Shelter Me: A Pit Bull Love Story

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Chapter 25

Saturday, August 19

This morning didn’t start out promising. On our walk my human staggered and wobbled unsteadily, her knees buckling at every step. Her hands trembled violently. We dropped by the dog park briefly for my morning constitutional and departed hastily when two very dominant dogs fell into hunting crouches outside the chain link fence, bristling and staring at me with motionless, elevated tails and brittle cold eyes. Their human vomited a continuous stream of words in a sing-song voice, “No he doesn’t want to play with you. I know you want to play but we have to go. Come on, babies. I know I know you just want to play with everybody.”

At home my human showered but I smelled her choking stink of sickness from outside the glass door, lying forlornly on the bedroom carpet. She whispered to nobody in an inward-folded, self-soothing keen like a broken lullaby. She took a lot of medicine before obedience class and gulped water greedily. But after she talked with the boss and practiced the chest-touching, arms-around-each other gesture, her scent finally quit raising my hackles. She perked up and spoke confidently to the people in the class, first while the boss drove away in her car, then while the boss got way too close for safety to a dog in a muzzle who wanted to kill us all (in my opinion). It wasn’t my favorite class because hornets put in a very determined effort to steal my turkey. I have been stung by bees, twice in my paws when I stepped on them (the second time I limped on three paws until my human knelt down to check on my injury. She muttered about “Princess Monkey,” which is another of my names that always tastes like fond exasperation in her mouth, but then her body language abruptly stiffened and shifted cautiously while she teased the bee that still clung to my pad from between my toes). I didn’t show weakness by crying on either occasion. I have not been stung by a hornet, but they smell like big, angry bees and I don’t really want to test the experience out. They thrummed perniciously about my human’s head even when she slapped at them, then they crawled in her treat pouch and even buzzed menacingly about my tail. I shrugged my shoulders, itching to whirl around and surprise snap at them, but I’m a good boy and I knew I had to face forwards no matter the provocation like a faithful soldier at my post.

Then we drove to the lunch place and met her family, and my human smelled pretty relaxed even though she still didn’t eat anything. I spent some time in my “down, stay” at the house with the wood floor while more boxes got filled with scent objects and dragged around. Finally, we drove to a huge public building packed with tons of people and delicious foods of such variety it boggles the mind. I performed “ready” like a champion though, and I held “down, stay” for a full hour in a freezing room with spongy wet floors while my human slipped and slid clumsily about on top of what smelled like ice. I didn’t get a chance to taste it and verify. I like to crunch ice between my teeth when it’s hot, but it wasn’t hot. A pack of rowdy young humans thundered by, stomping sharp metal under their feet and nearly trampled my paws. I listened to my human’s mother when she repositioned me because her voice rang with authority, and she smelled excited when I obeyed. I lifted my nose to the air to track my human’s progress, and wished she wouldn’t zip around so much so that her scent wouldn’t mingle with the other humans’. But my human smelled very, very, happy and free, especially when she watched her little sisters with melty eyes and chatted with them. Later, outside the buildings, we wandered about alone for a long time and my human got a nose-clogging panic scent, craning her neck this way and that and suddenly charging us off in different directions. I paid careful attention to the cars rumbling past us, because looking at her cloudy eyes and smelling her frazzled scent, I understood that she’d stopped seeing them. When we finally reached our car after exploring this new, circuitous route, her relief was palpable. It’s been so long since I’ve done “ready” in a public building with my human’s family around that I can hardly remember. Even though it was work and disciplined, I caught my human’s air of a special occasion, which the frantic scramble afterwards couldn’t spoil.

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