by Rod Bartchy
Our 7 year old
daughter wanted a dog. Hey, we all did.
The result was
Cassie, an innocent little border collie puppy.
But was the innocence a scam? She gnawed at the
metal partitions in her crate. She nipped at my
daughters heels with sharp puppy teeth,
relentlessly herding her, in tears, into corners. The
allure of a dog began to dim. Then, almost
overnight, our manic menace became an angel.
attuned, loving and loyal, shed greet us
daily with her wagging tail and wet nosed dog
kisses. Nights shed spend sweetly curled up
on my daughters bed, both of them adrift in
blissful slumber. Shed rest her head on
your knee so youd take a needed time out
from the laptop.
But she was
still a dog which she proved to us when we
brought a kitten into the house months later.
at it with unnatural intensity, pupils eerily
dilated, her mouth open, long canine teeth ready
and eager to deal with this invader. We hurriedly
scooped up Audrey and sequestered her in the
Audrey did get
even. Cassie would lurk menacingly outside the
bedroom. Audrey would languidly slide a paw under
the door. The dog would hurl herself nose first
into the narrow space, convinced beyond all logic
that she could force passage. Audrey then took a
swipe at Cassies nose. This could go on for
hours and it was as close a relationship as the
two would ever have. Just like Washington
politics when you think about it.
It seemed that
anyone shed encountered in her first 6
months with us was part of her beloved pack.
Anything else was not. If you werent pack,
you were enemy of the pack. Her job was to
protect us, something she did all too well.
securely leashed, walking her in the Wissahickon
became increasingly challenging. Runners, hikers,
equestrians, and other dogs all got the crazed
stare, bared teeth and a threatening growl.
were Cassies bete noire. One hapless
cyclist on the Yellow Trail got the full
treatment. Raised hackles, blood curdling snarl,
and a manic lunge with incisors aimed for his
lower thigh. Panicked, he crashed headlong
into the thorny brush, then recovered and madly
pedaled down the trail, as if barely escaping
with his life.
I worried that
Friends of the Wissahickon would banish her from
the trails. I imagined wanted posters with Cassies
face on every tree.
Instead I was
encouraged to continue my rounds by some park
users who were less than enthralled with cyclists. They
welcomed my wolverine on a leash. Nevertheless,
Cassie and I retreated to the less traveled
Andorra Natural Area. She escaped outlaw status.
living targets, Cassie creatively responded by
expanding her definition of non-pack.
One summer, we
were all en route to the shore. Cassie was in the
back, with the window half down so she could
enjoy the breeze. As I drove, I began
hearing mysterious sharp clacking sounds. They
were coming from behind me. I looked back and
Cassie was snapping at the passing trucks going
northbound on Route 347. They were moving. They
were not pack. Thus, as far as our protector
was concerned, they were the enemy.
Once we got to
the shore, we didnt dare walk her on the
beach. Instead I took her for a stroll at a
nearby construction site. We rounded a bend.
She went into a low stalking crouch, approaching
a massive bulldozer, her eyes hard with lethal
intent. It sat motionless, sphinxlike. After
a moment she backed off. Maybe she realized shed
met her match.
We moved on
towards a small excavator and two dump trucks
with exposed hydraulic hoses. Cassie lunged at
them with furious barks and gnashing teeth. They
huddled in silence like terrified sheep. Satisfied,
she rumbled a final growl, then strode away in
imperious triumph, confident that theyd
been put in their place.
person was exempt from the non-pack treatment. A
contractor who visited our house to verify a code
compliance issue. He ignored Cassie like she wasnt
there. She fell for him, utterly besotted, and
followed him around with adoring eyes. Perhaps hed
been raised by wolves? An enigma to this day.
for 11 years, protecting us from bulldozers,
bicyclists and clipboard clutching activists.
Now I trust shes in dog heaven. Mondays she
harasses sheep, Tuesdays she stampedes
wildebeests, Wednesdays she bullies backhoes.
Other days she dozes on a high promontory, one
eye half open to the wooded trails far below,
hoping for an unwary cyclist to rouse her to
action. Its her bucket list and I
wish her well. We should all be so lucky.