Ollie and I have a strange and wonderful relationship. I think it’s strange to have a pet that is definitionally wild. Ollie thinks it would be wonderful to eat me.
Strange. And wonderful.
Jon, our youngest child who lives at home while going to college, has wanted a dog ever since he was a toddler. But we have always said “no” because several members of our family — including my wife, Anita, and I — are allergic to dogs. At least, we were. But when Jon brought 2-week-old Ollie — short for Olivia (don’t get me started about that) — home for a test visit, neither Anita nor I reacted allergically to the pup. With that excuse out of the way, it was tough to resist those loving, longing eyes.
Jon’s, not Ollie’s.
And so we have a dog that is part wolf. Let that roll around in your brain for a second. While Ollie is also part German shepherd and part black Lab, she comes from the same genus that gave us the Big Bad Wolf, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the frightening protagonist in “Peter and the Wolf” and those nasty wolves who tried to eat Anna, Kristoff and Sven in “Frozen.”
For some reason, Ollie the part-wolf has decided that she doesn’t like me. She’s fun and lively with everyone else. She plays wonderfully well with the grandchildren, she adores Anita and she is absolutely devoted to Jon. But when she sees me, she hunkers down in that wolf stance of hers and growls menacingly and barks angrily. I don’t get it. I give her bologna and beef jerky, for Pete’s sake. But still she growls and barks at me like she somehow knows that right from the beginning I was the one dragging my feet about having her here at our house.
It isn’t that I don’t like her. Well, OK — I guess it kind of is. Don’t get me wrong — she’s a great dog. She is personable and affectionate, and she seems to be pretty smart. But I confess — and I know that this is a significant confession in the eyes of many — I’m not exactly what you would call a pet person.
It hasn’t always been that way. We had pets when I was a kid: a parakeet and three dogs. The morning the parakeet died was one of the most traumatic of my young life. As I recall, we had put the bird in her cage outside on the porch for one reason or another, and the next thing we knew there was nothing in the cage but feathers. We suspected the neighbor’s cats. For years after that, I would tear up whenever a cartoon came on featuring Sylvester the cat and Tweety Bird. As far as I was concerned, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” just wasn’t funny.
We didn’t fare much better with the dogs. The first one had an ugly incident with a lawn mower. The second one ran away after following me to baseball practice. And the third one, well, we don’t really know what happened to Toro, the world’s cutest and friendliest Chihuahua. One minute he was outside yapping good naturedly at kids as they walked past our house on their way home from school. And the next minute he was gone.
We suspected dognapping. But we could never prove it.
From that time until now I haven’t been anxious to have another pet. I don’t like the messes they make, biological and otherwise. I don’t like being licked and smelled. I don’t like being the object of growling and barking. I don’t like pet hair and pet odor. And I really, really don’t like the possibility of pain when you give your heart to a furry — or feathery — little friend.
But I’m afraid it’s too late for that now. Ollie has moved in — to our house, and whether I like it or not, to my heart. And that’s probably just as well. As columnist/curmudgeon Andy Rooney said, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”
Even, it turns out, if the dog is part wolf.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr