« So Long Otis | Main | Bravo Recalls Poultry Products »

More tales of "Rex and the City" - The Boys of Summer

The Summer of Love
What Do You Do When Your Dog’s Boyfriend Cheats On Her?

My dog Chloe (a Spaniel/Border collie mix) has been in a serious relationship for two years now. Her boyfriend is a handsome English Setter named Rainbow, and they are very well-matched. Both weigh about sixty pounds, and both are not-very-birdie bird dogs. Both love to play tug and keepaway; both love to swim in our nearby creek and hunt for fish (Chloe actually sticking her snout into the water and trying to catch them; Rainbow barking at the fish from a safe place on the shore). In terms of hierarchy, Chloe is definitely the boss, which suits them both fine. Chloe always passes through doorways first, always wins the rope during games of tug-of-war, and will always try to steal Rainbow’s food. And because he will so willingly let her steal his food, we tried to feed them separately, for Rainbow is always on the verge of being too thin and Chloe is always on the verge of being too fat.

“Chubs,” is what Rainbow’s guardian, Greg, calls Chloe behind my back. I know this because Greg’s seven-year old son, Clayton, tells me everything. We are neighbors in idyllic Woodstock, New York.

But anyway, it makes me happy to see Chloe and Rainbow together. It makes me happy to witness dog love: the joyous, raucous way they greet one another; the impish, playful ways in which they bite each other’s ankles; and, at the end of the day, the adorable way they nap together, sometimes facing each other with their legs entwined, other times spooning like an old married couple. Always, their bodies are touching, and I love to see the content, tired look on Chloe’s face when she sleeps with her head draped across Rainbow’s neck. That look speaks of companionship, and ownership, and true love. It always makes me want two dogs, but that second dog would have to be Rainbow, and he’s not on the market. So, as with most relationships from which we want more, we take what we can get. I call Rainbow my half-dog.

This summer, however, Chloe and I went on an extended book tour, which meant that for seven weeks we had to leave Rainbow behind. That’s seven weeks without anyone biting your ankles, or pinning you to the ground so that he can bite your neck, or trying to take away your saliva-soaked stuffed bunny rabbit, or cuddling with you on a big stinky dog bed. By “you” I mean Chloe of course. Every night, before we went to sleep, I promised Chloe that soon we’d see Rainbow again--September 15th to be exact. She always smiled at me and thumped her tail.

Then, in August, I heard the news: “Rainbow has a new girlfriend,” my friend Greg told me. Greg, of course, is Chloe’s godfather.

  “Who is she?” I said, in the same exact voice I used, oh, twenty years ago when my shit-ass boyfriend, who was also the Love of My Life, told me he was in love with someone else.

“Her name is _____,” Greg said. “She lives next door.”

“What kind of dog is she?” I said, again in that voice. If I had had long red fingernails, i would have been clicking them menacingly on the counter.

“A black lab.”

My heart stopped. You see, Chloe hates black labs. I can’t explain this hatred; it seemed to come out of nowhere twelve months prior. One day Chloe was a friendly, open, I’ll-play-with-anyone kind of dog; the next day I had to pull her off a female black lab who had had the audacity to come say hello to Chloe at the dog park. Since then, any time we see a black lab, Chloe makes a strange rumbling noise—not quite a growl, more like the revving of an engine—and strains determinedly on her leash. It’s the sound of hatred, I guess, of exacting some sort of revenge. But for what? I thought dogs were colorblind.... Maybe Chloe, all this time, had been psychic. She knew the love of her life was going to cheat on her with a female black lab.

“Rainbow really loves her,” Greg was saying on the phone. “They play all day long. She’s a really fast dog.”

Chloe, being on the verge of being fat, was not as fast a runner as Rainbow. But that was part of her charm.

“But what about Chloe?” I said to Greg in a whiny voice.

“Chloe’s in Massachusetts. So are you. He has to play with someone.”

So basically it was out of sight, out of mind. Spoken like a true man.

After Greg and I got off the phone, I sat down on the floor next to Chloe. I smoothed out the sun-bleached fur on her ear flaps, I stroked her heart-shaped little brown nose, I told her she was a pretty, pretty girl. I can’t explain how heartbroken I was at even the thought Rainbow loved another dog more than he loved Chloe. That Chloe had been replaced. Just like that. We turn our backs for ten minutes and look what happens! I actually started to cry.

And maybe I was reading too much into this. Now is probably the time to admit that I myself do not have a boyfriend. I am not the love of anyone’s life. No one nips at my neck or my earlobes. So of course it would give me pleasure that at least my dog was getting love! Someone in this equation has to get the guy! I mean, in order to believe in love you have to see it, every day, in action. That’s why so many women read romance novels and see sappy movies. You have to keep that hope alive. Otherwise you become the pathetic single woman who lives alone in Woodstock and apparently lives vicariously through her dog! Geesh!

I did not tell Chloe about Rainbow and his black lab mistress. I simply told her another truth: that we would see Rainbow on September 15th. Meanwhile, there we were on Cape Cod. Which is not a bad place to be Without Love. We spent our mornings at the shore of a tiny freshwater pond in Brewster, watching the mist rise off the water in the post-dawn light, and revealing the lily pads underneath. Chloe swam around hunting for fish while I meditated and read Harry Potter. In the afternoons we went to the beach, where Chloe hunted for more fish—a smorgasbord at low tide—and I just watched the horizon, never growing tired at how vast and mysterious and promising the world could seem, if you just kept your eyes there rather than on your computer screen. By “you” I mean me. I never leave this computer. Which is probably why I have no love.

But Chloe! She found love.

It happened at the Brewster Book Store, in Brewster Massachusetts. I had gone in to sign some copies of my paperback, and to introduce Chloe to the store owner (Nancy, a real dog lover who has rescued several dogs herself).Nancy had set up a wonderful display of dog-themed books on a small antique table, and had placed, at the table’s base, a large stuffed animal—a black and white husky, with one of those benign Husky smiles on its face. He (I assumed it was a he) was about the size of a Springer spaniel, which is perhaps why Chloe fell so hopelessly in love with him.

You should have seen it! First she stood in front of him and touched her nose to his. (This is what she does to me when she wants my attention—she pokes me with her snout.) Then she went down into a play bow, with her tail swishing madly. Then, because the Husky still had not responded, she barked at him—just a playful, flirtatious little yip. Still, the Husky remained mute, stiff, and guarded.  By this time I had 1) decided that the dog’s name was Skipper, because he looked like a Skipper (all he needed was a red and blue nautical print bandanna and he’d be all set): 2) decided that maybe Chloe wasn’t as smart as I’d always made her out to be.

Chloe poked Skipper with her snout again, and then threw herself at his feet, rolling onto her back and displaying her pink spotted belly. Nothing. She shimmed a little and barked and flailed her legs in the air dramatically. Nothing. Still Skipper remained impassive. Then she finally nipped him on the ankles—a sweet, playful gesture that always worked with Rainbow.

Meanwhile, Nancy and I watched, along with a number of very amused customers. We laughed. We made comments about “men.” How aloof they can be, how non-responsive, how no female can resist the strong and silent type.

I’ve always loved to witness cross-species friendships: the tiny kitten that snuggles with a Pit Bull, the horse who nuzzles a pig, that famous Ridgeback in South Africa who foster-mothered a baby lion. This says to me that love knows no boundaries; that love is simply Love. So even though—standing there watching my dog Chloe flirt with an inanimate object—I worried that she was less intelligent than her other Border Collie brethren, I also told myself that didn’t matter. Who ever said love had anything to do with intelligence anyway?

Finally, fed up with all that ankle-biting, Skipper finally toppled on top of Chloe and then just lay there, on his side. Chloe in response sprung onto all fours--in that remarkably quick ways dogs have—and proceeded to bite Skipper on the throat – another one of her favorite moves with Rainbow. But Skipper just lay there. “I used to date a man just like that,” one of the store customers said. And we nearly died laughing.

About a year ago, I developed a disturbing and all-consuming celebrity crush. I’m really not the celebrity type—I don’t watch TV or read magazines or even see all that many movies. And I certainly have never followed celebrity gossip. But in this case, I happened to meet the man in person, locked eyes with him (eyes as blue as the sea!) and experienced, well, a form of zap that stayed in my system for months. I won’t bore you with the web-trolling, image down-loading, fan-site drooling details....but I will share with you the conversation I had with one of my friends, a lesbian who’d had a similar obsession with Stevie Nicks. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” I remember her telling me. “This crush has awakened something in you. Since your divorce you’ve been kind of shut down toward men. You should be thankful that this person has brought back in you your capacity to love.”

“And lust,” I said.

“Oh yes, that too.”

Anyway, seeing Chloe flirt happily and unabashedly with her fake-dog boyfriend made me think fondly of that long-gone celebrity, and of all the happy times we had together (in my head). It made me realize that it can just be so much fun to love someone. It doesn’t matter if he/she does not love you back.

 And what does this have to do with Rainbow? Nothing really. This is a blog, not an essay.

When we got back to Woodstock, the first thing Chloe and I did was visit Rainbow. Their reunion was riotous. Leaping, chasing, biting, throwing themselves at one another. Rainbow brought Chloe one of his latest toys—a little rubber Giuliani—and Chloe immediately stole it from him and then flaunted her triumph, tossing the toy in the air, and refusing to let Rainbow have it. They chased each other around the pool, across the tennis court, in and around a grove of pine trees that bordered the land. They took turns tearing mock-savagely at one another’s scruffs; they bit each others’ rumps and ankles. They played until they were exhausted, and too weak to stand up anymore. And even then, lying together on the rug at the hearth, they played, mouthing each other silently, and clacking teeth.

As I watched them, I found myself filling with happiness again. And relief. It was clear that Chloe was still Rainbow’s favorite girlfriend. She had not been replaced. At least not at this instant. Plus, the thing about Dog Love is, there’s always plenty to go around.

I never told Greg or Rainbow about the stuffed dog. Primarily because they would have made fun of me, and I didn’t want anyone to think of my dog as unintelligent. Plus, I figured what Rainbow didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Chloe’s brief affair was like any summer fling....fleeting, insignificant, all style no substance. Rainbow was both Chloe’s Mr. Right and her Mr. Right Now.

Lee Harrington

===========================================================

Lee Harrington’s best-selling memoir REX AND THE CITY: A WOMAN, A MAN, AND A DYSFUNCTIONAL DOG, came out in paperback this year (Villard 2007). Her award-winning series “Rex and the City” has been appearing in The Bark magazine since 2000.

September 19, 2007 in Vignettes | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451afb169e200e5506800f48833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference More tales of "Rex and the City" - The Boys of Summer:

Comments

Such a sweet story; thanks for posting it! Chloe's happy ending with Rainbow made my day. Think I'll have to order Lee's book on Amazon.

Posted by: Isabel Wang | Sep 19, 2007 8:20:54 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.