I call them the country cousins, even though they live in the city and should be more sophisticated. My mother ran them through her own version of charm school, but it didn’t take.
They’re my brother’s dogs, a couple of American mutts who know how to make a wild time wherever they go. They’re much different than my dog, Chase, a city dog with refined stylings and cosmopolitan tastes.
The country cousins have bad habits. They drool, smoke and spit. They chew tobacco. When they ride in the car with the windows rolled down, their heads stick out so far that they nip the ears of people passing by.
They make crank phone calls, and don’t use deodorant. They scratch a lot, in the most uncouth areas — it’s not pretty to see. They drip dirt, never know the right thing to say, and generally turn mayhem into an artform.
Did I mention they shed like a stormy sky rains, and barbs on their fur stick tight to everything, like Velcro?
When the country cousins get dropped off for some reason or other, we have to get ready. We put a big sheet down in the middle of the floor, sprinkle a nice layer of sand to make them feel at home, and buy extra paper towels. We notify the authorities, pre-apologize to the neighbors and do some stretching exercises that were specially designed for such occasions.
And then we close all the windows when we go out. We learned our lesson recently. One of them, Sandy, likes to bust out the screen and leap for freedom, her gawky limbs flailing in every direction as she hurtles toward the ground. I can only assume this is what she looks like because I’ve never seen it. I picture her jumping as if from an airplane — butt first, legs extended, tail tucked under, ears back, and attempting a triple backward isosceles triangle.
The first time she did this, my wife and I returned to find her milling around in the front yard, quite content with herself and eating grass.
“Sandy! How’d you get out here,” I yelled, and she didn’t answer. She looked proud and pleased, and also a little rabid.
My screen window was blown out like a rhino had hollered “Geronimo!” and jumped through. And it wasn’t the window on the porch, mind you. She went straight out the window on the side of the house, and straight down. A country cousin leaps before she looks.
I could picture both her sister and my dog standing there watching the whole episode in stunned disbelief.
“Did she just jump out the window?”
I know my dog and I know her reactions. It would have been total shock, and I can see her there, that face that screams, “Holy crap! Now you’ve done it. Now you’re gonna’ be in trouble. How you gonna’ get back in?”
The other one, with that goofy grin that makes you wonder if anyone’s home in the hen house, probably just stood there panting, not sure what to make of it all.
Oreo, a part-time manatee, has a face that can only say the variation of one word: Doh? or Doh!
More likely than not, she would have gone out the window, too, if not for the fact that she’s so tubby and would have ended up stuck on the sill, her little fat feet flailing in the wind.
Lucky for me, Sandy had no plan for hopping the fence, and she took to grazing. Now when the country cousins come over we seal up the house and put a parachute on her.
But you know, despite their country pedigree and their penchant for filth, cursing and watching NASCAR, they’re good dogs. They’re family, knots and all. Civilized city dogs and country cousins — they’re all just dogs. Although, the country kind sure do go out a lot of windows.