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Born to run -

I first met Goose during gallery stroll night on Pierpont Avenue.

It was moonlit early summer evening, long before husband and I were involved in any way beyond distant acquaintance, professor and student. We spotted one another walking along the elevated sidewalk unique to the cluster of lit galleries of a Friday night. Words were exchanged, my girl friend and I were cool and coy in his most charming presence and somehow we wound up jaunting across the parking lot together to visit the hound locked in a gold pickup that had lit up the night with his guttural wails and secession of intimidating barks.

He was a ninety five pound, liver and white German Shorthaired Pointer. His wild eyes hungrily surveyed the environment as his master yanked him by hunter orange collar into the free-world and my friendly attempts to pet were ignored for the overbearing potential to run - as far as the southern tip of South America if at all possible. He was possibly the wildest canine I had met, which, coming from a feral child of the Alaskan bush where rabid dogs roam the night like giant snarling raccoons, was saying something.

Much later, I would find myself in 'the bird house' a rented house perched high in the trees of central Salt Lake City, round, awkward and pregnant and often alone with a mad dog. There was nothing overtly aggressive about Goose and I was not fearful of him. He was mostly the product of the typical pure-bred high anxiety and a sneakiness learned from life with a master who'd let him get away with just about anything - Our first few months together were spent as stepchild and stepmother - my typical guilt for coming between him and his heretofore single dad - I would offer him treats and spend long mornings cuddling with him in bed. But as my belly grew, my patience shortened and treats became replaced with forceful but necessary kicks to the sternum, the only remedy I'd found when Goose would attempt to excitedly jump up as I entered the house, inevitably blowing me in the stomach - rendering me as instant mother Lioness. His nightly sneaks onto the bed in the evenings were soon nixed as I grew tired of silt between my sheets - as was his habit of moving onto the cat dish after his morning meal (leaving our aged cat thin and starving) and then chasing him yowling around the house, pooping on our back deck, eating out of the trash can, barking loudly at squirrels as they skittered by, shredding my most expensive underwear to bits, rabidly attacking other dogs on the walking path, chasing down the postman who threatened to stop delivering mail, and sneaking through the barricade of sawhorses once or twice a week at the open garage door of husband's studio and galloping off as far as possible leaving husband in paint clothes and bicycle with two flat tires - cycling around Temple Square hollering and asking strangers for leads.

One night, when husband was in the woods painting, a group of friends who'd been invited swarmed the pitch black campsite, drunk and boisterous, and Goose went wild, lunging at a friend's little boy, then biting our friend Wynter who had instinctively come between them. Husband shrugged and laughed it off.

I became terrified for the safety of my unborn child.

Things became even tighter when we moved from husband's domain into a purchased house on ground level on the outskirts of town. Here there was a back yard for Goose to run circles through - but he would only run if one of us was running with him, sticking to his usual M.O. otherwise of remaining nervously underfoot - cute for a lapdog, a tiring prospect for a creature too large to fit in the cab of a truck, let alone a lap. Once the girl was born and eventually brought home - Goose came down one last level - from wild hound to sad, nervous Betty. My frazzled nerves could barely contain the existence of a quiet cat let alone a boisterous large canine. His bed turned black and threadbare as it became his one safe place to hide from my shrill stream of commands. I regularly embarrassed myself before friends and family alike, screaming and yanking at his collar as they knocked and he leaned all seven feet of himself barking ferociously at the glass between them and clawing the varnish off the front door. Between curses, I would offer my guests a strained hello and their faces took on a mix of pity for me and pity for the choking pet under my small but firm clutch. A walk, something of absolute necessity for a non-exercised sport dog, was too much to consider as I would briefly contemplate pushing a pram over cracked and uneven sidewalk one handed, yanking Goose's chain in the other and uttering serial commands like 'heel', 'wait' and 'stay' as well as carefully assessing each approaching neighbor and dog, determining how best to avoid the typical 'look, buddy, a friend, why don't you say hello' (lunge) 'oh my GOD! ' (ensuing dirty look).

I even asked for the entire first season of Caesar Milan with accompanying book for my birthday in January and found myself a changed woman for several weeks, patiently directing the dog - almost bonded to him.

Until he began regularly puking on the carpet downstairs and leaving giant smears of pungent dog shit in his kennel when left for longer than three hours at a time.

Things came to a head for Goose late in the summer as he decided the best thing would be to start taking himself for walks. I had a sick child on my hands, no day-care, a nearly full-time job and no sleep so when Goose would sneak his way quietly past the gate and then bolt for the hills, I rarely pursued him but, instead, dragged my tired self to husband's studio to announce the escape at which point, he would jump in the truck and bring him bouncing home. On one of these repeat occasions, husband was away and I, on my last nerve, decided not to call and let him know. Two hours later, as he came through the front door, I walked nonchalantly past, telling him offhand that the dog had been gone and I wasn't about to go find him, secretly hoping he had by now been adopted by a nice couple from Kansas who would feed him home-made dog-food and let him run their fields.

Husband's face fell into that of a devastated twelve year old and his lip actually trembled as he ran out the door. Another hour later and Goose came ecstatically to the front door, very much, surprisingly, to my relief.

I hid behind the windowsill and watched my husband, ruffled hair, painted jeans, cigarette, heaping the affection on his now seven year companion. I thought of husband's childhood - family a pack of wild wolves fending for themselves, Mother distant and tired, Father completely unconscious. I thought of us now, sprung from two wild artists living out their undergraduate fantasies to two tired, trapped independents, clawing at one another for freedom. I, in my cat-like way sitting vigil in the hallway like our Tito, ready to pounce Goose or husband as punishment for the very obnoxiousness of his presence. Before all this, there had been me and a tiny apartment - clean, good smelling, empty enough to keep me as far from it as possible. Now there was chaos everywhere I looked, and a day spent cleaning was like sweeping a gravel pit - this endless fight with entropy that had become a theme in my life - because the canine in me loved as much to destroy the pristine with jubilance as the canine in the creatures I'd picked to share life with. I remembered what husband often pointed out, that purebreds live shorter lives, ten to twelve years at most - which meant in four short years, we would have to explain to our little girl why her dog wasn't coming back, and I would surely lose husband to a day or two of solitary fishing. On a macro-cosmic scale, as a twenty seven year old, married to someone seventeen years her senior who smoked a pack a day: a quiet, clean house could be sooner in my future than I would have thought or honestly desired.

As Goose came clobbering and panting into the house, I pet him despite myself and kissed husband and, still grinding my teeth a bit, told them both sincerely, I was glad they were back.


12:50 p.m. - 2007-11-02


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