She was a white terrier with a host of problems: abused, abandoned, blind, deaf, gloriously fat, comically ugly, disliked humans, disliked other dogs, bit all species equally and with little provocation. Her heart was failing, most of her other organs not far behind. She took seven different medications daily but was a longshot to last the summer. Joy wanted for her dogs what she wanted for herself: for their last memories to be of love. How to pull this off with a dog like Chow is among the reasons rescuers dislike hospice care. Personally, I wanted a way to remember that she hated my guts. Most people pet their pets, hence the name, but the adjustment was taking some time. I was always forgetting and reaching for Chow, and she had a mouth like a piranha. Pretty soon I had sore need of a better plan.
Rescue can be a very intuitive process, and by intuitive I mean that one afternoon, possibly because some tequila was involved, my better plan was “Fuck it.” I just reached down and picked Chow up. It was like trying to cuddle a tornado: spinning, shaking, snarling, biting, barking. I kept her at arm’s length with my elbows locked and fingers firm until that first wave of panic subsided. In those moments of exhausted reprieve before the next round, I sat down in a chair and locked her waist between my legs. This was perhaps not the best maneuver. I had inadvertently exposed my genitals to her claws and my eyes to her teeth. Chow was already availing herself of the first target and working her way toward the second. I was all set to hurl her across the porch when intuition struck again and I shoved my perfectly healthy hand into her vigorously snapping maw.
I guess that’s why they call it intuition. Chow’s mouth turned out to be small enough that with my fist wedged inside she couldn’t apply nearly as much pressure. She chomped and chomped and after about ten minutes the feeding frenzy vanished, suddenly replaced by profound befuddlement. Chow had finally noticed that my other hand had been stroking her back the whole time. This may have been the first time in her life that she’d felt affection, and where was it coming from? She glanced over her right shoulder, then looked left. Pretty soon she was whipping her head back and forth like a speed freak at a tennis match. It was fear of neck snapping that finally made me let her go. Then she leaped off my lap and shot across the porch, but froze at the edge, one paw lifted, the other legs bent. Whatever the next move, Chow never made it. Instead, she waddled back over, plopped down at my feet, and began licking my toes.