“How poor are they that have not patience!”
Othello by William Shakespeare
I’ve been able to go through my life so far with some positive attributes and some negative ones. If one were to place them all on a scale, I would imagine one side would be much lower to the ground than the other.
I met Shelby at an estate sale. I was wandering around, seeing if there was anything that I could purchase for my small antique business and I overheard someone mentioning that they were looking for a home for the dog that lived there. I wandered around some more and finally, after running out of excuses not to, asked about this dog. I found out she had been a rescue dog who had been adopted and then the owner passed away leaving her once again, homeless. They brought her outside and she let me pet her and then she leaned up against my leg and just kept staring, her eyes boring a hole right through me.
For those of you who read Jerry’s columns and articles in GUN WORLD, DILLON’S BLUE PRESS, KNIVES ILLUSTRATED and the like you may have seen an occasional photo of him with Honey, or as she was referred to often as, Honey the Wonder Dog. Honey was part of our family for over fifteen years and for the most part was a perfect lady. She was gentle with children, didn’t bark more than she had to, got along with most people and only occasionally knocked over things with her huge bushy tail. She was pretty much of a no hassle dog. Unfortunately, Honey passed away three years ago. Good to the end, she waited until Jerry and I got over to the veterinary hospital where she had been staying to breath her last.
We kept talking about getting another dog but just kept putting it off. Shortly after Jerry passed away I was at an auction and ended up with three fish tanks complete with all the necessary accessories. After leaving the tanks in the garage for a few months, I decided to set up one of the tanks and go crazy with four Wal-Mart goldfish. Within a week one died but the others are still swimming through their mucky waters.
Back to Shelby. I refused to be seduced by the soulful puppy looks I was given by this creature and the body language that was oozing out of her onto my leg. Staying strong,I merely suggested that if no family decided to take her in the next few days to give me a call and I would. Somehow I assumed that she would go off to start a new life and I could tell myself that I had done the right thing in offering her a home. I got the call. She came to live with me. Life changed.
Shelby was very shy. She would not go through a door unless I went through first and assured her that it wouldn’t be slammed shut behind her. She followed me everywhere. She gobbled down her food as if afraid it would go missing if she didn’t finish it right away. Any toy given to her was carried around until she thought no one was looking. Then she buried it by removing couch cushions and pillows, placing the toy in a good spot and then covering it up again – neatly. Every few hours she would uncover her hidden object and rebury it in a different location. She was afraid of the dishwasher (I don’t blame her there; it makes a lot of noise) and the washing machine. When the ice maker dropped ice cubes you’d think we had just been attacked by aliens. If she thought she did something wrong she would hide under the bed with her butt and stub of a tail showing in full view.
Most of her timidity has subsided. If she hears a strange noise now instead of hiding, she barks her head off. Instead of shying away from the cows in the pasture behind our house she instead singles out the bull and attempts to stare him down. Considering the fact that he has escaped and ended up on our property, I don’t know if this is such a good idea on her part. She has terrorized my goldfish to the point that they won’t come up to the top of the tank to feed unless she’s in another part of the house. One night she stole their food container and buried it. She has become my protector against the six week old puppy across the street who she thinks is the devil incarnate.
Honey would not touch food unless it was offered to her; a turkey dinner would be safe to leave on the table. Shelby, on the other hand, can stand up and remove food from the top of the stove. One evening, I put the main course higher up in the microwave while eating dinner only to find out that she went instead for the steamed broccoli that I didn’t think would appeal to her. She also likes frozen peas and lettuce.
At bedtime, Shelby has half of the couch which she can take over once I put down a cover. A quick walk in the dark, flashlight in hand and soon, lights out. Since her first night with me, Shelby has tiptoed into the bedroom as quietly as a black ninja with toenails on an uncarpeted floor can and stolen one of my slippers. She either places it in front of the couch or on the couch next to her head. Some nights she will grab any cooking utensil or spoon left in her reach and do the same with it. She took a sponge off the kitchen sink once and arranged it along with her other items. Some nights she adds her toys. I have learned to pick up after dinner anything that I don’t want carried off.
I have also learned that change can sometimes be acceptable. I am one of those utterly disgusting morning people who jump out of bed, get ready and go down to the office to start my day. Now, Shelby hears my feet touching the floor and is there to greet me. Out we go into the dawn’s early light, me hoping to not run into any of my neighbors or dogs or cows and Shelby, after a refreshing night’s sleep, ready to track down any intruding grasshoppers and follow the paths of crazy night monsters that disappeared with the light of day. Wanting to drag her to a decent spot to do her duty I instead hold my temper and let the scenario run its usual course just as I do in the midnight hours with flashlight in hand imagining the origins of the night sounds around us just past the light’s reach. Shelby has learned words not expected out of a grandmother’s mouth and has been called many things by me. She so far has not repeated any of them.
Ready to go into the office and turn on the computer, I’m stopped by that wagging stump of a tail and an enthusiastic dog with a tennis ball sticking out of her mouth. We play for a while and then I sneak downstairs. I work for a while and she joins me, listening with me to the local classical music station. She’s also into Bee Gees, Queen and Neal Diamond. We both hope to get his new album! Then it’s time for a walk around the property just to make sure everything is just as it should be and time for her to have a light snack. We go back to the office until the mail comes, then the school bus… Eventually, I do get done what needs to.
Shelby was given to me to teach me patience – a virtue I never embraced earlier in my life – just ask my children. Some things might take longer to accomplish but what can come close to a seventy pound hound dog who wants to give you a hug and teach you how to stop and play.