Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. The industrious plans I'd made for the day were immediately forfeited for a more practical version of house work. Rain or no rain, the plan was to walk the dog, clean the house, run a couple of errands and walk the dog a second time. Some would have called it a day off although pushing a thirty-pound vacuum and walking a sixty-pound dog two or three miles does occasionally, resemble work. Just to make it officially a day off, I tried to think of some way to make it extra fun for Stella.
We've been building her muscles (and mine) back up from our extended hiatus and doing some amount of physical and mental training each day. At fourteen months old, she is most definitely a teenager and there are fleeting moments when she hates my guts and I return the favor.
That afternoon however, after a few weeks of sporadic research, I decided to stop at one of the Hispanic grocery stores near my house to peruse their meat counter. I was looking for a meaty bone that wouldn't be too rich or too small for Stella to enjoy. In the glass case there was every sort of body part you might imagine, including an entire hog head surrounded by a collection of pigs feet arranged around it like fireworks. I cruised the counter twice and decided to ask the butcher for one. He asked if I wanted him to cut it. I declined politely and to my own credit, added nothing further.
He handed me the single foot in a plastic bag. It weighed nearly a pound, a mere $0.98. All I could think of walking back to the car was that one bully stick costs about six dollars.
When I got home I tossed the pig foot into the refrigerator and with feigned contempt, I made an announcement to Stella:
"Stella," I said, "you don't love me now but later on today...? You're going to. I guarantee it."
We walked for an hour and a half that night and when we got back I put her on the long lead (30 ft.) out in the back yard. I got myself a beer out of the refrigerator because quite honestly, I have seen a lot of things in my life but I have never seen a dog eat a piece of raw meat before, let alone one that looked like it just ran out of the barnyard, nor had she. We started off our little training routine. Knowing now that something was up, Stella hit every note of it perfectly, without so much as a distracted glance down the driveway. People walked their dogs past us, I was amazed at her sudden ability to focus.
When we finished, I took big swig of the beer, removed poor little Wilbur's foot from of the bag and dropped it in the grass between her paws.
She eyed it suspiciously.
She sat up and punched it with her paw, then the nose, again the paw. She studied for a few seconds then laid down and sat back up the second time, temporarily confused. Almost too quiet for her to hear, I said, "Pick it up girlfriend."
In what seemed like slow motion it dawned on her that this was not only something she could eat but it was something that I planned to let her eat.
She decided to throw herself a party right then. First, she killed it several times over and danced around the yard like she was starring in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She then chewed its toes off (sorry so graphic), and threw it over her shoulder a few times for luck. The only thing missing was music. In the eleven months we've spent together I've never seen her sparkle and dance like she did that thirty minutes. It was joyous and unbridled. It made the beer taste really good.