Free-Floating Hostility

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Love Letter to a German Shepherd

It's been an emotional few days for me, what with putting our families on a plane, the unignorability of current events, and now, our last few hours with Nisa the Dog. Some people find it difficult to write about, say, executions. They find it easier to write about, say, dogs. I am one of those people.

I think what we'll miss most about Nisa is her moo. Mike identified the noise she makes when she lies down as mooing, and once you think of it that way it's virtually impossible to resist sayin vmkcmmmmm

now see? As I was in the middle of typing the forgoing paragraph, Nisa leaned over from her nap spot between me and Mike on the couch, stretched her head out over the keyboard, and mooed. And my first impulse was not to grunt "No" or "get off my keyboard," but to coo "Aww, cow puppy" as she turned on the caps lock and typed nonsense letters into my blog post.

Nisa is a little like a first-year medical student. Her curiosity about the human body is insatiable (especially if it's stinky), and she is ever eager to examine. If one stretches out on ones back, Nisa is sure to appear seconds later with a reassuring if concerned expression on her face, and begin sniffing around your assorted body parts with Hippocratic empiricism, not to mention auscultating you with an exceptionally large paw.

Also like a first-year medical student, Nisa has an encyclopaedic list of neuroses. Besides abondonment issues (which are actually quite rational in a dog who was abandoned earlier this year) her phobias include cars, bicycles, blenders, smoke alarms, moving furniture, drawers, smaller dogs, larger dogs, dogs on TV, men on TV imitating dogs, neighbors opening their mailboxes, old ladies walking cats on leashes, my father, brooms, swiffers, bridges, sneezes, laughter and the wind.

We, in the meantime, in payment as it were for the riches Nisa has brought into our lives, have yielded up our privacy, sanity, and decorum, and we like it. I am currently at work on two songs, titled "Don't Bite your Harness" and "Nose out of the Fridge." Mike is preoccupied with deciding what country Nisa would play for in the World Cup, if she made the national team. As an American dog, should she play for the U.S.? As a German Shepherd, should she play for Germany? As an Alsatian, should she play for France? Or does the Shepherd's having been bred in England make her belong to England? Or would her father's Cambodian ancestry entitle her to an easy spot on the Cambodian team?

This last question arose when Mike discovered her natural abilities as a goalie. Nisa came to us with a bag full of toys, including a huge ball suitable for playing roll and stop. But Nisa's favorite game is tug of war, to the point that Mike once asked if we could try to teach her Sudoku so she'd know a second game. I have adapted tug of war by putting it to music. I play a good song, and Nisa picks up her toy (so that she can't bite my hands) and then jumps. Depending on whether she lands in my arms or on my legs or back, she then either dances with me or tries to pin me to the floor. The game usually ends when she drops her toy and gives into her urge to give me an affectionate chomp. This last Shepherd trait is why we're proudly sporting tiny red tooth marks all over our anatomies.

Nisa's favorite activities are tug of war, pretending to have to pee, the sniffing of genitals, and hunger strikes. "She is," Mike observed to me one night, "The non-eatin'-est dog I've ever seen." We have to make sure she eats, because otherwise she can't have her anti-inflammatory paw medication, or it gives her what Dara delicately referred to as "intestinal pyrotechnics." So when it's time for Nisa's dinner, we transform into deranged cheerleaders. First, I go through a pantomime designed to convince Nisa I'm putting delicious human food into her dish. Then we put it on the floor and she stares at us as though to say "You want me to eat that shit when you've got Manchego in your cheese drawer?" We usually give into her demands at this point and mix some wet food in, then stand around the bowl, pointing encouragingly and praising every bite as though it might reveal the cure for malaria.

At the end of the day, we drag her dog bed into our bedroom and the three of us lie down for the night. The final chapter of the day is called Nisa Trying to Get into Our Bed. This morning, knowing as I did that it would be her last day with us, I yielded. It was delightful. There is nothing in the world quite like the company of a meaty dog. We know, although Nisa does not, that her Daddy will come to fetch her in a few hours. She is going to be overjoyed, and will probably shoot around the apartment in circles, jumping on furniture and trying to lick David's face down to its tootsie roll center. It will all be worth it to see her so happy. But when she goes, we will be the non-Nisa-havin'-est couple in California. We're going to miss her like hell.

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