Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Boutros Stories


Now in his reclining years, Boutros-Boutros Doggie has just about lost interest in the pursuit of other creatures. A voracious bee-eater, I haven’t seen him snap all this season; squirrels come and go, eating out of the bird feeders, and Boutros doesn’t budge; he’s even given up on cats – he musters a pro forma chase so as to not let all dogdom down, but hot pursuit is a thing of the past. Other dogs interest him only nominally. A sniff or two, and it’s back to what other business is at hand. Fact be known, Boutros has never been a dog’s dog, preferring the company of people to other canines. I think it has something to do with reincarnation, but more on that later.

A week ago Boutros met Zeppelin, and it was love at first sight. Zep’s owner warned us away. Zeppelin didn’t like other dogs, and tended to get nasty. But, some mutual attraction pulled Zeppelin and Boutros together. Two ten year olds, they frolicked like puppies, taking turns humping each other’s heads, barking, biting, jumping – engaged in all the play of domination with no serious intent. The other day they frolicked so long and so hard I had to carry Boutros up to bed, and I heard Zeppelin wasn’t in much better shape.

Zeppelin is a malamute, and Boutros is husky/shepherd and you might guess that’s where the attraction lies, but I’ve seen the Bouter with other malamutes, and that’s just not it. Something else is going on. But what?

Long lost playmates – feasible, but unlikely; separated at birth – highly doubtful; soul brothers? Ah, could it be possible? Linked in the great cosmos through a cycle of rebirth? Maybe they were past life litter buddies; or pack buddies roaming the tundra. Some of us claim that an instant attraction to friendship, or even love, is precipitated by a past life experience - souls joined in eternity. At the risk of even more lunacy, I’ve always felt dogs to be just a step removed from humanity anyway, either by having been born up or down the reincarnational pathway. I could have known any one of you in a past life, why not Zeppelin and Boutros. It’s the only explanation I can give to the intensity of the bond these two have for each other.

The other night, Boutros left the yard and showed up at, yes, Zeppelin’s front door. We didn’t know he was missing until morning, after we had listened to a phone message from Zeppelin’s owners. Boutros showed up, barked for Zeppelin, and his people let him out to play. They also gave them snacks, and let Boutros spend the night. That morning they sat on the lawn, watching the passing parade. He’s since repeated the escapade a couple times.

Now here’s the sad part of the story: Zeppelin (and his owners) have moved. Boutros continues his sojourns to Zep’s front door, but no one is home. He sits and waits, but – no Zeppelin. When we take our daily walks, Boutros puts on his best prance, lifts his tail, and when we get to Zep’s house he dashes to the door, and barks out a greeting, but – no Zeppelin. He sniffs all over the yard, marking here and there, expecting his friend to come bounding, but – no. On the walk home Boutros transforms back into an old dog, moving at zero miles an hour with his tail down. He stops every ten or fifteen feet and looks over his shoulder, but – that’s right, no Zeppelin.

The other day we talked to Zeppelin’s owners and were told that he had run away from the new house, and was probably headed back to the old neighborhood, but was picked up by animal control. I wonder if he was missing the old house, or Boutros? I think a little of both.

So, I’ve got Zeppelin’s address and phone number, and what do you think, should I set up a play-date? I remember when I was six and my best friend moved away. I was devastated.

Oh, nuts, poor Boutros…

-The Reunion-

My friend Stephen, a true comrade in examining the far-fetchedness, or absurdity of any given situation read the story of Boutros in love and proposed that Boutros’s and Zeppelin’s relationship was analogous to my relationship with Reggie. Two old souls who meet, and are then separated, only to run to each other with every opportunity. True, we’ve been separated by miles, sometimes many miles, over the past year, but I thought Stephen’s analysis was a stretch.

Today I decided to take Boutros for a surprise visit to Zeppelin’s new house. I considered the advice many of you had offered when I asked if you thought a play date was the thing to do – a collective “Yes.” I also wanted to play the story out a little longer, and was curious as to how the lovers would react after not only a separation, but after having moved into completely different houses.

As we got within a half mile of Zep’s new house Boutros stuck his head out the car window and engaged in some very active sniffing. I thought, isn’t that amazing, he’s picking up Zep’s scent already. I also thought he might be catching wind of the BBQ and taco stands. The latter was probably the case.

After a few wrong turns, my usual modus operandi, we parked about four doors down from Zeppelin’s house. Boutros was anxious to get out of the car. More anxious than usual? I don’t know. We walked the four houses and Boutros made a quick right turn into Zep’s yard. No one was around, but the door was open. I called in, and Zep’s human came to the door furiously burping her month old baby. I told her I happened to be in the neighborhood – nothing like starting out with a lie – and she stared daggers at me and said, “This is just not a good time, I’m burping the baby.” Well, Jesus, I thought, what’s the big deal about burping a baby? To make matters worse, Boutros had left my side and was busy in the neighbor’s yard marking trees and bushes. So I was standing there like I had come to visit, and since she hardly knows me, I’m sure it all seemed a bit odd. I managed a, “But I’ve brought Boutros to visit Zeppelin.” She turned away, and in a few seconds her husband came out with Zeppelin. At the same moment a little girl from next door stepped onto her porch and yelled, “Hey, your dog’s in my house!” I sensed that things could possibly be getting out of hand, but Boutros came trotting out on her heels. Did he come bounding to Zeppelin? Not on your life. He was much too busy crawling under a bush to get his back scratched. I called him, he ambled over, saw Zeppelin, and they tenderly touched noses. Zeppelin jumped up, and somehow bumped Boutros’s bad hip, and they went at each other with snarls and exposed teeth – right for the throat. Things were not going well. The gathered humans looked at each other, and started making excuses for the dogs’ behavior. “Oh, they have bad hips.” “It’s been awhile since they’ve seen each other.” “They’re not used to the territory.” By this time Boutros had disengaged, marked spots all over the yard, and was out of sight down the side of the house. Zeppelin was just hanging, but seemed to be a little stunned.

“Well,” says I, “I was just in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d stop by, and I guess I’ll let you get about your day, c’mon Boutros, and I’ve got some shopping to do, c’mon Boutros, Boutros…” And they said they were a little busy anyway, so I got Boutros out from behind their house and we left.

I got home and started thinking this was a little like how Reggie and I behave after a separation. We tenderly greet, get into a little spat about nothing, reestablish our boundries, and then all goes well. So, maybe Stephen does have something there. But, and much more importantly, does this mean I have to run the exercise again? Give the dogs a chance? Maybe call ahead next time? Of course, I’m thinking if I never go back they’re going to either think I’m weird, or they had somehow offended me, or who knows what. And, if I do go back, or call, they’re going to think I’m weird anyway, don’t have much of a life, or who knows what else.

Maybe I’ll just wait ‘til Reggie gets home, try not to act like Boutros and Zeppelin, and see what she thinks.

Boutros is asleep under the table. He’s in dream-land, running his paws and barking. Do you suppose he’s dreaming about Zeppelin?

Oh, nuts…


About ten years ago I was in an automobile accident that left me seriously banged up. After months in the hospital I got home with a fairly rigorous physical therapy regimen ahead of me. On the plus side, the therapy would take place at home so I wouldn’t have to deal with wheelchairs, vans, and hospital visits.

I had a dog, a shepherd/huskie mix, as adorable as all get out, who went by the name of Boutros-Boutros Doggie, on formal occasions, but Boutros, for short. Prior to the accident we had lived together for about ten years, were devoted to one another, and, except for the hospital stay, spent my entire convalescence together.

Boutros was a people-oriented pooch. When someone new came to the door, he’d stand, bark once, sniff the air, and announce his status as “dog of the house” by waiting in their path for an acknowledgement. That was the exact routine when my physical therapist made her first visit, and she paid Boutros the minimum amount of attention to get through the door. I don’t remember her name, but she came to be known as “Vlad the Impaler,” for her no nonsense, no-pain-no-gain approach to physical therapy.

I have to grant that it took a few visits before she had me writhing in agony, so in those visits Boutros got used to having her around.

One of my injuries was to a knee-cap that had been fractured in four places, and twisted completely sideways. I was repaired by an excellent rodeo doctor who happened to be on call that day and was used to weirdly broken bones. He did a great job, but the hang-over from the surgery was a mass of scar tissue that prevented me from bending my leg. Vlad’s job was to get me to push through the scar tissue. Her technique was to have me lie on my stomach, and try to bring my right heel to my right buttock. Of course it was impossible, so she would grab my ankle and offer an assist. It was this exercise that wiped her real name from my mind, and firmly cemented Vlad the Impaler in its place. She pushed my leg and I started panting. She pushed a little more, and I added my voice in a series of high pitched and staccato screams, a little more and I was beating my hands on the floor. This was torture, and within moments of the screaming and pounding Boutros was standing at my head with an alarmed look in his eye, licking my upraised face. The torture didn’t last very long, thank god, but from the time we finished, and worked through a few gentler exercises, Boutros didn’t leave my side.

Vlad’s visits were scheduled for every other day, giving me time to recuperate, exercise on my own, and dread her next arrival – which came like clockwork. I answered the door with Boutros at my side, as usual. What wasn’t usual was that Boutros wouldn’t get out of the way when Vlad tried to walk in. Not a growl, not a bark, just a refusal, even as she tried to squeeze by. I thought the behavior odd, but didn’t give it much of a thought as I moved away from the door and made a few clicking noises for Boutros to follow.

We went through the warm-up exercises, and made our way to the dreaded knee-bender. I got down on the floor, and onto my stomach, and Vlad got down onto her knees ready to assist. As soon as I got my leg into a right angle Boutros stepped up to Vlad, and sat down looking at her. There couldn’t have been more than a foot between them. Vlad placed her hand on my ankle, and Boutros, again without a sound, lifted his paw and knocked her hand away, then he stood up, and got his face right into hers. I could see all this just out of the corner of my eye.

“Richard, could you ask your dog to back off?”

I called Boutros, and he came around to my head, and sat, but didn’t take his eyes off Vlad. As she started to push my leg, Boutros stood up again. I could see he was not going to let the exercise happen, so I leaned up onto my elbows, and suggested we move to something else. Vlad saw the wisdom of the suggestion.

Unfortunately, the exercise had a good purpose, and we had to do it whether Boutros wanted it to happen or not, so, as it turned out, Boutros started spending my therapy time in the back yard. I’d lure him out with a tennis ball before Vlad showed up.

Boutros passed about 6 months ago, and of course I still miss him – for many reasons, not the least of them being the clear manifestation of love that caused him to swat that woman’s hand right off my ankle. When people tell stories about how cute or smart their dogs are that’s the story I tell.


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