Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Forty Nine in Dog Years

It wasn’t that long ago when we got the phone call. The voice on the other end asked, “Do you have a lab puppy named Griffen?”

“Well, that depends,” I replied, tongue in cheek. “What has he done?” Back then it wasn’t uncommon for us to get phone calls that started with “Do you have a lab puppy named Griffen?” Even though we watched him like a hawk, occasionally he escaped. There were the mornings when I’d put Griffen out to do his business before I had to leave for work. Then he’d get the idea to take off up the cliff-like hill behind the houses on our street. His claws helped him bound up the hill like a mountain goat, while I crawled up the hill cursing his name as I tried to get him to “Come here, NOW!” He stood just out of the reach of my arms, and irritatingly backed up whenever I managed to get close enough to grab his collar, or the scruff of his neck, and drag him home. There were the afternoons when I’d come home for lunch and find that the spirit of Houdini possessed him, and the end of the dog run in the back yard no longer had a dog clipped to it. I would race into the house and check the voicemail. Sure enough, there would be a message that said “Um, hi? I have a Lab puppy with this phone number on his tag. Will you please call me back?” Then I’d call back and learn about where he ran off to. There was the time he followed a jogger home, and ended up three miles away.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” the caller said tentatively. “But he’s here, just so you know where to get him.” The voice explained that they had Griffen in custody five houses away. Todd and I grabbed a leash and walked to the house.

“Oh look! They have a black Lab puppy! That’s why he’s here, he wanted to play,” I pointed out. When we got closer we realized the truth. It wasn’t that they neighbors had a black Lab puppy. It was our pale yellow, just about white, Lab puppy covered in the thick mud from the tidal flat across the street. The tide was out, and the bed of thick dark mud was exposed.

He wagged at us, and his tongue rolled out of his mouth as it formed the signature Labrador doofy grin, as if to say “Hey guys! What are you doing here? I met some really nice people, wanna see?” He shook, and flecks of mud splattered from his body.

Griffen became acquainted with the neighbors by crashing through their screen and rolling on their Oriental carpet. Of course, he performed this acrobatic feat after he’d rolled in the tidal flat. He looked at us with the gleam in his eyes that we’ve come to call his “Puppy Eyes.”

We profusely apologized to the neighbors, and reimbursed them for the damage caused by our wily puppy. Griffen was a challenging puppy. He got bored easily. The separation anxiety got to him when we went to work, and he destroyed parts of our house in response. He ate the better part of the bathroom door. He ate the underside of our box spring, then eventually the sides of the mattress and peed on our bed in response to being left alone. He learned how to open the fridge and help himself, and to this day cannot be left unrestricted in the house while we’re out. He pulls cakes and freshly baked loaves of bread off the counters and devours them.

Yet this dog brings so much joy to our lives. When I get home from work he dances out of excitement to see me. He lives for the Frisbee to be tossed just one more time. He groans in anticipation as he watches me put on exercise clothes, because he knows that he’ll get to go on a jog. He patiently waits by the back door on a Saturday morning, because he knows that we’ll take him for a ride. And he will go anywhere with us, he doesn’t care if he has to wait in the car, he just wants to go along anyway. He leaps on the bed in the mornings and licks us endlessly as if to say “Good morning, I am so happy that you are still here!” He drops a tennis ball into my lap and stares at it, willing me to throw it for him. He will stare at it for minutes at a time while he patiently waits.

Today, Griffen is seven years old. For the last seven years this dog has made me smile or laugh every single day. I cannot imagine a life where I wouldn’t pet his silky fur and scratch his floppy ears. And I cannot imagine a life where I wouldn’t get woken up with a cold wet nose in my face that makes that snarfing sound with a rapid exhalation.

It strikes me as unfair that dogs only live with us for maybe a dozen or so years. Griffen has already lived seven of those years, and they went by so quickly.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Happy birthday Griffster!!!

January 14, 2009 at 7:24 PM  

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