This Dog is Not For Sale

Originally published March 2017

It’s Gus the Trump Therapy Dog’s third birthday.

I know you would like this dog, but he is not for sale.

Four months in from experiencing a bout of temporary insanity, I can tell you that Gus is a handful. Twice the size of what the house can handle, he’s been nicknamed everything from a demon dog, or Cujo, to Satan’s Hound.

But he’s not for sale.

I thought, “I’ll get a rescue. I’ll save a dog because I can do that. Plus, purebreds cost a fortune.” Yes, well. There’s training classes. And treats for training classes. And crates. And toys. And more toys because he’s ripped the first set of toys. And more treats. And vaccinations. And medication. And special leashes. And personal trash bags for his ginormous fecal output. And smart looking bow ties. And fleece jackets because even dogs get cold.

But he’s not for sale.

I used to run-scratch that-jog, for exercise. That was four months ago. I figured, “The dog can run with me.” I still hope for that. But until then, we’ll walk. And walk. And walk some more. Three times a day. My feet feel like they are wearing down to the nub. I used to read. A lot. Now, if I can squeeze out a page or two at night after the last walk, I’m satisfied with the progress. I even kept the house halfway clean and made a decent dinner once in a while. Now? I wake up, walk Gus, go to work, come home, walk Gus, slap dinner together, walk Gus, help a kid with homework, walk Gus, go to bed.

He’s still not for sale.

I didn’t know a thing about taking care of a dog before I had him in the backseat. Sure, I had a dog as a kid. I remember loving her and that my bed shook madly during thunderstorms because the dog was shaking madly. But that’s about it. I knew I could love a dog and that sometimes, they’re afraid of thunderstorms.

Turns out, Gus is afraid of everything and everyone. Reactive to the core, he’ll bark at the sky to make seagulls fly away. He’ll bark at the geese, the dogs, the runners, the squirrels, the rabbits, the cars, the trucks, the doorbell, the husband, the kids’ friends. He’s got an impressive set of lungs.

And when he’s done, he’ll turn and look at me as if to say, “It’s OK, I made the bad thing go away.” And sometimes, he’ll lean against my leg in a sit, shaking. Because he’s scared. All 70 pounds of him. Scared.

So this dog is not for sale.

Everyone gets scared from time to time. And there are some people that are scared all the time. And his barking at the most ridiculous things because he is afraid is a reminder to me that people bark a lot too, and it’s usually because they are scared. And maybe they need a person that says to them, “Watch me.” A calming influence. A reminder we are not alone.

I am his person, this crazy demon dog that eats goose poop and cheese and ice cream and loves his treat ball and licking his butt and chomping on his stuffed dinosaur. This dog that thinks he is a lap dog and treats every end of the work day reunion as if I’ve just returned from a three-year stint with the French Foreign Legion.

He makes my bad things go away. Sorry, Gus, you’re stuck with me.

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