rudy the dog

He’s reddish brown and sometimes pretty dang scruffy, a big hairy beast with menacing fangs and sharp, black claws. Even so—and at times we find it bizarre—he lives with us in our home and is a part of the family. The old salty dog follows us around everywhere, often under foot, is never but a few feet away. In people-years he’s a wise old sage, an octogenarian, with the stiff arthritic joints to prove it. In this crazy household I imagine my generous peppering of the F-bomb has contributed to Rudy’s grizzled muzzle and white belly, though of late my beloved expletives fall on deafening ears.

Just like Calvin, I give Rudy pills every morning and every night folded into a little pat of butter to mask their bitter taste. Besides butter he’s developed a keen fondness for bits of Calvin’s errant carrots, apples, strawberries, mangoes, olives and even broccoli, as long as it’s slathered in mayonnaise. He’s also been known to nosh on kitty litter corn-pone, barf it up in the snow then go back later for more. He’ll eat grass and bugs and dirt and sometimes dog shit, too, but above all else is his desire to lick the ice cream carton clean as a whistle.

When we adopted Rudy over six years ago he came equipped with all the manners of a well-bred dog: friendly, calm, loyal, reliable, well behaved and, best of all, under voice control. We can leave food on the coffee table and exit the room without worrying that he’ll scarf it all down. When we tell him to, and without so much as a complaint, he’ll drop random pieces of food—mid snarf—that he finds on the college campus such as slices of half-eaten pizza, rice crispy treats, apple cores and bagels.

Poor Rudy: exposed so to a somewhat stressful household complete with manic child, and an often grumpy, cussing, frustrated mama. But he finds relaxation lying in the front yard all day long on a sunny patch of grass just watching the world go by. He stays there for hours, untied, as passers-by greet him before moving on. We don’t worry. We have enough worry over Calvin, which is why Rudy is that much more amazing.

There was a time, years ago, when in the middle of the night Calvin had had a bad seizure, which very visibly upset me. Sleep deprived, tensions high, patience short, harsh words were exchanged. So Michael slept with Calvin while I retired to the guest room to sleep with Rudy. Nervous and shivering Rudy climbed up onto the futon. He stretched out close alongside me, his paws resting on my shoulders in a full-body embrace as if he were human. He’d never done that before, and as I cried he licked my face.

And though Rudy and Calvin appear to be completely ignorant of each others’ existence, Rudy follows the two of us around the house and yard as we walk hand-in-hand, hand-in-harness, and never strays more than a few steps away.

photo by Michael Kolster

1 comment:

  1. Dogs have such a cool intuitive sense about them. I had the pleasure of meeting a therapy dog named Jelly at MGH my freshman year when I was there for one of my many week-long EEG's. Jelly's owner, who had shaggy white hair that matched her dog's, told me that she had epilepsy as well and that (untrained) Jelly ran up behind her to catch her during generalized seizures. I was super impressed with Jelly and, seeing that I was the twenty-year-old on a floor of screaming three-and-under-year-olds, I think that Jelly was equally happy to sit in my lap rather than be swatted and grabbed at.