Marbles, Part Three

Concluding the wonderful story written by Anne Schroeder.

Part One of MY SEASON FOR MARBLES was posted last Monday.

Part Two was yesterday and finished, thus:

Buck’s tendency to work the neighborhood was his ultimate undoing. Eventually the druggie roommate of a neighbor poisoned him for repeated raids on his dog’s feeding dish. By then he was scarred, limping from a difference of opinion with a moving car, had his ear chewed from a fight. He was a seasoned scrapper with a heart of gold. Of all the dogs we owned, he lived life on his own terms.

ooOOoo

MY SEASON FOR MARBLES

Part Three

One day my son and his dad brought home a new pup–a nine-week old, female Boxer that we named Marbles for her brindle coloring.  She had a perfect circle of white around one eye and an ear that perked up when she was surprised.  Steve wanted to name her Stymie.

Something I never expected happened. I experienced a resurgence of mother love. I found myself sitting in the sunshine, playing toss-the-stick. I held Marbles while I watched TV.  I loved the feel of her sleek hair, the way she formed a question in her eyes. I was patient with her, like I am with a child. I gave her credit for her embarrassment when she piddled on the kitchen tile when we were gone too many hours. I watched her dig in the creek bank and was sure she would never try digging in the yard.  She never did. She was surprisingly mellow for a Boxer. She never barked, never whined, never jumped on furniture or tore up pillows when we were gone.

Marbles accompanied us to the mailbox, to the creek, to the canyons. The flurry of a quail made her stop and listen, one ear cocked. Everything was a first for her, and our walks took the meandering pace of a walk with an eighteen-month-old. She was curious about dandelions. On our walks I rejoiced for the way she refocused my appreciation of life.

Marbles was only with us for six years before she died of a malignant tumor that Boxers are infamous for having. I helped Steve bury her on a ridge above our house, in the canyon she loved to walk.

*****

I ask myself what changed with Marbles? Was it me, or something broader? I think it’s a question of timing. For some reason, men bring home puppies while women are busy with babies. Maybe it’s an attempt to capture the bond that mother and baby share. Maybe the man feels left out.  Whatever the reason, a puppy has to be raised, trained, groomed and cleaned up after.  So does a child.  For most women, a puppy is like having twins, or another pregnancy too soon after the first.

Getting labeled as a dog hater is a double-edged sword. Life becomes an “oops, don’t let Mom find out” thing that undermines everyone. When something happens, warnings about pet responsibility come out sounding like a “gottcha.” I grew up with unquestioned values that a dog was a farm animal with responsibilities. A dog earned its keep in the same way a child did. No one questioned that a child could gather eggs, but, suddenly I’m a meany for suggesting that a dog be useful? I’m too old and too stubborn to make the change, and I find myself filled with resentment that society requires it of me.

But I learned to keep my head low and duck the bullets. I don’t offer my opinion around friends, every one of whom seems to have at least one dog. One friend has fourteen dogs and cats. We meet at cafes or on the porch. They try to forgive me my stance on buying a purebred puppy as opposed to adopting from the shelter. We have agreed to disagree, like conflicting religious views.  But I know I’m in the minority. In my defense I should mention that cats crawl onto my lap. I like to pet them. They like me. But that doesn’t get me any dog points.

So now it’s time to look for a new puppy. Steve’s getting antsy, I can read the signs. He’s happier with a dog at his side and I like him to be happy. I try not to think about the stress I feel every time we check out a new puppy litter—three in the past two months. I try not to feel relief when we leave without making a selection. He’s not in a hurry; he wants a love connection, and he’ll know her when he sees her.

At long last I am trying to discard my self-image of a dog meany. I even question the term “pet owner.” Who can own another creature’s heart? This time around I am going to earn a dog’s devotion. Like a first-time mother, self-conscious and unskilled, I secretly practiced with Marbles, and she seemed to think I did all right. This time we will all share in the job of puppy parenthood. It’s not fair for me to have to clean dog snot off the French doors while someone else is tossing the Frisbee. But I’ll still take my walks alone. I tried it both ways, and I realized that my quiet time was not negotiable—mornings belonged to me. In the evenings, I share my walk with the family—and that includes the dog.

ooOOoo

What a fabulous ending to a really charming story!

unnamedI have no doubt that many of you would like more information about Anne.

So do drop into Anne Schroeder’s Author Blog or visit her website here.

16 thoughts on “Marbles, Part Three

    1. Thank you, Sue for reading to the end. I enjoyed posting on Paul’s blog. If you enjoy historical fiction about Native American women, please request that your library order a copy of Maria Ines from Gale Cengage, the publisher. They specialize in books for library market.

  1. Good story. About a year back I did a home check for a family that wanted to adopt a dog from a local animal rescue. I did the home check and everything went really well; however The mother/wife wasn’t convinced. I could see it in her eyes. So we retired to the basement and had a long talk.

    She relayed the story about being a bitten by a dog when she was young and her subsequent uneasiness around dogs. The family had a basset hound that was about seven years Old and this woman had lived with this dog despite her uneasiness. It became very clear that her husband and son were in love with their dog and wanted the new dog, but she was not happy. I’ve often wondered why she even entertain the thought of a second dog; but now I get it. It’s a family thing. She was doing this for her husband and her son.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a crazy dog lover. As a child I was exceptionally hyperactive and probably low spectrum autistic. I could deal with individual people but large groups and/or peewee sports teams were just too much human contact. I had a rough collie (like Lassie) as my childhood companion. She was the perfect companion for me and was a great teacher about life and dogs. I eventually grow up and learn to deal with humans, but I’ve always had this special bond with dogs. I understand them in a very intuitive way and can read their body language. It’s easy for me to communicate with them and even angry snarling dogs at the rescue don’t scare me.

    My later life as a dog behavior consultant is truly my life’s calling. There are many dog trainers out there, some very good ones. I don’t hold myself up as being an exceptionally good trainer, but I sure have rehabilitated some basket case dogs over the years. I get calls from people all the time that are having issues with their dogs. When I do my in-home consultation I spend much more time with the human finding out what the issue really is. Most often it’s just a lack Communication between the family and the dog.

    So in closing I wanted to thank you for your fine story. This is giving me an even greater understanding of people.

    1. Thank you again, Mindful Beast. Clearly you have the heart of a canine. Last night our new puppy peed on my office rug and I realized I had evolved in my dog loving heart. The spot will remain forever in a lesser fashion, and I learned that a visiting puppy needs to go outside.

      1. Funny that, because all our dogs names have always ended in ‘ie’ or ‘y’!
        You are a good writer Anne, I love the way you write so naturally and passionately.

  2. I was sorry to hear about Marbles passing away. That is what our Sophie succumbed to after a valiant fight. Anne is right about having a dog. You are a pet parent. I know that Cesar Millan is very big on dogs being a pack and they aren’t to be treated like humans and yada, yada, yada. With all due respect to Mr. Millan, I am not going to stop thinking of myself as Maggie’s mom. Thanks for the introduction to Ms. Schroeder, Paul!

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