Min, Elmindreda, Minny Cocoapuffs, Cocoapuff, Princess, Crazy Damn Dog, is a nearly 100-pound Neopolitan mastiff, and she is a big, unwieldy mess. She is all clumsy, flailing legs and big dopey face, and she just wants to be loved, more than anything in the world. She is nuts and confused, impossible to train, to discipline, to herd. She is stubborn, easily distracted, a little afraid of everything though she barks a big game, and she has the sweetest face. But when she loves you, you are loved forever and ever and she only ever wants to be with you. If she loves you and you say her name, her little nub of a tail whips into a frenzy, because you have noticed her and that is really all she wanted. For you to notice her, and to give her some of your hamburger, please.
She is a mess, and she reminds me a little bit of me, and she adores me the way no dog has ever adored me before, and all these things together make me love her back. She belongs to E’s brother, A, who is never home–he has got school, and work, and a very serious girlfriend. So this dog, who is crazy, and crazy about me, this crazy dog who I am crazy about, is mine. She belongs to me because I love her and she loves me and she needs me. I am suddenly responsible for a hundred pounds of adorable nutcake. I am suddenly aware of how big, how solemn and how real responsibility can be.
I’ve got the basics covered: I make sure she is fed, that she has got
her treats, that she is loved on and snuggled and petted. I say her
name and her little tail goes whiz. I rub her silky ears and kiss the
wrinkled spot between her eyes and she squinches up her face. I am
looking for a leash that will let me walk her without being dragged
along the ground in her wild pursuit of cats and shrieky children,
because I think she needs the exercise and it will be so good for her.
She sleeps with us at night, standing over me until I lift the blanket
and let her crawl under. She settles onto my legs and sighs. I make
sure she is tucked in. She’s crowded E out of the bed more than once,
which is frustrating, and we’re trying to figure out how to keep
But the larger question–what do we do with her? She’s untrainable,
doesn’t get along well with the other dogs in the house, is aggressive,
destructive, lonely, needy. She could fit my entire cat in her mouth.
She would fit my entire cat in her mouth within minutes of meeting him.
No one has all the time she needs, no one can give her all the
attention she needs, no one knows, exactly, what to do with her. A is
talking about finding a new home for her, and the idea is making me a
little sick–we can’t give her away. She’ll be so unhappy. She is so
unhappy now, home alone all day, and I feel helpless.
Responsibility sucks. It’s something I generally try to pretend does
not exist. I do the things I have to, and try not to consider the idea
that they are responsibilities, because the idea is worrisome.
Responsibility connotes ownership, accountability,
and liability. If something belongs to you, if something rests entirely on
your shoulders, if it is your job and your requirement, and then the
possibility of failure arises, doesn’t it? You did not complete your
job adequately, and therefore, you have screwed up.
Sometimes, in pretending that I do not have responsibilities, that I am
totally free and easy and clear, I forget that I am responsible for so
much. The smaller, everyday tasks are easy, and easy to forget to think
about seriously, because they become second nature, are just daily
life–the bills, the house. But there are bigger responsibilities–my
sweetheart, my friends, my cat. Those are the ones that are tougher,
but they’re far easier than the responsibility that I so often
overlook: me. I am responsible for me. My life, overall. Its direction.
My happiness. My health. I am responsible for myself. I am responsible
for making sure that I achieve the things I want and the things I need
to do. I am totally, one hundred percent responsible for me, and
everything I do. The thought is deeply terrifying, humbling, worrisome.
The thought makes me think, I can do better. I can do this. I can
figure out how to take care of a nutcase of a dog, and I can do right
by me, too.