Fletch does not have a temper fit very often. When he does, though, he has a wicked streak. He will storm into his room, slam the door, and play Jimi Hendrix records at volume eleven. He will wait until you go to bed, then steal your car keys, smoke cigarettes and drink forties with his friends in the parking lot of the 7-11, and then go smash mailboxes with a baseball bat until you collect him from the couch of some dude named “Ace” first thing in the morning.
In case you haven’t been following along, Fletch is a nine-month old floppy lab/hound puppy. Technically, he’s an adolescent now. Which is why he’s kind of a punk this week. Apparently it’s a stage. They told us at puppy school that the eighteen months of adolescence would be miserable. I thought they were being dramatic.
“One day you will forget he ever behaved this way,” Julia told me while I was crying into my beer at Fullsteam last night.
“I do not believe you,” I told her back.
“You did not believe he would ever sleep through the night, either. In fact, you flat-out called me a liar.”
“Well, um, yeah. I wasn’t sleeping much. Did I ever apologize for that? No? Sorry. We did survive that.”
A bartender walked past us and complimented Fletch on his sweet behavior.
“DO YOU WANT A DOG?” I asked him.
He did not.
The evening had not gone well. We followed instructions and parked at the Bull for the concert last night, only to find that it had been moved to the farmer’s market, blocks away. Fine. But Fletch was over-excited and hot, and gave me a head-butt in the sternum while doing a rocket-like move as I leaned over to hug our friends and kind of knocked the wind out of me. He pulled and tugged all the way to the music, blocks away, and then was besieged for the next hour by toddlers, other dogs, passers-by, and on and on. He wanted nothing more to get off the leash and get all over his friend Gracie, but he was starting to get obstreperous, and there was a humorless police officer behind us watching the scene with arms crossed, and preschoolers toddling about all around us. He started to get snappy. I can usually settle him down by scratching his ears and saying sweet things to him while he calms down, but not in an uncooperative crowd. We couldn’t get a moment of peace. He got worse. I got worse. We were both past our limit.
The walk between the Farmer’s Market and Fullsteam was one of the most miserable walks I’ve ever taken. It was all stubborn pulling, and then I’d do what we learned in school and reverse course and get him back on track, and he’d start tugging and straining and pulling again until the leash started cutting into my hand. He had the audacity to make a bunch of gaspy noises at me, as if I were the one doing all the pulling. “We can do this hard or easy,” I tell him all the time. This week he’s picked “hard.” Damn it. I’d sit him down and make him stop, and I sent my friends ahead for beer, and he’d lose it again soon as we’d start walking. My shoulder hurt. My hand hurt. My pride hurt. Punk. Nothing worked. By the time we got to Fullsteam I was ready to give him to the bartender.
We regrouped over beer and pulled pork sliders. Everyone rested. Some of it was a little bit funny.
On the way back to the car, Fletch was still pulling, and then he dove on a chicken bone. I believe I have made my opinion on chicken bones on the sidewalk clear elsewhere in these pages. I pried it out of his mouth, and I cursed really loudly in the street and everyone in the parking lot of the sketchy bar beside us turned and stared. I broke all the training rules by just tying the leash around my midsection. “Bring it,” I told him.
My upper arm strength is average at best, but as much as I wish I were graceful and delicate like a ballerina, the southern half of me is built for strength. I defy anyone to tangle with me when my southern half is fully engaged. Fletch gave one good tug and got nowhere. He turned around and looked at me, wide-eyed, like he suddenly realized he was overmatched.
That’s right. There’s a new sheriff in town. Punk.
We came home, drank a gallon of water each, and went to bed. We’re staying in tonight.
All hands on deck, y’all. Last night was a disaster but we’re getting right back up on the horse that threw us. If he’s not socialized when he’s little, we’ll never be able to have any fun. Taking him for some honky tonk at Sadlack’s Sunday, and we’ll see if that sets us both right.
Right now Dawg is looking at me defiantly while trying to eat a potholder he stole off of the kitchen counter. Wish us luck.