The mantra gets repeated. It’ll all work out. It looks like the pup has found a home. I had been avoiding this task for months. Folks ask, “What about the dog? What are you going to do with him while you’re in Ukraine?” I would grimace and shrug and admit that I wasn’t actively thinking about it. But I was.
Tatter and I have a deep connection, as every pet owner knows. I understand his quirks, his behaviors, his moods. I know what he is thinking, as all pet owners say. I am his and he has me wrapped around his little paws. This is the only relationship I truly understand. And it is one of the few loves I have had that hurts.
Tatterdemalion was born in Idaho and came into my life in November of 2004, arriving on an Alaska Airlines flight from Spokane, Washington to Newark International Airport. Nine weeks old and smelling of poo and pee and puppy breath. He was a soft bundle of black and tan with one flopped ear and one erect. He was all energy and squirmed like a terrier wanting to get down and explore everything within his world as soon as he could. He peed in my lap on the trip home: the bond was cemented.
Nine years later and I knew our time together was coming to an end. I needed to find the perfect replacement me, a terrier-person, someone willing to put up with the attitude and the antics, someone who would love him as much as I did, if that were even possible.
At twenty pounds, standing under a foot tall, Tatter ran circles around his adoptive brother, Arlo, for a few years. A 90-pound, gangly Greyhound who was clueless on how to deal with that energy force and pest constantly beneath his thin, muscular legs. When Arlo got shat on by Tatter in the backseat of the Saab on a road trip, he simply stood up and shook it off. Yes, literally and figuratively. I stopped the car along the shoulder of the Thruway to clean everyone up. Tatter didn’t like the attention I was giving the Greyhound and wanted me to play with him instead, so he jumped out of the car running west along the Interstate, trucks and cars blazing by at 70 miles an hour, horns blaring, me in hot pursuit. Anyone of us could have become roadkill, but we survived to laugh about that experience and others.
A fence was installed around the yard to keep the dogs in and within five minutes of opening the back door after the contractors left, Tatter shimmied through the slats and bolted down the street. It didn’t take him long to discover which neighbors threw out bread and peanuts for the birds and squirrels, the neighborhood vermin, and made a beeline for those backyards on each successive outing. I spent years chasing him around the neighborhood, usually at night, in the rain and in my underwear.
On one outing, the last pee before we went to bed, he went nose to nose with Charlie, the neighborhood skunk. He barked the skunk down and chased him through the neighbor’s yard after getting sprayed. Tomato juice, vinegar, shampoo and a wet dog at 11 o’clock, ah, the good memories.
Would I ever find another human being blind enough to put up with this dog, this love of my life? My closest friends didn’t want the burden, and I couldn’t really blame them. Tatter can be a handful. A few times my closest friend has taken Tatter when I had to go out of town and needed to leave him behind. My friend had raised terriers for years and knows all about their foibles and eccentricities. Tatter was always well-behaved and was the perfect houseguest, or so I was told. But my friend didn’t want the responsibility and needed a break from raising dogs. I understand.
Out of the blue my old college roommate and I reconnected and he said he’d be interested in taking care of Tatter. He is in Connecticut and this All-American family, with father, mother, college-aged daughter, teenage son, and Golden Retriever would welcome my dog while I was away. Tatter is there now for a visit, acclimating to his foster family, happily, I’m proud to announce. They may have already fallen in love with each other. I just hope they don’t love him more than I do.