The Pleasures of Lab and Coyote

I’ve had three dogs in my life. A Doxie when I was young. A Saluki when we bought our first house with a yard. And Cinder, the wise and ancient Labrador that is my constant companion. I’ve loved them all, but I’ve made it known to anyone who’ll listen, that this is it. I’d like to be dogless for awhile after Cinder, well, after…

My first canine: Taffy. The Dachshund was my dad’s choice for an animal. I wanted a puppy who was covered in soft fur all over, someone like Benji or a silky Cocker Spaniel. Needless to say, that wasn’t in the cards, but as most dogs have a way of winning you over, Taffotil won me. Eventually she became more my mother’s dog than mine–dogs attach to the one who feeds them–but I loved that scurry of hers across the kitchen floor–all that nails-on-linoleum enthusiasm.

Risuli was really Tim’s dog. He’d seen a Saluki somewhere and thought, “Now that’s a great looking canine.” Or something like that. My first impression was that this is a strange breed. Again though the animal won my heart. They have a way of doing that. One of my memories of the regal Risuli is the way he had of sneaking up behind people and just standing there, silent, watching. And when that person, say someone like the meter man, turned around and saw that dog, he beat it out the gate in 10 seconds flat.

Then came Cinder, who started off as Hillary’s dog, but eventually became my dog since possession is 9/10ths of the law. Cinder, named by Nick for a road off the 395 on our way to Mammoth was officially Cinder Phoenix Raisin Toyon. She’s around, 16 human years old, spending her winter days napping in my old pink sweater, a little blind, a little deaf, and still with the most enthusiastic tail in the continental US.

Rodeo is my daughter’s puppy and since she’s here, he’s here. And he is a kick. He’s a Reno shelter dog, a mutt with more coyote in him than Australia shepard, and at less than a year in age, he’s got energy that my lab finds, er, more than a little annoying. What I think Cinder resents most is the herding.

It’s funny to watch this happen, my 112 year-old-lab giving me a look like, “Mom, where did you come up with this animal?” as she obediently shuffles into her kennel. And Rodeo cocks his head, sniffs her butt, and seems to say something like “I thought you wanted to take a nap since you won’t play! I’m only trying to help!!”

Okay enough of that foolishness. If you catch sight of Rodeo as he disappears through a door, your mind flashes on feral-animal-in-thehouse, that slinky lope, that bristly tan fur, but if he’s coming at you with that cute little shepard face, ears perked up, blender-strewn splotches of browns and tans, and that grin, well, your heart melts.

He’s a good dog. Totally housebroken with just a little too much fondness for sprinkler hoses and the lower branches of camellia bushes. I took him for a walk and found I was much more patient with him than I ever was with Cinder, walking her with a twelve and ten year old in tow, both arguing about who’d get to hold the leash next. Rodeo did well. Listened to my sits, sat up straight, took off on the heel. It was exhilerating, but with all that, I still won’t get another dog. At least for a while, although those standard poodles I’ve been seeing around are pretty cool.

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