Back in the day was a most excellent bakery in our neck of the woods. Sue’s. It was the hangout of choice for retired steel workers and the 50+ crowd for a great cup of coffee and a righteous pastry. And Sue was always there slinging pastries, sharing stories and hugs.
It was happy day when as a family we would venture over for a morning pastry, usually on the way to church. My achilles heal was something I had never seen before: the chocolate cake bar. A pastry roughly six inches long, three inches on a side, topped with a some sort of white buttercream frosting/filling and on top of that a marvelous milk chocolate ganache oozing over all. Oh my, good thing we only went by occasionally.
I ventured off to college, where ramen noodles and pots of coffee were de rigeur. But on occasion, came the care packages. Personal goods, newspaper clippings, Home Pride Wheat Bread (unavailable where I schooled) and Sue’s chocolate cake bars. Although starting to get stale by the time I received them, those cake bars were metered out like they were gold. They had to last a long time, and sometimes I just didn’t have the fortitude to let them. Oh my, oh my, oh my.
After marrying and a couple of moves later, found myself in southwest Ohio. Finally finding another place making a similar delectable treat, and this time a name, a real name. One that wasn’t as much of a mouthful as the treat itself. Devil Dogs.
It’s 2013 and I have another devil dog. Gorgeous to look at but has the potential to be painfully bad for you, just like all that chocolate. Andante, Dante for short. My Joy was already such an allegro I needed an andante to slow her down.
He was roughly seven months old when I brought him home. He had been in the shelter a week when I saw him. Starved, frightened, sick. Part golden lab, part American Staffordshire terrier, part something small, spaniel maybe. Part soulful baby. Part kangaroo. His only interest was food. Due I am sure to his entire skeleton being identifiable beneath his golden coat. Literally starving.
He and Joy hit it off from the moment they met. Playful abandon, two pups finding each other on the whim of rescue adoption. They are like siblings from different litters, brother from another mother. Six months later they still have not stopped playing. She taught him about toys and hiding under the bed. He always has to know where she is and will search until he finds her.
His need for food became a useful tool, but not before some basic learning. He had never been in a house before. I taught him to climb stairs, about doors and doorways. Because his food drive was so large, in a week he had learned his name, to sit, to come. Anything for another morsel.
Just so everyone could have a time out for the first night, I set Dante up in my guest bathroom. Linoleum tile, plenty of space. He would be warm and secure and Joy would know she was still my baby. My first lesson came the next morning. There had been no noise during the night, all is calm, all is bright. Then I opened the door, one of my freshly hung solid poplar doors with new trim. Inside was the aftermath of a whirling dervish. Drywall, trim, door all succumbed. He had peed in the floor but that was to be expected. Never inside before, remember? Interestingly enough, despite the shrapnel from his evening’s activities not a scratch on him. No blood, no wounds, nothing. I don’t know how he did it.
So my next attempt was to try kenneling. After he damaged and broke out of three different kennels I stopped trying, the third one an all metal contraption he pushed out of and broke the welds. All forty pounds of him. Again not a scratch, not an ounce of blood. He’s starting to sound like James Bond.
Quarantined in the garage? Trim pulled off the garage door, door knob mauled, a hey day on top of my rag top convertible, puncturing the same.
So I talked with a dog behavioralist and the folks at the shelter. Trying to analyze his behavior, this frenzied drive to not be contained, it seems he was one of those puppies abandoned. First chained up, relegated to the backyard, not really a family pet, and then for good, maybe a foreclosure, maybe not, but left for good. He figured out how to get away and if it worked the first time………
Of his other talents, he’s a jumper and a climber. A veritable canine MacGyver, escaping most situations. He can jump from a standing position to my eye level. The first non traditional command I taught him was he would not be touched until he sat at my feet, otherwise I would be treated to his wild pogo dancing. He picked it up pretty quickly too, but it doesn’t mean the kangaroo has left the building. When he and Joy went to the kennel while I vacationed, he repeatedly climbed the wall of his enclosure, on his way to where?
Recently, he has taken to heart the new attitude of deconstruction found in high end restaurants, except with my pillows. Cases, pillows, shams ripped to bits. The first time was funny, after that not so much. A newly redecorated bedroom on the ropes.
By now if you are not asking yourself why do I still have this dog, you I gotta wonder about. I started several times to take him back. Couldn’t. It was his eyes. Deep, deep chocolate redolent of those devil dogs of days gone by. The first time I have ever seen a dog speak love with his eyes. And he wants so badly to please. He looks at you all wiggle and jump and those eyes speak. Please don’t leave me, I’ll be good, I’m really trying.
And I also know what would eventually happen to him. He would be taken home because of his cuteness, his Marley-good looks. And then the trail of destruction and anxiety and lack of house brokenness would begin and how long would he last? A week, two? Then back to the shelter. How many cycles of that before a dog becomes unadoptable? He is so sweet and so sensitive, how could that possibly help him?
He’s smart and a puppy still, recently crossing the year mark (I think). His sweetness, his goodness with Joy, the wiggle-rama whenever I come home. The warm little body snuggled up in the cold of the night. What’s stuff compared to that? And, believe it or not, he is getting better. Small teacup poodle strides, but getting better.
He’s my modern day devil dog. Without the calories.
For my friend Shirley.