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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes



Roxy in repose.

It took four years, but the dog and I finally reached a dtente.  

"Lolly" had been a stray on the tough streets of Framingham, Mass., when we got her 11 years ago. The nice woman at the pound told us that while Lolly was indeed adorable, we might find her a bit aggressive. We'd need to show her who was boss, but that would be easy. She casually demonstrated how we should grab the snarling dog by the neck, flip her onto her back, look her straight in the eyes and growl.  

I'd never had a dog before, and I've never really been a big growler, so this was hard for me. But I did it, along with a knee to her belly to teach her not to jump up, and an affectionate yet jarring chuck under the chin, just as her own mom would have done in the wild. We balked when a behaviorist recommended Prozac, but after she nearly decapitated a sweet shi-tzu soon after that, I wondered if we had made the right decision. By this point we had gotten to know our dog a little better, and we realized -- she was no Lolly. We renamed her: Roxy.  

Dog ownership wasn't all my husband had promised. He had painted a glowing picture of a dog gently licking my tears when I was sad; an animal who would curl up by me in the winter, exuding love and affection, not to mention warmth. Instead, we were all growling at each other, and on the rare occasion that someone raised a voice or even just started to whimper a bit, the dog would scurry out of the room without a backward glance.

Things were tough between us until one day seven years ago. My husband, BD, a real estate appraiser, was doing a job in a tough part of town. As he pulled into a parking space, his car lightly tapped the bumper of another car.

"He hit ah cah!" whined the woman who'd been sitting in the car to her boyfriend as he emerged from a store a minute later.    

"Wha - huh?" said the boyfriend.  

"Him!" she said, pointing to my hapless husband sitting in his car reading a map and sipping coffee. "He hit ah cah!" The boyfriend began to lumber over to BD's car.  

"Hey," he growled, "is there a problem here?" The brute was pushing up his sleeves as he walked. He got to the car and started to lean in when suddenly, the window became a blur of teeth and spit; the onset of ferocious barking made it hard to hear. Roxy had been lying down in the back of the car.

"What was that?" BD asked innocently. "I couldn't hear you."  

"Oh, forget it," the coward said, tail between his bulldog legs, as he slunk back to his petulant girlfriend.  

It's been seven years since the day I learned to appreciate Roxy's -- special talents. I still don't love it when she tries to kill small animals, and I'm a little embarrassed by how much she longs to harm the earnest environmentalists who show up at our door, but we all have our quirks. As long as she stays in our corner, I think we'll keep her.