A lot of years have passed since my wife and I had a dog, but we feel like we have a dog. This is only natural, considering that a dog is more or less a live-in visitor at our house.
The dog’s name is Roux. She belongs to our daughter who works long shifts as a paramedic, meaning that more often than not we’re dog-sitting.
This is a good thing because it’s nice to have a dog, even if it isn’t really ours.
It’s also a bad thing because Roux is not without certain faults. Enough faults, in fact, that she reminds me of a dog that belonged to the late humorist Patrick McManus. McManus said his family named the dog Stranger in the faint hope that he was just passing through.
Our daughter sometimes refers to Roux as “the naughtiest dog ever.” Naughty enough that when she took her on a week’s vacation to the Oregon Coast, I breathed a sigh of relief. A whole week without whining, begging, barking, etc.
Roux is a mix of border terrier and several other breeds. A mutt, in other words. Our daughter got her from a rescue group in Lafayette, Louisiana. Thus the name. Lafayette is Cajun country, where roux, a thickening agent for sauces used in French cuisine, is almost as ubiquitous as potatoes are here in Idaho.
If dogs’ IQs could be measured, Roux’s would be through the roof. Her vocabulary is formidable. We aren’t entirely joking in saying that she speaks English.
“Go get your busy bee (a stuffed animal).”
She runs to the dining room and returns with it.
“No, not that busy bee. Go get your other busy bee.”
She returns seconds later with that one.
“You want to go outside?”
She runs to the back door, waits for it to be opened, then runs outside and barks like a dog possessed.
“Open the door.”
She pushes the door open with her paw.
“Roux, no barking!”
She stops barking.
“Roux, stop that barking!”
“I did stop. (This is her speaking English. Not in actual words, of course, but her meaning through facial expressions and body language is abundantly clear.) Certainly you don’t expect me to stop barking permanently. Life without barking isn’t worth living.”
Roux understands an impressive number of words and phrases. Among them: Good night, high five, roll over. Stick ‘em up! Get in the back seat. Want to go for a walk? Where’s your leash?
Drink, stick, sleep, squirrel, bone, toy, treat, catch, gently …
And a few I’ve undoubtedly forgotten.
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She is an incorrigible tease. My wife keeps a stash of dog treats in our kitchen for Roux and our daughter’s boyfriend’s dog, Bolt. Instead of wolfing them down, as most dogs would, Roux waits patiently while Bolt wolfs his down. Then she sprawls out on the floor in front of him and does her best to make him jealous by nibbling her treat — ever so slowly — while he watches.
“Roux, we know what you’re doing. Stop trying to make Bolt jealous!”
“Who, me? I was just enjoying my treat. It’s not my fault he eats faster than I do.”
Bolt spent the night at our house recently, a night we won’t soon forget. At 2:30 a.m., he whined to be let out. My wife obliged. Then, panic.
“Wake up!” she said. “Bolt’s gone.”
“Wazzat?” I asked, still mostly asleep.
“Quick, get up! I let Bolt out and he’s gone. The back gate was open and he took off.”
We’d been warned repeatedly that “Bolt will bolt,” and the warnings proved to be prophetic. He was indeed gone.
We must have been a curious sight, traipsing up and down the sidewalk in the wee hours, calling Bolt’s name loud enough for him to hear us but not loud enough to wake up the the neighbors.
That, at least, was our hope. It would have been more than a little embarrassing for the neighbors to have spotted us in robes and slippers, or in my case somewhat less than that, prowling the neighborhood calling the name of a mechanical fastener. They’d have thought we were nuts. Or at the very least had a few screws loose.
To our relief — neither of us was looking forward to explaining that we’d lost a prized hunting dog — Bolt trotted into our front yard as if nothing had happened.
“You probably put him up to this, didn’t you?” I asked Roux.
“You probably knew the gate was open and woke him up so he’d get out.”
“What if I did? He gets way too much attention around here. Attention that’s rightfully mine. I was part of this family while he was still in bird-dog school.”
“You ate his dog food today, didn’t you?”
Again, no response. But the guilty look said it all.
I could go on, but a full account of her exploits would fill a book.
Still, there’s just something about dogs.
Even naughty ones.
Roux got home from the coast yesterday. The first thing she did was jump onto my lap and lick my face.
It seemed like a good time to take her for a walk. Dogs do need exercise, after all.
And, truth be told, we’d missed her like crazy.