At seven and a half weeks old, our Labrador mix received her name: Lady. In the year and a half since that time, she has acted anything but the part. In Lady’s defense, she’s a good dog about 80% of the time. It’s the 20% of the time that’s a problem—like when new visitors come to the door, or when she sees small animals scampering up trees, or when she smells a banana—or freshly removed socks.
I can’t really hold the 20% against her because it isn’t a malicious 20%—it’s a zest for life 20%—as if the world is just so grand and marvelous that she simply can’t hold in her excitement.
We have tried handfuls of different training methods, but she’s obstinate. And she’s smart. Very smart. And she’s wonderful. And terrible. And hungry. Really hungry. Poor gal’s been on a diet since she got spayed, and she’ll probably be on a diet the rest of her life because she would literally eat until she threw up, and then she’d probably eat that (which is gross, and probably too graphic, but it’s the truth. I’ve seen her try.)
Her solution, which goes back to the zest, is that she now stuffs whatever she can find—edible or not—into her mouth. And not just one toy, or treat, or shoe—oh no, she stuffs as much as she can possibly fit. I work from home, so I started taking pictures as evidence:
The zest for the pita bread (which, she stole off the counter when I went to the bathroom):
The zest for socks and one lone glove (which, she took out of my bottom drawer when I was changing into walking shorts):
The zest for random clothing (which she lifted the lid on the laundry bin to snag):
And shoes (which are fair game no matter where, or how high, they are stashed):
And tissues/ paper towels/ tissue paper (which must be fun to tear up, and I am starting to wonder if when I am sad instead of using the tissues I should tear them to pieces for stress relief).
And soap (yes…soap…):
There are many more unfortunate, undocumented things. But when two maintenance men came over and I was alone, and Lady barked ferociously, I felt safe. And when I came home at 9:40pm and my husband was still at work and Lady’s whole body wagged for me and me alone, I felt loved. And her ears are silk. And her nose is a black, wet strawberry. And her eyes are soulful and so deep that sometimes when I look into them, I believe she understands more about the world than humans ever could. Because what, indeed, are we missing in that 20%?
If the worst thing about Lady is that she simply cannot get enough of life, then that’s a pretty darn good thing. And she’s a pretty darn good dog. While ladies aren’t typically known for shoving loaves of pita in their faces or voluntarily having their mouths washed out with soap, my Lady is not the typical Lady.
I spend more time with her than with anyone else in the world, and as I continue to work from home, that will probably be the case for a long time. (At least I hope so. I’m banking on fifteen more years with the gal, which is genetically improbable—potentially impossible—but I don’t care.) I’m going to need that long. She has a lot to teach me. And I have a lot to learn. About what it means to be a Lady. And to live for the 20%.
-Kerry Anne Harris
Kerry Anne earned her Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2015, where she received the annual Doris Betts Award in Creative Writing in 2014 and again in 2015. She has been published in Pen and Palate, The West Trade Review, and The Boston Center for Education and Professional Development Essay Book. She is currently a stay at home mom and blogs about motherhood at https://aladyandababy.wordpress.com Her essays have been published on parenting websites such as Great Moments in Parenting and Women on the Fence, and will be featured in Mothers Always Write in 2018.