By lex, on May 15th, 2011
Apart from being the principle breadwinner at Chez Lex, among my household chores includes picking up the mail from a drop box up the street. In this duty I am inevitably assisted, accompanied and abetted by Gus, the dachshund.
Gus, occasional readers may remember, was destined to serve as the one and only present requested by the Kat on celebration of her 14th trip around the sun. He cleverly managed to worm his way into my dear wife’s heart – and at least partially alienate himself from the Kat’s affections – through the agency of soiling himself not one quarter mile from the breeder’s gate on the trip back home. Unprepared as we were for this eventuality, the Kat and I went looking for a proper carry crate, as well as summat to clean up the mess in a little shopping complex down the road. Whilst thus engaged, Gus and the Hobbit “bonded,” as they say. And the rest is history.
Gus was magnanimous in victory however, and even allowed me to continue sharing the Hobbit’s bed, so long as I knew my place and respected the proper boundaries. One of the concessions he extracted from me was the requirement that he accompany on my afternoon walk to the mail box after coming home from work, yea, verily even on a Sunday, despite my protestations to him that no mail is ever delivered on the Sabbath. I have come to the conclusion that, from Gus’ perspective, my household duties take a back seat to his entertainment, not to mention certain biological imperatives, the urgency of which he alone is qualified to know.
No longer a puppy, Gus is nevertheless a wee, sma’ thing, a member of what is known as the “teacup” breed of dachshund. He’s got a big-heart for such a little package, and is a bold scamp whose expressions – and here I admit to anthropomorphizing – vary between curiosity bordering on concern and frank joy, the latter being the customary visage presented upon my return home, weary from the evils sufficient to the laboring day. There is much wriggling, whimpering and moaning until I have set down my burdens and leashed him for the walk, which action is routinely completed with a yawning yelp of excitement. Once out the door it would amaze you how a ten pound dog can almost dislocate your shoulder, given a running start. I theorize that, could one leash a teacup dachshund in each hand without them getting all tangled in a coil – an admittedly unlikely prospect – one could readily stand atop a skateboard and travel at one’s leisure for a goodly mile at least, he’s that enthusiastic, and wouldn’t that be good for the environment if not my waistline?
The closest route to the mail box is to the east once established on the sidewalk which stands in front of the Crushing Burden of Debt, but an alternative and rectangular route leads first to the west for half a block before turning south for a few hundred feet, then east again through a cozy little parkway, narrower on its entrance than at its exit. At its terminus the park becomes a playground where the younger children play, like puppies themselves, as yet happily unaware of the greater world and its hard edges. One more left turn from the parkway leads us back to the street and thence to the mail box and home.
Except during the very rare periods of inclement Sandy Eggo weather, Gus and I invariably take the longer route, it being both more scenic for the pedestrian, whether he walks on two legs or four, but also better for our respective constitutions. When it does rain, I have to take the shorter route, and carry a large umbrella, for Gus is apparently convinced that he is made of sugar and will certainly dissolve should he be exposed for any duration to the elements.
Eager though he might be to get on with it, Gus will nevertheless pause to lift his leg and water our next door neighbor’s precious shrubbery – but sparingly, only sparingly, for there are many, many features along our pathway that must be serviced, and both careful analysis and hard-won experience have demonstrated that a small dog can only carry so much water.
At the park’s opening, I will generally let Gus run free so long as there are no other dogs coming in the opposite direction. I take the precaution of trailing his leash behind him, the better to gather him back at end, for without any encumbrance of any sort he can be deucedly hard to re-capture, the wicked rascal and everything is sport to a dachshund. This conditional freedom is deeply resented by the larger dogs whose houses back into the park, and Gus typically answers their antagonisms with the lifted leg, followed by rakishly throwing one ear flap atop his head and jauntily trotting off. Restrained by their respective fences, the neighbor dogs howl out their anger and secretly plot their dark revenges, but if Gus nourishes some private doubts about his fate should ever he meet them in the open, he hides them well.
Dachshunds are at their cores “hounds,” animals bred to course for prey, low slung and with a keen nose for scents. I marvel at all the many several trees, tufts of grass, signposts, trash receptacles and even flowers that must be carefully snuffled and whuffled along our way, and what deep, canine mysteries are revealed to him in his careful examinations. Whatever these mysteries may be, there appear to be only two appropriate reactions: Far the more common response is the lifted leg, but a second consists of – and to the human nose, or at least one carefully kept a good five feet above the ground, the distinction is inexplicable – territory that, having been deeply scented of, is then momentarily pawed at before being rolled in. He will drive his left shoulder into the exposed scent, and then writhe his back around in it, whether to share in the other creature’s scent – and here I engage in conjecture – or to mask it with his own he has never seen fit to share with me.
There may be twenty such reactions on a usual day, and towards the end they take the form of courtesy rather than need, because with all the will in the world, poor Gus has typically exhausted his ammunition by the time we take the final turn to the mailbox. In all his exertions there may be one or two places that, having been carefully tended, must be fiercely kicked and dusted by his rear legs before the job can be properly considered done. Whether this is intended to cover the scent or spread it more broadly is open to interpretation, but I prefer the former explanation to the latter, if only because – having satisfied himself through dint of strenuous effort – he always energetically leaps from the scene as though fleeing culpability.
Having tried to wrench my shoulder from its socket for the first three-fourths of our quotidian journey, Gus will turn truculent on the last leg and I am forced to tug him from each and every new blade of grass or sidewalk stain that he would happily spend the rest of the day examining, anything to prolong the ramble just a few moments more. By the time we reach the mail box, he is typically resigned to his fate however and – taking no interest whatsoever in the contents of the mail itself, which was after all, the ostensible reason for our expedition – trot contentedly the rest of the way home.
There will always be mail tomorrow, in Gus’ mind.
Even on a Sunday.