Arriving in Castroville for the first time, full of fear and fully unaware of what was in store for me and Malcolm, I had no idea where to begin. After I let him romp and stomp around our acre of fenced in backyard, I took him into our solarium, and there we sat nose to snout regarding each other, both of us unsure what came next.
Talking to the little tyke seemed like as good as any place to start so I began.
“These are the rules of my house and if you respect them, I’ll respect you.”
And then I enumerated them for him. (1) No chewing on anything that isn’t previously designated as ‘chewable’, (2) No interrupting me when I am working, (3) You’ll only speak when spoken to… and the list went on and on.
With his big brown eyes open wide and a sweet smile, Malcolm appeared to listen attentively and agreeably, which I assumed we had reached a meeting of the minds.
I nodded my head, got up and patted his. “Good talk”. Whew, that part was over and our ‘contract’ was signed, sealed, and delivered. “You see”, I thought to myself, “It ain’t that tough”.
The ink wasn’t even dry before Malcolm ate the contract and pooped it out into my Cole Haan loafers. And over the coming weeks he set about, like the Tasmanian Devil, to destroy everything I held sacred. He peed on an antique edition of Grey’s Anatomy passed on to me from my father.
And after I had passed out from a long day, my clothes draped over the nearest chair on the way down, I awoke to the horror to find my Hermes tie, a gift from my girlfriend, severed and all slobbery in the little rat bastard’s mouth.
And he was shitty about it, too, and he knew it!. He was like, “Thanks. I needed a new chew toy”. And every time he pissed in the house and by this time, no square foot had been spared, he looked up at me all innocent like, “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong? Was that something you treasured?” And then he cranked up the nozzle a few notches.
I mean, come on, do dogs have four bladders like cows have stomachs?
But it wasn’t Malcolm’s fault. The truth is he was untrained. And so was I. You see, I had a preconceived notion based on my upbringing of how to raise a dog but it wasn’t long before I had to accept the reality that I was way in over my head. I purchased a few books on Pyrenees and the experts described the breed as ‘independent’ but I became to understand that as a Texas euphemism for ‘stubborn sumbitches’.
But I was too.
Indeed Malcolm and me became a perfect study in what happens when an immovable object meets and unstoppable force.
But the old model on which I was raised of ‘establish dominance and punish unruly behavior’ just wasn’t working. It was will against will and that just made it worse.
It would have been somewhat tolerable I suppose if he showed the slightest shred of gratitude. He had a good life at our humble little abode in our small Alsatian community and he wanted for nothing.
I’ve never needed much by way of affection in life but there’s nothing like a good snuggle every now and then but Malcolm wanted no part of it. I’d have to wrestle him up on the couch for it and, at times, he’d relent for five minutes, tolerate me, then jump right down and be on his way with a “KThnxbye”. And that damn near drove me daffy.
Nope, Malcolm was too cool for that.
Thinking about him now, he was a man’s dog. Hell, he slept like Superman and pissed like Steve McQueen.
There was a tiled corridor from the den to the solarium where he slept most nights and he would face the wall with his right paw extended, almost touching it and his left tucked in. Malcolm’s legs would be stretched far, far out which made him look like The Man of Steel flying, only in the old, old movies when the first word of the term 'special effects' was more exact and telling than the second.
He slept differently and he peed differently, too. Or unlike any of the male dogs I grew up around. He didn’t hike it but he didn’t squat like a girl either. Rather, Malcolm planted all fours squarely on the ground and arched his legs like mounting a motorcycle with a certain machismo that would’ve made the King of Cool smile.
It was fascinating, albeit foreign to someone like me, to behold Malcolm.
But still we struggled. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and everything I tried seemed to end in utter failure. There was a chasm between us that I ultimately deemed unbridgeable. Despondent and downright convinced I was utterly incapable of caring for Malcolm, I called Lindsey and tried to give him back. True to her nature, she said, “No”, and then promptly hung up the phone.
And then a miracle happened.
(1) As Ed calls them, I'm writing vignettes. When I first heard the term, I thought that's what you put on salads. I hope I'm giving you more than leafy greens.
(2) Last week, I was up in the White Mountains when I published the first part of Chapter 2, The Gospel According to Malcolm and, as he will always be known to me, the original Snow Monkey, it was fitting that New Hampshire was hit by a blizzard.
And then tonight, in posting the second installment in Newport Rhode Island, my writing was interrupted by fireworks as part of the 25th celebration of their Winter Festival. How's that for trail magic, baby?