Life As We Blow It: Cunning canine

click to enlarge Bentley, probably planning something. - Rebecca Harrell
Rebecca Harrell
Bentley, probably planning something.


One of our dogs, Bentley, looks like a cross between a crotchety old man and Falcor from The NeverEnding Story. Which is perfect, because, while he’s loving and clever, he’s also moody and stubborn.

Very stubborn.

We’re not sure what Bentley’s backstory is, but it made him smart and independent and pretty damned sure he’s not gonna do what he doesn’t want to do. It’s a bit like I’m Clarice Starling living with a furry little Hannibal Lecter — I understand that he respects me to a point, in an amused sort of way, but I still don’t go to sleep until I know he’s asleep.

And sometimes he’s faking.

Bentley currently has an eye infection. Giving him eyedrops is roughly akin to trying to pull your wedding ring out of the sink drain while a blindfolded psychopath plays with the switch for the disposal, listening and sensing your movements and different tricks … and learning. If I don’t mix it up constantly, I’m gonna lose some fingers.

The first night, Rebecca and I tried two or three different muzzles and other contraptions; none of them fit his face well enough to lend us (or him) anything approaching comfort. We moved on to distracting him with a new favorite toy, and “getting him” (that was our plan, “getting him”) when he was close and otherwise occupied. No dice. This developed into trying to dive-bomb his eye while he was on his hind legs, playing tug-of-war.

By the time the next dose was needed, he knew the drill, gazing at the toy with flat contempt before leaving the room.

I bought the kind of gloves that, really, only a firefighter, asbestos-removal worker or nuclear technician should ever need. That worked twice, until Bentley just began attacking the gloves themselves on sight and principle.

And so it went, from sitting down next to him with a vial in my hand and trying to restrain him by the back of his neck-scruff, to sitting down next to him with a vial hidden in my pocket, to sitting down next to him with a vial hidden in my pocket and treats in my hand.

Now I can’t sit down next to him with anything in my hands at all without eliciting some sort of you-better-just-be-here-to-scratch-me-buddy snarl.

Look, I’m not afraid of dogs. There are two other dogs in our household, who’ve been our companions since eight weeks of age, that will take any sort of medication, because they love and trust us and were brought up well. And I’ve restrained panicked animals before. I wish I could attempt to restrain Bentley without him turning into something that sounds and looks like a running lawnmower turned upside-down, gnashing blades bared.

But this isn’t any animal, any dog. This is Bentley.

By the end of this whole thing, I’ll have to approach him, head down, arms out and empty palms up, naked except for a protective codpiece and with an eyedropper of antibiotic secreted in my rectum.

And that will only work once.

For all that, though, we love him and keep him and give him a good home. Because whoever had him before us must’ve been some kind of serious asshole. 

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