“She’s a hyena,” is my standard reply. Honestly, that’s as good an answer as anything. She is a complete mutt, totally unidentifiable as belonging to any particular breed. The only thing she looks like is the hyenas from the Lion King. It’s a testament to the resemblance that, on more than one occasion, reasonably intelligent people have responded to my smart ass hyena answer with, “really?”
“No,” I explain, “I don’t really have a hyena for a pet. She’s just a mutt.”
I got her from the pound, or dog-prison as I prefer to think of it. I was touring the facility with one of the workers and saw this pathetic looking thing huddled in a corner, surrounded by concrete and chain-link.
“What is that?” I asked, setting the stage for a question I would get a hundred times in the future.
“That,” said the lady showing me around, “is the ugliest dog in Jefferson County. She is as sweet as she can be but nobody wants her. Some guy came and got her and, we are 99% sure, tried to turn her into a fighting dog. It didn’t work so he returned her and got his money back. She’s been here a long time…”
She let that last sentence fade out. The obvious indication was that the ugliest dog in Jefferson County wasn’t long for the world.
“I’ll take her,” I said. It was a good decision.
She is an excellent dog.
She had a tapeworm when I got her, so we fixed that. She was really underweight and we fixed that (more than we needed too, at times). The tour guide was right, she was ugly looking but now gets compliments on how pretty she is. She seemed like she was always waiting for the next horrible thing to happen, so I gave her a name designed to inspire confidence (Starbuck). She was always, truth be told, pretty cowardly and more than a little neurotic, a state I can only blame on the early time in dog prison and her adventure with the dog fighter. She was anti-social generally. She didn’t trust anybody or have much of an interest in anyone but me.
I was really worried about how she would handle the move. I pictured her hiding in a closest all day every day. I imagined her being miserable.
She loves it.
She is social. She has gotten used to the yelling and carrying on that goes along with having a bunch of little kids in the house. She has her own place on the couch and adapted very quickly to a yard without a fence (although she never really liked the outdoors very much). I was worried she was going to get worse when in fact she actually has gotten a lot better.
She and T2 are best friends. The fact that the dog who was afraid of garbage cans and any noise louder than someone’s knuckles popping now spends a lot of quality time with a boy who can only be described as an Agent of the Gods of Chaos is surprising to everyone.
When he comes home from school they dance around the family room together, just happy to see one another. They get nose to nose in downward dog and rub each other’s faces. She will follow him around, something she does to no one but me. A lot of this, I am sure, can be attributed to the fact that she very quickly realized that T2 is a near constant source of food. I also have a working theory that she thinks he is a puppy and so she is treating him as such. All of this is surprising but it’s not the weird thing. The weird thing is that they talk.
I mean, I talk to her too. Always have. But I talk to her in English. And they do that too. I’ve heard him discussing Legos with her. Or whatever his latest construction project is. But they don’t always converse in English. Sometimes, T2 and Starbuck talk to each other in dog.
I am sitting on the couch when T2 walks up.
“I can speak wolf,” he says.
“Oh yeah?” I reply.
“Yes,” he says. “So can Starbuck, because she is kind of a wolf, or used to be. So we can talk.”
“Okay,” I say. “That’s nice but I don’t really think…”
He interrupts by throwing his head back and issuing me a loud howl.
It is quiet for a few seconds. Then I hear the tell-tale thump of Starbuck jumping off of our bed and the jingle of her collar as she runs down the stairs. She walks right up to T2, sits down in front of him and cocks her head to one side as if to say, “Yes?”
You’ve got to understand, I love Starbuck, but she isn’t particularly bright. She doesn’t do tricks. She sits and stays but that is the extent of her repertoire. As I mentioned, she isn’t particularly brave either. Someone howling wouldn’t make her come running. It would send her running in the opposite direction. Normally, anyway.
T2 looked up at me, cocked and eyebrow and said, “See…I speak wolf.”
“Uhh…yeah,” I say, “but…”
“Whoorrrrrlllgg?” T2 says. Not loud this time, just conversationally.
Starbuck snorts and half woofs.
“She needs to go out,” T2 says, matter-of-factly.
“Come on,” he says, waving an arm and walking down stairs. She follows him and I hear the screen door slide open. A few minutes later they reappear.
“She pooped,” he says. “Seven pieces. I used the scooper to get it up.”
“Okay then,” I say.
“I’m going to get her a treat,” he says and disappears, my dog in tow, into the kitchen.
So….I guess he speaks wolf.