(Benjamin: continued from Irish-Terrier Cross)
After Magda had left my office earlier in the afternoon, she herself had phoned Andrea. It wasn’t long after that they then met up at the train station with an old dog collar, leash, and a blanket.
Together they coaxed him near, put the collar on him, and led him out to Magda’s little Renault and, with him wrapped and squirming in the blanket, they drove him off to the vet. There he was given a full examination, a complete delousing, and the necessary shots … and proclaimed good to go home. There was no saying how long he’d been on the streets, but based on how malnourished he was, it had likely been several weeks. It was obvious to all that this dog at a lot of fight in him.
Back at our apartment, the first order of business was to bathe him, remove the dirt of the train station and the worst of the delousing treatment. They had just finished and were drying him off when I arrived home.
Given the distance of 16½ years, all I can do is reminisce and smile at his “first bath” which I didn’t give him. Ben has never stopped being crazy after I’ve bathed him … and with the exception of 4 times in his life, every bath he’s received has been at my hands. He’s always been better than the average dog in the bath. He doesn’t try to escape or jump out of the tub (well, almost never). Once in the bath, we have a dance that generally begins with him becoming as wooden as a Trojan horse as he “endures” the water and the shampooed massage that comes. The worst he does is bare his fangs and do his best impersonation of a king cobra as he strikes at the head of the telephone shower. At this point in time, Ben’s winning at a very decisive and undefeated 50-0. He then typically proceeds to cough and sputter as the water from the shower head goes down the wrong pipe. I laugh, he snarls, and it ends with him geting clean. After 16½ years, we have a pretty much perfected this dance that his semi-annual bath but occasional bouts of rolling in things he shouldn’t, especially as a puppy, necessitated many more baths at the start. When he gets out of the bath, I have a big oversized beach towel waiting for him: a baby-blue beach towel from my own teens that survives only to this day as Ben’s bath towel. On cue, Ben puts his front feet on the edge of the tub and I swaddle him in the towel and lift him wrapped onto the bathroom floor where I proceed to vigourously towel him dry. We are “done” when Ben’s internal coil has become so wound up that he springs from the towel like a prized pull from the rodeo chutes of the Calgary Stampede. The rest is a thing of wonder as he let’s the “fur fly” and he runs giant figure eights around the house, up and off the bed, around the living room … around whatever he decides is the obstacle course that day. His claws slice deep patterns in any carpet he grabs which like some turbo fuel for his feet propels him faster and further. The race reaches it’s penultimate lap with him rubbing his face and muzzle against a sofa or some other soft piece of furniture that he deems appropriate … and finally, it concludes when he ends up back in my arms, heart pounding, tongue panting, as he continues to rub himself dry between the towel in my thighs.
So it shouldn’t be a wonder that when Ben emerged from the doorway of our Polish bathroom, what I first saw was a crazed dog that lurched to downward dog when he saw me before proceeding to bounce off the walls and bark an unholy reveille … as he peaked at just plain out of control. He only stopped when he was ready … and then he came back to where he started, the bathroom door, where he proceeded to pee on the wall of hallway. Nice ….
In the kitchen, Magda had a link of parówki (think of it as a Polish wiener) that she prepared for him cutting it into little pieces. This was put on a plate on the floor and Ben inhaled it like some Polish vacuum, snatching each one with the fervor of a starving dog and gulping them whole into his empty stomach. There was no way any of us were getting near him as he ate. If there was any doubt, when I feigned approach, he looked up at me with timber-wolf eyes, fangs bared, and a growl … before turning back to his plate and snatching the next cocktail weenie into his mouth. I think we all saw the wildness in him at that moment – and I knew the ferociousness of his eating was going to be the first training priority.
We all sat in our little living room and talked about what had happened today, what they had learned at the vet, and what our next steps would be. I still wasn’t convinced that this was our dog, but we committed to trying and see what would happen in 10 days or so. We said this even after Ben’s next performance was to throw up the unchewed wieners in the middle of the area carpet.
I am quite sure I rolled my eyes and shook my head … and took a deep breath. But we all continued to talk while watching the dog behave as he always has since, anytime he’s gone into a new place, a new home, anyplace we’ve visited. Ben’s personality was on display: he was fearless and totally full of curiosity … and in retrospect, also clearly looking for food and scraps if he could find them. Between his foraging, he would periodically jump on the couch next to me … and I would push him off, convinced that the way to dog ownership included clear rules from the beginning: no dogs on the furniture.
Well, let’s just say that Ben didn’t have the same pet paradigm in his head. So this continued for a number of repeats until on the next play, instead of scooting him off with my hand, I looped a finger in his collar and prepared to drag him off the couch with a stern “No!” As soon as I made the motion to “pull,” Ben with his then nascent cobra-like neck, reached around, and in a lightning strike he bit me. I’m sure I swore as I started to bleed from the two little punctures he left in my fingers.
You can be sure that near the first thought I had was that this dog probably had rabies too … everything I feared about this stray was happening in front of me, to me.
And in the course of a few short hours, he was turning my life upside down: he had peed in the house, thrown up, and bitten me. And, indeed, my life would never be the same again.
Continued … Chapter 1: You Came into My Life — Ben Trains Us