It’s time to call out the most embarrassing member of my household. That would be my seven year old German Shorthaired Pointer, Achilles. He pairs an unerring sense for the exact WRONG thing to do in any situation with the impenetrable defense of well-meaning, affectionate stupidity.
For instance, pizza night at the Khos, especially when we invite guests over. All those times Achilles has sailed past a neighbor child who would not reach the 54 inch high mark on carnival rides, blithely grabbed a low-hanging pizza slice and taken it into the dining room to gobble on the Persian carpet: he returns to wag happily at the victim and lick said child’s hand for any leftovers. The kids can’t stay mad at that furry face, but I am always appalled as his poor manners.
Unlike the dog of my childhood, Achilles doesn’t much go for the crotch punch, thank God. But he seems to sense which homeowner on our street belongs to which house, and only at the moment the homeowner is outside clearing dead leaves from their delicate roses or trellising their tomatoes will he decide that conditions are right to poop right then and there, on that lawn. It’s always fun to compliment someone’s beautiful bougainvillea plant while at the same time chasing runaway dog waste on their lawn with the bag that the newspaper came in, and snapping at the dog to ignore the natural instinct that causes him to claw half of said lawn backwards towards the now-bagged business.
Achilles is a very loving dog. Given his druthers, he would climb up into the lap of his owners, turn around 16 times, and settle in for the day. Because we deny him that luxury, what with him weighing 57 pounds, he instead sits a foot away, his long snout into the air, fixing you with his dark eyes in worshipful invitation to cuddle. I fall for this one ALL the time. I lean forward, scratch his ears, rub his long outstretched neck, lock eyes, and put my face close to his.
This is the moment when he burps.
He’s blessed or cursed with tons of energy, take your pick, and when that meets up with his affectionate streak, the clumsiness it wreaks is breathtaking. My friend Jill, who frequently accompanies me on dog hikes, stopped by recently to see something at my house. Achilles adores her, knows that if she’s here he’s about to go for a run. So he spun in tight circles around her legs all the way from the front door to the top of the staircase that leads downstairs, where I was taking Jill. He was still spinning as she and I started descending the stairs…and then he tried to follow us, having made himself dizzier than a drunk Russian ballerina.
I was halfway down the hardwood staircase when I heard the crash. I turned around and instinctively put my arms out, wondering whether Jill or the dog would fall into them. It was Achilles, who had knocked himself over and was barreling towards Jill and I like a kid would down a soft, grass-covered hill. I caught him in a cradle hold, Jill took hold of his face and collar, and then the three of us huddled on the stairs, processing what happened. The only sound was the thump-thump-thump of his still-wagging tail against the stairs. When we released him, he made it to the bottom of the steps before he did his next turn, so that’s progress.
Or so I thought. Only two days later he executed the same manoeuver on the outdoor staircase that leads to the back yard of our sloped lot. This time he managed to wedge his head between two steps of the staircase so that, from my vantage point at the top of the stairs, he looked like Ichabod Crane, all spotted legs, back, and tail but no visible head. Even he looked chagrined after he managed to extricate himself.
I despair, some days, that he is the most embarrassing dog around.
And then my friends Debbie and Colt, who live in Austin, post this picture on Facebook of their own German Shorthaired Pointer, Amy, slumped melodramatically on the living room floor because she wanted to go back outside and play.
And I feel less alone.