There is a thing that happens when fate comes to you. Often it is not what you expected, or even desired. When I went out to visit Mumble at work that day, and I was talking to him about how I was failing my classes, he interrupted me to say, “Do you want a dog?”
I looked at him, confused. “What?”
“A dog, do you want one? We have two and I think we are going to keep one of them but we can’t keep them both and I was just wondering if you want one.”
My first thought was no. No, I don’t want a dog, I don’t want a dog at all. I want a father figure who listens when I am telling him about horrible things happening in my life. That is what I want. But I brushed that thought away and I looked at him thinking about how terrible of an idea it was for me to get a dog.
I could barely feed myself, how was I supposed to feed a dog? Then, vet bills and all the other costs. How could I begin to train a dog with my odd hours and school? The big one though was, what happens when I kill myself? Who will take the dog? Will Bekah keep it or will it go to the pound?
I opened my mouth to say any or none of those things. I opened my mouth to say no, it would be irresponsible of me to get a dog right now. I wanted to say that I was at war, I didn’t need a dog to soften me. But when I opened my mouth, all that came out was. “What kind of dog?”
“Well, they are sisters, one is a Rott, the other is a Pit Bull,” he said. I’m going to go ahead and skip over how idiotic that comment was and move on.
“Which one are you going to keep?” If he said he was keeping the Rott, I was out. I have nothing against Pit Bulls, but they are not my kind of dog. But Rottweilers have always been a draw to me. I remembered Caesar and Chops. I remember the great big Rott that the rival gang had brought into our neighborhood and the fact that it took Caesar and Shy to take it down. I had been fascinated with Rottweilers ever since.
“I don’t know for sure. I am pretty sure I want the Pit Bull. That is what Horrid wants. I don’t know. We haven’t decided yet. Either way, we will be keeping it for a while. You don’t know anything about dogs and I want to get it trained real good before I give it to you.”
“Girl or boy?” I asked. Why was I getting excited? This was a bad idea.
“Girl,” he said. “They are both girls. I think I want the Pit. You can tell they are sisters for sure. They have the same blood, but one is a Pit and one a Rott. I’m not sure which one we will keep. Either way, I better hold on to it for you until it is trained real good.”
“Where did you get them?”
He named off one of his employees. “She was driving down the road and the car in front of her threw a box out of the window. She pulled over to see what was in it and she saw two dogs.”
I wanted this dog. I just had to sell Bekah on the idea.
I went to his house later that day with Bekah beside me and we walked in and looked at the dog for the first time. Everything about her was Rott except that she had one white spot on her chest. It was a spattering of color, looked like someone had dropped a paint brush on her heart and the moment I saw her, I loved her.
We found out they were calling her Ginger. Ginger was the name of our dog growing up. Mumble already had a dog named Ginger. Why he would name another one the same name I had no idea. I would not have it and I walked away with my mind building and rebuilding names.
She was tiny, maybe six weeks old. She was gentle and she squirmed a lot. Bekah fell in love the moment she saw her and we walked out having agreed to take her. Mumble would keep her for three months then give her to us.
First thing, we bought a book. We wanted to know as much as we could about owning a dog, wanted to find a way to raise it well. We knew that Rotts could be dangerous if not trained right and we wanted to make sure we didn’t fuck this up.
This was me and Bekah’s first child, in a sense. The first creature that we would take care of and live with together. So, we learned as much as we could. Everywhere we drove, she read to me. We learned that there was a lot to know about dog training and handling, and everything we read said to get it as early as possible and train it from the moment you get it.
Bekah called her parents and told them we were getting a Rott. Her parents went crazy.
Rottweilers, they said, were bred to kill people. They were monsters and dangerous. They were killers and Hymnal did not want one in the family. Bekah assured her that they were mistaken. She said that no dog breed was bred to kill people. That any dog was dangerous, if raised to be. She said a lot of things that made a lot of sense but her parents were not listening at all.
“He is making you get a dangerous dog and you are just going to let him. What if this animal attacks you?” Hymnal said. “What if it attacks your father?” She demanded to talk to me and Bekah handed me the phone.
“She wants to talk to you. Don’t let her yell at you,” Bekah said. She looked worried. “She hasn’t changed my mind.”
“You are going to bring a killer into my daughter’s home?” Hymnal said.
“This dog will not be a killer.”
“They are bred to kill, Jesse. That might not bother you, but it does bother us,” Hymnal said. “What if that dog kills my grandchildren?”
“How can you be so sure? You don’t know. It very well may be a killer,” she said. “I am not coming into that house if there is a Rottweiler in it. I just won’t. I can’t believe you would even take a chance like this. Even taking the chance with a dangerous dog is foolish.”
“It’s not a dangerous dog. It’s a puppy. A very cute, very loving puppy that needs a home. I have a home and it is welcome in it. This dog is going to happen.”
“Well, Plan will not want to come to your house. And Bliss will not want to come to your house and it will not be welcome in my house for sure,” Hymnal said. “You just want to divide this family, don’t you?”
“Hymnal, Rotts are not dangerous. One day you are going to feel really foolish for this conversation,” I said. “I am handing you back to Bekah now.”
“He is not forcing me to do anything. I want this dog, too. No, I don’t want to look at other dogs, this is our dog. I gotta go,” Bekah said.
Plan did call a little while later. She called to inform us that if we got this dog, she would never come to our house, and she would never let her children anywhere near it. She said that I was being reckless. She begged Bekah not to let me get Katherine and she told Bekah not to let me run her life.
We told Mumble to call her Katherine. Said we would call her Katherine Czar Teller.
“If she is on the other side of the room and I want her to come to me I’m going to call her by the name she knows. Not waste my time yelling something she doesn’t answer to,” Mumble said.
“We have been reading this book and it says that you can change a dog’s name pretty late in its life and it will take to the new name,” I said.
“Well, you read your book and let it tell you what to do with your dog. I’ll love mine and we will see what happens,” he said. “One more month and this dog is going to be yours. Until then, it lives in my house and it will be called whatever I want to call it.”
Guardian looked at the dog. Since hearing about the possibility of getting a Rott, he had been focused on the dog. He had been sleeping. He had been eating better. He was not so filled with rage all the time, and he was actually laughing again. But when he thought of Mumble holding his dog hostage to train it in some special way that Guardian somehow couldn’t, he did get enraged.
Guardian looked at Mumble then looked at the dog sitting in Bekah’s lap. He snapped his fingers. “Katherine,” he said. “Katherine, come see daddy.” Katherine looked up at him. He clapped his hands on his legs and smiled. “Come here, Katherine!”
She jumped out of Bekah’s lap and ran. Her ears flopped and her tiny legs were clumsy, but she came.
Guardian picked her up and looked at Mumble. “Please call my dog by her name. Her name is Katherine.”
Waiting for Katherine was like waiting for life to start. Guardian thought about her all the time. He sorted out in his mind the things he would do with her. Designing the kind of dog he wanted her to be. He bought her entire set up. Her food bowl, her water bowl, her collar, her bed, her crate. He bought it all weeks before she came home, and he would do things with her too.
He went down to Waynesville every weekend. He took her on car rides to get her used to being on the road. He took her for walks. He talked to her, and loved on her, and he taught her little tricks.
Bekah was right by his side the entire time he did all of this, and Guardian began to bond with Bekah again.
Suddenly, when we made love we were able to feel her again. To feel how much she loved us. We started to talk about life beyond again. Katherine sparked hope in us for the future.
When Guardian got her home, he took her on a walk through the entire house. He told her about each room and he took her outside. There was a fence on two sides of the yard. He took her on a walk around the perimeter of the entire yard. Every time he took her outside, the two of them walked the perimeter.
Every two hours he walked her through the entire house.
He would not answer the door until she barked twice. Once she barked twice, he comforted her and calmed her down. Then he took her to the door to visit with whoever had come.
When Bekah was around, Guardian made sure that Katherine was sitting where she could see Bekah. When Bekah left the room Guardian would put Katherine in the room with Bekah.
This dog was brilliant. Within a few days she was walking the perimeter of the yard by herself sticking inside the yard, fence or not. Within a few days she barked twice every time the doorbell rang or there was a knock on the door, then she visited with whoever came in.
We took her to obedience training. And she was a star instantly.
She breathed life back into Guardian. She made him love again. Not just her, but Bekah, too. She made him more than just a violent brawler.
She never developed a taste for grandchildren.