The transport and I plan to meet in Burlington, about a 40 minute drive for each of us. She pulls Tulip from the shelter, which takes much longer than it should have, and then gets stuck in traffic. I wait in the Barnes & Noble parking lot for an hour and a half.
When Tulip jumps out of the truck, she’s nervous. She pulls and pulls against the nylon lead, nearly asphyxiating herself. She is, you might say, a hoss: low and beefy and strong as shit. I take her to go potty on the grass and try to lure her into the car with some leftover turkey from my lunch bag. She enjoys the lunch meat but won’t load up, so the transport heaves her into the Outback.
She circles, circles, circles in the front seat and tries to jump out the passenger window. I’m attempting to do three things, hold her lead, steer, and shift gears, with two hands. It takes some doing. Eventually, she climbs into the back seat and curls up in an adorable little ball until we get home.
She enters the house nearly flat. Boonie did that once, flattened himself to the ground, when I made him ride on a ferryboat, and Violet’s been taking that stance on bridges lately. Tulip is terrified.
Carolina Care Bullies advocates something called The Two-Week Shutdown. Basically, you don’t train the dog, walk the dog, give the dog any freedom, or introduce the dog to other household pets for two weeks. It allows the dog to become comfortable, learn rules, and understand pecking order.
I did not do The Two-Week Shutdown with Buffy, and it was fine.
When I introduce Tulip to Redford, she is delighted, wants to play immediately, but the little bastard bares his teeth and arfs at her. I am perplexed.
Maybe the Violet thing will go better. Again, Tulip is ecstatic; Violet is absolutely not. They have words. It is scary.
When Redford and Violet set boundaries with Buffy, she dropped to a crouch and waited for the moment to pass. Tulip does not believe in that sort of your-house-your-rules diplomacy.
I shut her in the spare bedroom with me. She wags and curls up next to me on the couch, covering my arms and chin with kisses. She’s really cute.
I go to work, and worry. What if she escapes like Buffy did? She doesn’t.
I want everybody to get some wiggles out before I try any meetings again so I walk Tulip for a half-hour, lock her in the crate, and take the others for a loop too.
I let Redford and Tulip out into the yard together. She wants to play; he keeps avoiding her. She doesn’t let up. They have words. It is scary.
I resign myself to the shutdown. I don’t exactly live in Windsor Palace; it requires a mad shuffling of dogs in order for them not to interact. It’s going to be a long two weeks.
Twice she gets a shoe from my room. Twice I rescue it.
As I sit at my desk and work at my computer, she begins to give my knee kisses. After a minute, I realize they’re becoming more amorous. She puts her paws on my knee and starts making sweet love to my leg. I tell her no ma’am.
I’m stressing out about tomorrow’s storytelling gig. This is the real deal, a curated show, not a put-your-name-in-the-hat shindig. My story is not coming together. I need some time to think. Tulip keeps absconding with my flip-flops. I lock her in her crate, with Redford and Violet outside. She whines nonstop, and they keep banging on the door to come back in. I let Redford and Violet in, close them in my room, put Tulip outside, let Redford and Violet out of my room, sit in the green chair, and breathe. Violet noses my elbow up, like a seal with a beach ball, one of her cues that she will be requiring some affection now, thank you. I clamp my arms to the chair. She starts a wrestle-battle with Redford at my feet. I JUST NEED A MINUTE TO MYSELF.
I don’t know how people with children do it.
Nobody gets walked. I get nothing done on my story. Instead, in an attempt to create order out of chaos, I clean the house and mow the lawn. It does make me feel better.
Tulip doesn’t want her breakfast, as usual. I pour chicken broth on it. Nope. I microwave it for ten seconds. Still no. I stir peanut butter into it. Two licks. I take her on the 2.5-mile neighborhood loop.
We run into the next-door neighbor kid, who is a total delinquent. Been in juvy a coupla/three times. He’s walking down the street with two other boys, smoking a cigarette.
“You got another dog?” he says.
“This is my foster dog.”
“You gon keep her?”
“Nope, trying to find her a good home.”
“How much you gon sell her for?”
“I’m not selling her.”
“You giving her away? Can I keep her?”
Absolutely no fucking way in hell would I ever let this dog into your home, with your crazy-ass mother who has semi-weekly screaming fits and you who smokes and skips school and does god knows what else.
I don’t say that out loud.
“Your little dog? She’s female, right?” I ask him, and he responds in the affirmative. “The organization won’t put two female dogs together.” (Lie.)
Tulip is better on the leash than she was last time. We get home, and she eats her food, a third at a time, checking in to make sure I still love her at each break.
The never-ending dog shuffles are tiresome, and I feel like I’m neglecting Redford and Violet.
When my friends ask how Tulip is doing, I tell them she’s a grunty pig. She roots around me and the couch while we’re snuggling. She grunts and groans and moans when I pet her or when she’s just, you know, existing. She snorts when she eats.
Erin: So she shnurffles?
Me: She totally shnurffles! She’s a shnurffly monkey!
Erin: She’s a shnurffly hump-monkey!
That’s my Tulip.
As I rub Tulip’s ears during one of our couch snuggle sessions, I notice that some of her fur falls out. I google ‘mange’, and peruse the images. I think my foster dog is a shnurffly, mangey hump-monkey.
As in the past, when any student of mine has gotten lice, my head begins to itch. I google ‘can humans get mange?’. The answer: Yes, but the parasites cannot reproduce on humans, so you’ll only itch for a couple of weeks until they die out. Only a couple of weeks?!
Later, I take her to my sister’s house. Good news: Tulip shows no fear around the older kids (the little one’s napping). My sister tosses a tennis ball. Tulip sprints after it, picks it up, and runs back. She doesn’t drop it—I have to wrestle it from her jaws—but when I throw it again, she runs after it again. My sister’s yard is Magical Fetchland.
Tulip sniffs, and snorts, and cavorts around the whole yard. Watching my foster dog frolic, my sister says, “If everybody could see this, they’d have a different opinion about pit bulls.” Preach, Wa.
I supervise the eating of breakfast, as usual. Tulip’s not interested, as usual. I once met a dog at the dog park whose owner was trying to train her but was struggling because the dog was “not food-motivated”. What is that I don’t even.
During one of our seventeen daily dog shuffles (Tulip outside, Redford and Violet inside), Violet takes two shoes from my room and starts to chew them. Somebody’s not getting enough attention. Guilt.
Tulip will go tomorrow to get spayed. I commence fretting.