Willow smells like a Cape Cod marsh at low tide. It’s a smell you notice, but dismiss because you are on the Cape, and in the case of Willow, you are with a lovable, sweet dog.
Willow is a 100 pound, one year old Cane Corso Mastiff. She is named after a pussy willow because of her gray, short, soft coat. She likes to bury snacks in the dirt for later, pee on Persian carpets and growl at the children playing across the street. Willow also likes to wag her short, nubby tail that I have affectionately named “Shallow Hal” in homage to the final scene of the movie when Jason Alexander’s Mauricio character wags his “tail.”
My father loves dogs, and saw them as wonderful companions for his hunting pursuits. Pumpkin was Dad’s first Britney Spaniel. They won ribbons, caught pheasant, and ran through fields until she died under the shade of a tree one hot summer day. Rusty was dad’s second Spaniel and she was crazy, escaping the house and running for days until my father dragged her home, muddy, smelly and wild eyed. Rusty, a constant flight risk, eventually met her fate, hit by a car, never to run again.
In the eighties we owned an American Pit Bull Terrier named Simba. She had an odd skin disorder that made her stink, but she was a love, hated men (other than my father), UPS drivers and liked to lock her jaws around logs and fortunately not someone’s leg. She had hip dysplasia and was put to sleep.
Nearly thirty years later, my sister Sandra and her husband Ian were the first of the next generation to purchase a dog and after a few months adjusting to “potty” training and other pesky puppy habits, Willow has become an equal in their home.
Willow sleeps on their king size bed, shares the sofa, and eats the same dinner they prepare. She has an elaborate collection of collars that coordinate with my sister’s human fashions spilling out of her walk-in closet. Willow also sports tutus and other frocks for special occasions.
Willow’s grandmother is delighted to have another creature to feed, even if it has four legs instead of two. Scrambled eggs, meatballs, bacon, are some of the samplings on grandma’s canine smorgasbord.
Willow will choreograph a yoga routine at the sight of a new friend or one of her owners coming to spend time with her. Her nub tail wiggling, an impromptu tinkle, a downward facing dog, and some prancing welcomes all who visit.
“Now waking up is like Christmas morning and going to bed is like a sleep over party. I couldn’t be any happier,” says Sandra who had lots of conversations with her husband on the pros and cons of taking on a dog.
Between two careers, bullying neighbors and day to day stresses, Willow has helped to put things in perspective for the couple.
“We kiss and hug and celebrate the start to our together time as a little family. We eat together, sleep together, play together and she and Ian work together. She was our best decision yet. She brought us so much happiness,” says Sandra.
Willow has also become a constant conversation at my house.
“I want a dog,” comes out of my son’s mouth daily and periodic play dates with Willow do not satisfy his quest for a pet.
There is a lot of negotiating over the prospect of a dog.
“If I am good can I get a dog?”
“I made my bed that one time, remember?”
“I emptied the dishwasher the other day.”
I can’t rally around the idea of sharing a house with an animal. A big reason is my disdain for dusting, damp moping or paying Olga the cleaning lady to do it. The whole waste management is also troubling along with the not being able to leave your house for extended periods of time on a whim. Also, dogs can live over a decade. Shawn will leave for college in ten years and the dog will still be with us. But maybe we’d fall in love with him or her, just like Sandra and Ian did with Willow.
Like Sandra and Ian, my husband and I debated over the possibilities of a dog for many, many months and I watched a lot of Dogs 101 on Animal Planet, and we decided … to get a fish named Mr. Guppy instead.