Second Best

I was out walking my dog last summer.  It was one of those muggy Michigan July days; my long blonde hair piled up in a messy bun so that it didn’t stick to my back and there was just enough of a breeze to cause the edges of my sundress to flutter.  A Range Rover came up behind me and slowed to my pace, I propped my sunglasses on my head so I could see the driver as he was rolling down the window.

“Beautiful,” said the roguish thirty-something staring back at me.  I blushed and shrugged my shoulders as I stared at my feet.  “What breed is that?  He’s amazing.  Massive.” My blushing cheeks turned to red-hot embarrassment.

“Ohhhh, the dog.  He’s a Great Pyrenees,” I stuttered.

“Wow, he must be hot.”

“Yes, yes he is.”img_4730.jpg

You have no idea, buddy. Hot like David Beckham. Millennial girls in their white Jettas drive by and photograph him when we’re out on walks.  I imagine he has an amazing Snapchat or Instagram feed out on the interwebs somewhere; I’m just not cool enough to find it.

I should be used to it by now.  After four years of being with Bodhi I should know that no one is stopping to talk to me about me when I’m with him.  This must be what its like to be married to a super model.  Everyone knows Bodhi by name; they refer to me as Bodhi’s mom.  It’s Nicole, you can call me Nicole!

“What is he?” A Great Pyrenees.

“What does he weigh?” 120 pounds.

“He must eat a lot.” Actually no.  They have slow metabolisms; he eats about four cups of food a day. 

“You must vacuum a lot.” Every day. Someone needs to keep Dyson in business.IMG_0654

 “He’s so white, you must groom him a lot.”  Nope.  He’s self-cleaning; he gets four baths a year.

 “Did you know he was going to be this big?”  Yes, he was a rescue.  He was already 10 months old when we got him, nearly full-grown.

 And my favorite question, inevitably asked by someone who is petting him—“does he shed a lot?”  What I want to say is, “why don’t you look at your black Lululemons and tell me if he sheds a lot.”  What I actually say is something like, “he never stops shedding.” Then I walk away quickly before they realize they look like they have two Shih Tzus stapled to their thighs.

We live a block from an elementary school and I’ve stopped walking Bodhi during morning drop off because it takes me 45 minutes to get around the corner the school sits on.  Everyone wants to pet Bodhi and he absolutely loves the attention of anyone short enough that he can look them in the eye without getting on his haunches—he’s 5’7” on his hind legs, in case you were wondering.img_2863.jpg

Bodhi will stand at the bus doors and wait for the kids to disembark and greet them all receiving line style as they head towards the school.  Kids run over yelling, “look at the polar bear,” and wrap their arms around his massive neck—its 24 inches around, his collar could be a belt. Mothers dig their fingers into his cotton candy like coat and marvel at its cashmere softness and density.

During afternoon walks in the spring and early fall when the classroom windows are open I can here the kids yell, “here comes the polar bear!”  Bodhi may as well be the mayor.  Millions might follow the Kardashians on social media, but Bodhi is the pied-piper of the under 10 set.

I’m happy that Bodhi has this bit of celebrity though, because his life didn’t start out so auspiciously.  Dumped in the woods alongside a highway, 30 pounds underweight—in a blizzard and a few months shy of his first birthday—he was all hips and ribs and a great, big head when we got him.  His coat was thin and feathery; his pink skin dotted with brown spots visible through the tufts of fur.

IMG_5036I thought I knew what it would take to own a dog like Bodhi, having just lost my 83-pound husky, Apache. Boy, was I wrong!  I had calculated all the obvious things that come with owning a giant breed; he can easily rest his head on the dining room table, and he can see everything on the kitchen counter without getting off all four paws.  He doesn’t fit in a car, so my dream of getting rid of my SUV for a sports car isn’t happening any time soon.  When a 120-pound dog doesn’t want to come in, go for a walk or get in the car—he wins.

What I hadn’t counted on were the health and behavioral issues that come with adopting a dog that isn’t an 8-week old puppy.  Maybe he was born that way or maybe it was the malnutrition, but his hips aren’t formed right and he has developed arthritis at the ripe, old age of four. It makes him ornery and uncomfortable at times, he can’t handle more than two or three stairs, and he takes pricey anti-inflammatory medication to help.  Mobility is going to become an issue for him soon.  And, as I pointed out earlier, when he doesn’t want to move, he simply doesn’t.

He also lunges at anything with a big diesel engine—busses, garbage trucks, the UPS truck—so he can never be off-leash when he’s outside.  He’s also decided that Jeep Renegades and Mercedes G Wagons are evil, so he jumps and barks at them as well.  Honestly, he’s not wrong about G Wagons.  Unfortunately, it means that whoever walks him has to be strong enough to handle him; he tore my rotator cuff a few years back when he tried to throw himself at a school bus passing by us while we were out for a walk.

We took him to a behavioral psychologist and she put him on a cocktail of Prozac and Trazadone to take the edge off, and it helps—most of the time.  In case you lost count, that’s three prescription medications every day of his life.  We go through a lot of peanut butter.

Do I regret rescuing Bodhi? Not for a minute.  I feel so blessed that we ended up with him. I don’t think most people would be so patient with his behavioral problems or comfortable covering the cost of his medications. I fear that in someone else’s hands he might have been put down by now. I feel fortunate that I can give him a really good life; one that he deserves after a really rough start.

So when my neighbors can’t remember my name, but they know his; or the kids chat him up and ignore that I’m standing there, too; or a hot guy yells “beautiful” out his car window and he’s talking about the dog—I’m okay with that.  Being Bodhi’s wing woman is an honor and I’m happy to be second best.

You can follow Bodhi (and me!) on Instagram @MidLifeModel and #BodhiThePyrenees
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