A Corgi Named Hank

IMG_3501Our friend Cassie found the four-year-old tri-colored low-rider at a pound in Nashville. She sent us pictures of him with his big warm brown eyes looking up at her through the metal bars of his kennel. The dog looked happy despite his confinement, and we were immediately smitten.

My husband Peyton and I had talked about getting a dog for years and he desperately wanted a corgi, not because he had one growing up, but because “they smile!” he said. I volunteered at a local humane society and couldn’t bring myself to purchase a dog from a breeder with so many homeless ones out there. Cassie had gone on the hunt for us and became our hero for discovering a purebred canine we could save, fulfilling both of our needs.

Once Peyton drove the corgi back to Massachusetts, the dog ran into our house as if he already knew it was home. He excitedly sniffed everything thoroughly while the cats scattered like roaches when a light switch is throw, hiding in dark corners. His physique was totally foreign to me; his long back, barrel-shaped torso, stubby legs and lack of tail didn’t fit the picture in my mind of “dog.” Despite my online research when trying to find a dog to adopt, I had never seen a corgi in person before.

Hank weighed in at forty pounds during his first vet check-up, easily ten pounds chubbier than recommended. The regimen required for him to lose a quarter of his body weight made him cranky at first, earning him the nickname Mr. Grumbles, but then turned him into an avid fan of lettuce spines and baby carrots as well as tennis-ball-retrieving and long hikes in the woods.

In addition to his thick double coat of gold and white fur, Hank has a black “saddle” on his back and a thin white blaze that runs from the top of his forehead to halfway down his nose. “It looks like someone poured a little cream on him!” Cassie said in her sweet Southern lilt, while I looked at him, imagining an odd dwarf horse. One of Hank’s ears always stands up tall like a soldier on command, the other usually flops sideways endearingly. He has a black olive nose, looks like he is wearing Egyptian eyeliner and really does smile.

When Hank goes downstairs, he hops, his fluffy white haunches bobbing like a rabbit’s backside. When Hank is very excited, he not only barks excessively, he wags his nubbin ferociously and we try not to laugh. When he wolfs down his dinner in seconds, we often say, “Corgis don’t know how to savor.” When Hank sleeps, he snores softly in a way that makes me incredibly sleepy.

Sometimes, he falls asleep on his back, white and pink belly skyward. His foxy snout points, upside down, in one direction as his petite back legs point in the other, hovering a few inches above the ground. His front legs curl in front of his chest and it looks as though he is dreaming that he is flying.

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Traceable

paw-prints-583794_960_720A fresh snowfall makes me conspicuous. Suddenly, my once invisible footsteps are evident, making my path easily traceable by the marks I leave. My size seven boot soles, fatly imprinted into the powder, illustrate my route and the slightly open stance of my gait, which I observe behind me, as if tracking a stranger in reverse.

The dogs leave their own distinct traces along the sidewalk as well, pristine dotted toe prints, perfect as any symbol for “paw,” wider and shorter distances between them based on leg-length. The wavy lines of their steps give away their tendency to veer, as they regularly curve off the pavement and onto lawns toward compelling scents. While I know from experience that walking a straight line is not their nature, it has never been so apparent. When they pull me, tether-bound, around a tree in a full circle, I laugh thinking what this would look like to others, our mess of footprints orbiting the trunk like a lopsided halo.

For once, I can see what the dogs “see” with their noses. They avidly follow a line of smaller, clearly feline, prints, and I wonder whether they are actually sniffing or looking, and guess at the former, as the power of our senses are opposite, at least to the best of my understanding.

I am pleasantly surprised when I recognize rabbit tracks: sets of two long parallel impressions followed – or preceded? – by two small, round, offset ones. I know the rabbits live here despite the somewhat urban setting. Occasionally, I see one scamper under the fence in our backyard or catch the flash of a white tail on a neighbor’s lawn. But it’s been some time since I had a good look at one, it’s round little brown body frozen still, pretending that it doesn’t know that I am having a staring contest with it.

I notice how many other dog prints are already here as well, along with the accompanying human prints, each in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. An odd sense of community comes over me, despite my lack of knowing who these steps belong to, and my being alone in the cold. The owners of these marks and I have a common habit.

Tomorrow, wind will blow the snow across our trails, rendering them invisible again. But tonight, the sidewalk tells stories.

Huffing Post

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2015_09_20_18_58_47My dogs have those toe pads that smell like Fritos. That warm, corny scent is, for me, cozy and reassuring in the same way my baby blanket was when I was growing up. I sometimes put my nose right against their dirty feet, pressing into the fur that sticks out between their toes, and take a big huff of it. It’s like some crazy perfume that just makes me feel happy and safe.

I was a blanket huffer as a kid. I wouldn’t let my mom wash my blanket for fear of it losing the fragrance – surely made up of saliva and sweat and dirt and food – that I had worked so long and hard to cultivate. Occasionally, when I wasn’t looking, she would swiftly ferry it away and throw it into the laundry. When it was returned to me, it would look basically the same – possibly brighter due to its lack of filth – but was unrecognizable to me due to it’s All detergent scent. That blanket – baby blue (all my siblings were boys, so I assume this might have been based on chromosomal assumptions) – was crocheted by hand by my dad’s Aunt Isabel, and I was so attached to it that it earned me the nickname Linus, though I feel it is important to note that I was not a thumbsucker.
My husband thinks my love of what might be deemed “funky” smells is gross. He’s not wrong. But there is something far outside of my control about the way it works.

Our corgi Hank AKA “Stink-Um” likes to cultivate a whole body fragrance for himself. He loves to roll in other animals’ urine and on the best days, something dead, ideally with guts squishing out and an advanced level of decay. He makes my olfactory choices seem downright lovely. But you’d have to see the self-satisfied glee on his face to understand why I have a hard time stopping him. He identifies a scent and then turns his head to the right before launching his entire body into the smell. It starts cheek-first then he smoothly rolls over onto his back and, belly skyward, proceeds to wiggle back and forth over and over, his stubby legs bouncing as he grunts like a satisfied little pig.

He looks at us with pure devastation in his brown eyes as we lift him into the bathtub, just as I did when my mom returned my blanket. When he realizes we are about to wash away all his hard work, the selections he carefully made, the souvenirs of his joyful rolling, his demeanor becomes downright downtrodden.

After a bath, he smells fluffy, whatever fluffy smells like. Nothing changes the corn nut scent of his feet though, which I would bottle as Eau d’Dog Paw. It wafts over us as we snuggle on the couch, filling the air with the fragrance of comfort.

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