Sunday, December 16, 2007

When an Open Door Isn't

Honey was born in a barn. We missed the significance of this detail when we chose her. For the first three months of her domesticated life she mistook wall-to-wall carpeting for dirt, peeing repeatedly on the off-white plush of our Vancouver rental. At six months of age she established dominance over a full-grown Doberman by humping it in the dog park. When the puppy school instructor suggested we had an alpha-female, I took offense. Like a dewy-eyed new parent, I was blind to Honey's faults. She was mine and I was hers, world without end.

Honey's first home away from home was Kerrisdale Centennial Park, a green space a short walk away that boasted a pair of soccer fields, a playground, countless ash and red cedars, and, thanks to a plethora of neighbourhood dog lovers, an official off-leash area. While not fenced in, it was small enough that the average dog could be easily kept under voice control. Need I remind you, dear reader, we did not have the average dog.

On one of her earliest outings, Honey befriended a blond mutt I will call Elsa, whose real name, for reasons which will soon come apparent, my memory seems to have blocked out. Elsa was every dog-owners' nightmare, committing such atrocities as chewing through drywall when left to her own devices for more than an hour. The two dogs primarily liked to wrestle, but occasionally took to chasing each other at warp speed into the odd soccer match.

One evening in late November, while Elsa's owner was confessing her dog's latest offenses, our dynamic duo bolted out of sight into the thick border of trees and brush that lined the park's east side. We, being the concerned dog owners that we were, ran into the wood after them, calling their names.

The trees quickly gave way to a disturbingly quiet residential street. Elsa's owner went one way and I the other, barging into one cedar-hedged garden after another in search of our escapees.

A sinking sense of panic was closing in when I passed a beautifully restored one-and-half-story Cape Cod. It's front and back doors were wide open such that one could easily see straight through it. Drop sheets lined the entrance where a woman was standing, hands on her hips.

"They're here," she said.

I sensed she was not among the dog-lover contingency--at least not anymore.

The two dogs had chased each other around the house a few times before escaping into the woman's backyard. I commandeered my fugitive and marched her apologetically out of the house, grateful for the drop sheets, now mud-streaked, that covered the woman's off-white plush.

And so the saying goes: you can take the dog out of the barn, but you can't take the barn out of the dog, world without end.

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