Why I Like Bad-Dogs.

muckwatchI wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I was a serial Golden Retriever owner. I wanted a life that was sunny and uncomplicated. I mean no offense to any good dogs out there, but one day I got a taste for something a bit more contrary. Goldens started to look like they all had low self-esteem; they were trying entirely too hard to please. Just like Eddie Haskel, you could almost hear them say, “Well, hello Anna, have you lost weight?” *wag-wag-wag*

One day it just started sounding just a bit insincere. That was clearly the kind of ungrateful thought that a bad-dog, or someone who liked bad-dogs, would think. They say people pick dogs that mirror them. No argument from me.

And then Agatha became my dog but she found me only marginally passable company. She was a basset hound who drove all men wild, except the one whose heart she desired the most. Every Monday she patiently looked down the alley, waiting for the trash man. Then she would debase herself, flirting in the cheapest, most tawdry way. But she didn’t care, where ever he went, he had all that stinky, rotting garbage with him. She was a dog with a dream and I could respect that.

tumbleweed lunchDisclaimer: I do have one not-quite-bad-dog now. Or maybe she just seems that way because she’s smarter and uses telepathy on the rest of us. Her name is Tomboy–she’s not very feminine. She and I share a cult of two hearts and there is no greater compliment to pay a dog. Tommi had her 12th birthday this week. She’s always been a wild child, but now she’s too old to bring half-dead bunnies in the house anymore, although she does bag a tumbleweed every now and then.  How you can tell she’s a good dog is that she hasn’t killed any corgis yet. Old dogs are not required to be polite to screaming toddlers or corgis. It’s common knowledge.

Agatha was the first in a long line of spectacular bad-dogs, but not the last. There were a couple of tough cattle dogs, Spam and Hero, that moved to the farm with me, and my big Briard boy, Howdy. I miss them everyday, but I try to honor their memory by welcoming more bad-dogs home.

That’s how Walter and Preacher Man got here.

I would like to say the little Corgi men are great barn dogs. It wouldn’t be true. When Walter comes to the barn, he considers himself a world-class mucker. But there are crucial steps in the process that he leaves out and when I call him out of a stall, he is gasping, chewing and licking with the effort.

Readers have asked for an up-date on his health. Walter continues to have a total disregard for his terminal prognosis (read here) but he loves going to the vet where all the women coo and give him handfuls of treats. It’s a Corgi dream of a harem. After four huge meals a day and  5 meds, he is skinny and getting weaker. I can mainly tell because he is picking fights so everyone will know what a big bad-dog he is. He’s outlived his prognosis by 6 months, but science is boring, the ducks need some order in their lives, and there is barking to be done. Get over it.

When Walter had been here exactly a year, Preacher Man arrived at the airport, leaving a trail of broken hearts and eardrums in Texas. He was frantic with a case of canine Tourettes. If I put him in my lap, he unbuttoned my shirt and threw my glasses across the room, in some pathetically bad impression of a bodice-ripping novel, starring a swash-buckling orator-Corgi. Swash-buckling in that he prefers Pirate-themed belly bands (cummerbunds that position a feminine hygiene product appropriately, creating the illusion that the dog might have the occasional “accident.”) Preacher thinks being house-broken is for saps.

Preacher Man has never made it to the barn. If he gets out of the backyard with the other dogs, he bolts straight down the driveway, across the road and over the far horizon. He has wanderlust. And a leash on now, which limits his mucking ability.

Under the deskBut they mostly prefer their inside job of waiting under my desk when I write, like sleeping sharks. They love my writing, of course, and sometimes I drop my lunch. I’ve learned that the secret to living with screaming alarms, day and night, is to not be alarmed.

To be honest, when I was younger I was a lost dog myself. I desperately needed that unconditional Golden love for a while. Years later, I found my voice and I barked like Preacher. To love a bad-dog is to celebrate love in the form of chaos. It’s every bit as unconditional, just a bit more open to the uncontrollable. It means living in a place of constant forgiveness. Another word for that is rescue.

And now there are days when Preacher is able to sit quietly meditating, draped over my lap like a wet towel. He is soft and manages just a few sighs and moans, which is almost like being quiet… and I see a Corgi version of that look Aggie gave the trash man 30 years ago.

Dogs. Bless their big fat hearts. Where would we be without them?

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

And Happy Birthday to Tomboy, Happy Gotcha Day to Walter and Preacher Man.

36 thoughts on “Why I Like Bad-Dogs.

  1. Glad the two bad-boy Corgis found you. We have had Corgis for 15 years now; all came to us as puppies and they are pretty amazing. But they are herding dogs at heart and they need to live where their people understand them. Chase was able to go out with me to the barn w/o a leash. He knew the rules and he followed them. Kyra – no. She has the desire to bound fearlessly down the lane to check things out. Even at age 15 I put her leash on to take her walking because she has proven that if given the chance, she will go from zero to 60 even with her weakening hips! Bear is our youngling and he is – well, a wild man. He’s learning to come when called on the occasion he makes the big break into the larger property, and he’s learned to circle the herd with a very wide berth instead of trying to chase them, but I don’t trust him (yet, maybe not ever) to be out there off leash on purpose. All that said, there have been a couple of days when the back gate got left unlatched and when he discovered his freedom, w/o our even knowing, he didn’t run like a wild man but lay just outside the gate keeping an eye on things. 🙂

  2. sweet essay, and every dog who has owned you has benefited from that relationship (and I well remember the first!).

    Now I have the challenge of my over-zealous new Corgi-boy Homer who feels it is his purpose in life to make sure my Haflingers find the right stall as I’m moving them during barn cleaning and I am very fearful he’s going to get a hoof plant in his cute little fluffy face as he goes for their heels. He has even attached himself to a tail or two. Never had a Corgi before who was as fearless and driven herding animals 18x his size.

    1. Just when you get comfortable…. Welcome, Homer! We would hate mucking to become a complacent task. Scratch that good bad-dog’s belly for me, okay?

      1. also a Homer-ism, first dog I’ve ever owned that immediately flops on his back to have his belly scratched with any human contact. So submissive except with other animals. Sam would sooner die than let me scratch his belly, much less show it to me.

  3. “To love a bad-dog is to celebrate love in the form of chaos.” If this is true (and I suspect it is), then my life has been a party every day for the last 20 years. My current bad-dog is a great farm dog. He’s not happy if I go to the barn without him. His understanding of staying out of the pasture is standing with his body under the bottom rail of the fence, half in and half out. A compromise, bad-dog style. He’s a micro-manager, the fun police and a non-stop running commentary all wrapped in one. Oh, and have I mentioned that he fights? Still. He’s getting old now, but he’s like an old drunk in a bar at closing time: just itching for that one last shot for the road. God bless bad-dogs and the silly women who love them! 🙂

  4. Shelagh in Vermont

    I have been sharing your blog with a horse/dog/cat-loving friend. We both wish you would move to Vermont and be our neighbour.

    My late Aussie created a job for himself when rounding up horses was discouraged. He would enter each empty stall in the morning, leap 6ft in the air to chase the sparrows from stall to stall until they were out of the barn.

    1. Thank goodness he was able to find work!! and that is a wonderful compliment, to wish me your neighbor. I’ll let you know if I’m ever in your neighborhood.

  5. I get a bizarre satisfaction out of Boca barking at my dad in the kitchen (she’s decided she’s the dog version of Gordon Ramsey), because otherwise she’d be perfect…we can’t have that. This is one of my favorites ever, Anna. The chaotic love.

  6. Sandra Murray

    For 35 years I bred and showed the personification of bad dogs — Cairn Terrorists (oops, Terriers). They came in these little bodies but were truly big, bad-ass dogs — fearless, confident, and bossy. If they had been human, you would have hated their guts! But, somehow, they conned you into loving them for those moments that they gave kisses, wagged and wiggled each time you came home — even if you’d only been gone 15 minutes — and deigned to lie on your feet while you worked.

    Now the weight of years on my aging frame has forced a change over to Whippets. Sweeter and cuddlier than terriers, but they have a schizophrenic bent. All elegance and affection until they spy killer squirrels, rascally rabbits, or a careless cat — none of whom have a right to exist in their Whippet world. Their primeval prey drive kicks in and I might as well be on another planet! Still bad dogs — just another facet of the genre. Guess we can’t help ourselves.

  7. I don’t mean to be perverse, but the argument for loving bad – dogs sounds a lot like the argument for loving cats. I miss having one or other on my lap/in my wake these days – but not the hair duvet that used to stockpile in lesser – vacuumed indoor corners!

  8. I get it! I’m the same with horses. Sunny and uncomplicated, that would be so nice…but of course we always want to challenge ourselves for some -crazy-reason 🙂

  9. I must own one of the worst dogs in the world. Cyclone makes Marley look like a saint. It took several sets of stitches and a broken tail on my poor greyhound before Cyke finally quit fighting. She chases, chews, and bites ankles with wicked glee, greeting her favourite humans with an earsplitting howl and seizing their pants in her teeth. But my friend’s two-year-old daughter can sit beside her feeding her treats one by one in perfect safety even as the demon dog tries to lick the treats out of her clenched, chubby fists. Cyke is a terror but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  10. Maggie Frazier

    As always – you tell it like it IS! How could anyone exist with no dog(good or bad) & maybe just maybe a cat to keep that dog in line? Still miss my Appy boy – BUT must have a dog to own me!

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