sight of me, and his expressive eyebrows took on an expression that was less, “Ha ha, freedom!” and more, “Oh, shit.”
“Trudeau, come.” I didn’t shout it this time, I growled it. My tone of voice implied that if he did not obey, I would be coming over there to personally rip his throat out with my teeth. There was a suggestion that I would enjoy it.
And he came. He came practically on his belly, and he threw himself at my feet as if to throw himself upon my mercy, and I chanted to myself, “You can’t kill him for coming, you can’t kill him for coming,” and I had to just let it go. Because he came. Too little and too late, and I hate to see him groveling but also, every part of me was experiencing the instant relief that came from being able to touch him and knowing he wasn’t gone. He came, knowing full well that he’d done something very, very wrong, and I was so happy about finding him before he’d gained any real distance, before he’d had a chance to hitchhike to Mexico or take up the life of an itinerant sheep-farmer in Argentina.
So I petted his stupid head, gave him the last of the hot dog, and told him he was a good boy even though it was a horrible, egregious lie. I clipped on the leash that I had wisely kept attached to my belt, and we went home to finish flagging the fence, and pretty soon I even let him off the leash again, because he seemed to realize now that I was serious about the “if you ever try that again I will develop psychic powers just so I can kill you with my mind” thing.
Then I took him back inside, and I shucked off my layers, and we went into my room and I made him snuggle with me as punishment. We sprawled out on my bed and I tried my best to hug him to death, and I buried my nose in the soft, sweet-smelling fur at the top of his head, and was very glad that he hadn’t made it to Argentina.