This week at the lake (and God help me, perhaps next week as well), I’m visiting with an adorable, four-legged bundle of joy, eight-month-old Xena, while her person, Marty, is off on vacation.
Since Marty is my son, I am Xena’s grand bitch. This week I’m learning more about what that really means.
As those who follow me on Facebook already know, Xena is cuddly and full of personality. I mean, look at her here with Marty:
Wouldn’t you want some of that action?
The thing is, that’s the action she’s used to—and as a writer, I need my alone time. In a story, we’d say that this character set is well orchestrated for conflict, and indeed, I’ve met few of my writing goals since Marty left.
But since my grandmother, to whom this blog is dedicated, would have wanted me to speak only kindly of my guest, I shall.
Xena wants to tell me, in a most excited fashion, whenever she sees…anything. Life for Xena is one long eye exam, and she wants me to know her vision is excellent. She barks at anything moving outside the camp, and thanks to my awesome architect, Doug Gallow, we have a lot of windows (now covered in slobber). “Look, Grand Bitch! I can see Charlie Van Kirk raking leaves! [She’s not yet inured to the fact that Charlie rakes compulsively.] Oh no, Grand Bitch, some people are venturing out onto the water—danger! Oh—another moth! And what’s this, Grand Bitch—another neighbor is pushing a growling machine that’s eating the grass!”
I can’t ignore her because she’s also gone to the window, barked, then pooped. Deciphering can be tricky. I must be vigilant.
Xena wants to interact with me. A lot. Sometimes, consumed with Zen-like patience, she’ll let me type an entire sentence before sitting by my chair to look up at me imploringly. Have you ever tried to write while someone is staring at you, while wriggling, from just inches away?
Then she goes and gets her rubber chew toy.
That’s because I had to hide the braided pull toy. In our first days together, when I insisted on working, Xena would jump up behind me, put her paws on my shoulders, and drop the knotted braid onto my chest, where its puppy slime and associated scent could not be ignored. So I’d fling it away (screeching may have been involved)—and the games had begun.
Those games had to stop.
Her only recourse now is the rubber chew toy.
She brings the toy over and chews it on my lap, “accidentally” nipping at my thighs now and then to make certain I know she’s there, until I give in and try to grab it. Then she pulls back with it and growls. If I go back to typing? Repeat last sentence. She growls until I leave my chair and try to grab it from her, which she lets me do, and then I throw it, and she races around the house with it as if it’s a grand prize. I can get in one more sentence, if I’m lucky, until the cycle begins again.
Xena has her own ideas about how to use furniture and camp features. If it’s quiet but a moment, she’s no doubt doing something…creative. Which I must snap a picture of, of course, for evidence.
Xena loves long walks. She is having more fun than I. Nose to the ground, Xena resurfaces road and shoulder like a late summer Zamboni. During a one-mile walk she has co-starred in a hundred epic tales featuring frogs, snakes, birds, raccoons, and deer, simply by snuffling up olfactory remnants of road kill. Whereas I, the one who cares to use words fancifully to tell a story, has simply been saying, “Heel. Heel. Heel.”
(Of course I’m trying to use up some of her boundless energy, but when we get home and my position at the computer signals that it’s time for storytelling, she wants to sit beside me and share her version. This morning she barked for five minutes straight.)
Part of me wants to give up and let her roam on these walks—I’m a grandma, I have the right to indulge her youthful fantasies!—but although she’s svelte, she’s also pit-bull-mix strong. Teaching “heel” is the only way I can protect myself from her constant yanking.
Indeed she has turned me into the person that I, even before becoming a full-on grand bitch, have mocked through the years: that gray-haired woman who insists she is still strong enough to train a willful puppy. Look at that fool, I’ve thought, being pulled herky-jerky fashion down the road, all of her joints at risk, while she lamely mutters one word over and over. She’s going to hurt herself.
No longer will I be such a grand bitch toward my fellow dog walkers. From now on I will see such a woman as blinded by love, whose novel isn’t getting written.
And perhaps she is desperately counting the minutes until her son gets home, as is Xena.