So, Dick was a real prick, right? He was old. His wife, Marcela, (no, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP) was German (pretty positive) and she usually stayed inside. Dick’s place was off a scenic highway that led from one small town to a bigger city. A curvy road. Fun to drive, but oh, so dangerous. A big river gave its steep bank to the road. Don’t over-steer! You’ll go right into the water.
People liked to drive fast on that route. Why not? Rules are made to be broken. Are all of them? Is there not another cliche that says without rules chaos will lead instead? And chaos is one grizzled, mean, chain-smoking cowboy. Or cowgirl. She (or he) rides a mean horse, one that’s gasping for water in the middle of the desert (Y’all seen Hidalgo?). Desperation can make you fearless. Or it can make you bold. It can also make you vulnerable. And it can turn you cold.
Anyway. I was thirteen, and the first class with Dick was on a Thursday (they all were). I was starting high school the next week and I was terrified of all the rumors. What was a period? (LOL) How did lunches work? Would I have any friends? Did those showers really work?
I was terrified of the training class, too. Because my mother had told me rumors. She is the one who called him, she knew where he was. My last mentor had been a woman who taught me to play the oboe. She was great, too. Just a little harsher.
I thought I looked great! Thought I looked cute! I had some flip-flops on (yellow with a plastic daisy glued to them) and shorts, I think. Dick snapped at me as soon as I strode up, pulling that stubborn Bull Terrier behind me. She was a great bitch. Beautiful, funny, strong, agile. Stocky and tough. Quiet but sensitive.
“What are you gonna do with flip-flops on?” He snapped. I had not even said my name. The memory is clear because of the embarrassment I felt. This is not the only time that Dick called me out, but this was on the first day.
I didn’t have shoes, so he said oh well! We would tour his woods, then. Everyone (older people with skittish German Shepherds, mixed breeds, all kinds of dogs) traipsed up a hill and onto the path. That path led into a confusing agility course – created almost entirely by nature. Old tires and boards had been used to create make-shift agility obstacles among the pine needles littered by all those beautiful trees.
Sucked. Cause I had fucking flip-flops on. I also had to learn to put the choker on right and to give it a good snap – so that the stubborn Isabella could hear it, as well as feel it. We made it. We all had to go through the obstacles – even me, with a brat of a dog and the wrong footwear.
“Dumb on a leash is what you’ve got there,” he liked to tell me.
“I know, but I think she’s beautiful,” I would always smile, in return.
I always came prepared after that first day. I had learned my lesson. Dick gave me leads for conformation, and we always worked on showmanship after the regular training classes. Just me and him. Bull Terriers are dumb on a leash. But not in the ways you think.
That dog still puts a smile on my face, and I can feel her breathing. Grief can be caused by anything. It’s sad. It’s tragic.
But she was hilarious! I have so many great memories! She’s still here, snuggling up next to me!
They call Bull Terriers clowns, pigs (dog world terms meant to be endearing), but I just called her Bella. And nothin’ beats sittin’ under the sun with a dog, remembering your teachers, not saying a damn word at all.