Let's file this under "old but good." This is an excerpt from the book that I was writing, and which I ought to get back to. I'll parcel it out to you over the next few days, and you can see if you think it's worth finishing.
Some material may have appeared on my blog, Puddle Run, before.
It's a mostly true story.
When I was about twelve years old, my mother and stepfather let me move into the guest house at Cultus Bay Road. The two story building, 100 yards removed from our squat shingled house, had linoleum floors, a kitchenette, and a fenced yard for my Indian runner ducks. This was my home for a brief but formative time, the years after my family moved to the country but before my Irish wolfhound was framed for murder. At the end of those years, my mom moved me to a five acre parcel off Lone Lake Road where we could afford a barn or a house, but not both, and where we therefore lived in a barn for the rest of my childhood. (My former bedroom is now home to Sailor, the Shetland gelding, and Cadbury, the miniature stallion.)
The linoleum in my little house was handy, as some of the tenants with whom I shared the building were less evolved in their bathroom habits than others. I was an animal lover even then. It was how I had identified myself, and been identified by others, for all my life. My mother was an animal lover too, and her particular enthusiasm was for making ALL animals welcome. This meant that she passed no parental judgement—offered no voice of mature reason—when I decided to invite Mirri, Maggie, Mewzetica, Piglet, Nellie, Iggy Tribble, Sir Lancelittle, Rhody, Rimsky, Glinka, and Korsakov plus her 16 infants (I named them Bach, Tchaikovsky, and fourteen other composers between) to live in the little house with me.
Mirri was a given. If you've ever loved an Australian cattle dog, you will know that they are not the sort of pet one leaves behind in the main house. They are a faithful shadow of a dog, glued to your side except when they are out in front saving you from attack, herding your livestock, or nipping the heels of an innocent bystander. Mirri was heroic, gentle, and savage as needed: when I was seventeen, she bit a would-be date rapist badly enough to require stitches. When I was 21, she performed as the steadying ballast when my daughter pulled herself to her feet for the very first time. So yes, Mirri moved with me into the little house. I will tell you another time how she broke my heart when she died, and how she visited me with terrible nightmares, and how I could barely let her tired body go.
Maggie, the Irish wolfhound who would later be smeared with blood and accused of having murdered my mother's three dozen hens (all of them shot through with a .22), came too. Hers was the still-warm turd that I stepped onto, in bare feet, on my first morning walk out of the little house. She weighed 140 pounds, and it was not a small turd. Otherwise, she was a saint of a dog with a flawless character. She looked like one of Jim Henson's muppets and acted like a child, save for occasional majestic moments: during those, she would pause and sniff the air in such a way that one could see the blood of Finn MacCool coursing through her. Otherwise, she would grin and galumph about or gambol with such unbridled joy that she might knock into an observer's knee, shredding its meniscus cartilage and completely obliterating its anterior cruciate ligament (ask me how I know). Aside from a lifetime of knee problems, I have nothing but fond memories of Maggie. Like many Irish Wolfhounds, she died too young. They are a marvelous breed, but not a long-lived one.