I took my dog to the lake the other day, before September swept in with uncharacteristic heat and school routines that change traffic patterns. She is a big dog, off-white with dust from the dirt she loves to dig in and off-kilter with a sloppy smile that she puts on in the kitchen. She loves people and to be petted and to sit next to an armchair while my dad uses her body as an armrest, pretending to be giving her undivided attention.
She also loves potato chips and
mornings before the sun comes up, prancing in a circle and chasing her tail daily at 6 a.m. She once laid on the back porch with a beetle captured between her paws, not biting or swatting or barking — simply watching. She kept the beetle close until we brought her into the house and he fell in a crack.
She has tried to do the same thing with small animals, fluffy friends she finds in the wildflower garden and brings to her pile of toys beneath the pine. It is a twisted tragedy because the bunnies she brought home as friends have been inadvertently killed and caused heartbreak in the backyard. She only wanted to play with them, but her large jaws with white teeth don’t know the difference between games and death.
I’m not afraid of her. I have never been afraid of dogs, growing up with a gentle collie who didn’t care if you laid the floor with her but did care if you were sitting in her loveseat. I am still not afraid of dogs, even though the day I took this particular one to the lake, she was wearing a muzzle because she is dangerous.
She bit my dad once, teeth not puncturing but purple-bruising his thigh. She has bit me before, too, when I tried to save a lamp in the living room from her blundering weight. She was throwing herself at the window because a pug was walking by. For whatever reason, our giant, fluffy baby hates small dogs. The cute ones, white terriers and sweet toy poodles, little rascals that trot perky next to their masters. When she sees a pug, she is not longer a befriend-er of beetles, but a dangerous beast that none of us understand. It is bad breeding, probably. Either way, we love her, mutt, muzzle, and all, because even unpredictable personalities deserve love.
This day at the lake, I didn’t see any dogs on the beach. Just kids in life jackets playing with neon plastic buckets. I found a clear spot to walk her in the water, another one of her favorite activities. She nearly pulled me into the lake, she was so excited to swim and play. I stood there with her and could feel one thousand mom’s eyes penetrating my back.
Who brings a dog who needs a muzzle to the beach?
A dog in a muzzle is a creature looking for love. A dog in a muzzle is probably one who bites because they are hurting, or scared, or jealous. Just like people, dogs only strike if they feel threatened. It doesn’t make sense to me why Della is threatened by puppies and not the UPS guy or the coyote that once crossed our backyard. But then again, I don’t understand why I am not afraid of public speaking while the thought of driving in a city makes me tremble. We’ve all got our demons. It is too much to ask to understand them all, but it isn’t too much to try to see past them.
These moms didn’t understand why I brought a giant, slobbering, muzzled beast to a park with kids. I did, though, when two children in life jackets sloshed over and asked to pet her. She wagged her tail and her eyes brightened, and she stood there quietly while a 4 year old and a 6 year old smoothed her fur and smiled. They didn’t see the muzzle.