Sam: Water

I’ve made a decision to write one short story about my wheelchair dog, Sam, per week. Eventually I hope to compile them into a book. To keep myself honest (and motivated) I’m going to try and post one a month here, to the Feathers and Fur blog. (So you’ll get about a quarter of the stories!)

A short bio: Sam was a 125-pound king shepherd that I re-trained from human aggressive. His name was, originally, Diesel. He was the reason I became a dog trainer, and why I still work with human aggressive dogs.

NOTE: The formatting is wonky. I’ve been trying to fix it for twenty minutes, to no avail. Sorry, guys. 😦

Water: rough draft

“Hi, Mom!” It was the ritual greeting as I entered my parent’s house (the one I’d moved out of just a week earlier), followed swiftly by, “Sit, Diesel.”

He sat, panting as he looked first at me, then around the house.

Okay, I lie. I didn’t ask him to sit. He didn’t sit. Our manners weren’t that good. Instead, I bent to unclip his leash as we walked through the door, and he followed me down the entry way. As we reached the living room he scooted forward off the tile and onto the safe island of rug, only to look at me hopefully as I made a beeline for the water bowl.

My mom’s dogs — really, my little sister’s dogs, living with my parents while my sister went to college — had a blue plastic water dish that held maybe a cup and a half of water. It was full, but that wouldn’t matter. Diesel had driven a whole twenty minutes from my house to my parent’s house, and he was already braving the tile again to get to the water dish. He drained it in what seemed a few laps.

I scooped it up from under him, grateful for the little throw rugs my mom had scattered around. Once upon a time I would never have taken his food or water away while he was standing over it, but those days were long gone.

“Still no Internet?” Mom asked, in her perpetual place in the kitchen. To this day I’m not sure why I always found her there, but I did.

“No.” I sighed the sigh of a ‘net junkie without a fix, and carried the bowl to the kitchen sink to refill it. Unsurprisingly, Diesel was on my heels.

My mom made a noise of disgust as I started to fill the bowl. “Don’t use that water! Use the bottled water.”

I’m sure I rolled my eyes. I still thought bottled water for dogs was a little ridiculous. (We won’t discuss the Brita-filter-for-dogs now, years later, in my kitchen.) “Mom, he drinks too much. He’ll use all your water.”

My mother was adamant. There was no getting around her on this, I could tell. “So I’ll get some more. Give him the good water.” (To be fair, our water tasted like shit. Then again, Dees had been drinking out of the hose for years.)

Giving up on the argument, and feeling a little smug that I was about to be proven right, I obediently turned and poured water from the nearly full gallon jug into the dog bowl.

Dees was practically dancing around my feet as I took him back to the throw rug, gallon jug still in hand, and set down the bowl. I leaned against the nearby counter, knowing I’d be there for a little while.

Mom went on cleaning the stove top, and we talked about my lack of Internet and my new place. Did I like it? I did. No roommates, no family, just me, my dog, and my six birds.

Dees had emptied the bowl. I bent and refilled it, then leaned against the counter again.

Was I going to plant anything around the place? Maybe trees. Or a garden. I hadn’t decided.

Dees had emptied the bowl. I bent and refilled it, then leaned against the counter again.

Had I met my neighbors yet? The ones across from me came and went all the time, and the ones down the street were reclusive. I hadn’t actually met anyone, though. (It didn’t help that I was a bit reclusive, myself.)

Dees had emptied the bowl. I bent and refilled it, then leaned against the counter again.

I could feel my mom’s eyes on me, now. “Was he out of water at your house?” she asked doubtfully, after a moment.

I shook my head and refilled the again-empty bowl. “He does this a lot. I’ve learned just to stand here and refill it until he’s done.” The jug was half empty.

Slowly, Mom came across the kitchen, then around the counter that divided kitchen and eating area. We both watched Dees lap up water like he’d never get any more.

“Does he only drink occasionally?” Mom asked.

He’d emptied the bowl again, and was looking at me hopefully. I refilled it. “Nah. He did this just a few hours ago. Eventually, he’ll drink his fill and then stop. After that he’s more normal for awhile.” I figured he did it about three or four times a day. Maybe, I thought, when he remembered he was thirsty. “He’s done it as long as I’ve known him.”

“But… why?”

I’d never really stopped to think about it, and I didn’t then, either. Images snapped through my mind. I did pause, trying to remember if it had ever happened unexpectedly. But, no. It had gotten worse over time, and I knew why. “In the summer,” I said, frowning with memory, “his bowl always had algae growing up into it.” Long, fuzzy-looking strands that he tried to avoid, green coating the sides of a large bucket, a film across the top. “In the winter, it iced over quickly.” Breaking the ice by slamming my boot into it repeatedly, cursing when it finally broke through and my shoe and jeans were soaked and frigid, coming back the next morning only to find it had frozen solid again. “So when he had fresh water, he drank as much as he could get.”

It hadn’t always been that way. It had gotten worse as Dees had gotten more aggressive, and therefore spent more time in his kennel.

Mom was silent, the way a forest is silent when a tiger slinks through. When she did speak, her words were clipped, and she turned and walked back to the stove top. “I could kill that man.” I knew who she was talking about.

My problem was, I was always of two minds about it. I’d seen Jack cry when he sent Dees off to live with me. I’d seen his pride in his dog. I knew he loved Dees; he just hadn’t shown it properly.

Dees was almost done. I filled the bowl again. He took a few more laps, but then he walked away. I topped the bowl off for the littler dogs, and put the jug back. He’d drunk about three quarters of a gallon.

Dees was almost done. I filled the bowl again. He took a few more laps, but then he walked away. I topped the bowl off for the littler dogs, and put the jug back. He’d drunk about three quarters of a gallon.

While my mom, annoyingly, muttered about Jack and paid no attention to how much water Dees had drunk, I went to get another gallon from the garage. He’d water-binge again soon enough.



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