Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Book of Wendell

Chapter One: Some people near Seattle bought Wendell on the Internet from a breeder in the South. When he came in his little crate they took one look at him and apparently didn't like what they saw. The next day they called the local boston terrier rescue to come and pick him up.

Chapter Two: The rescue lady called the farmer and asked if the farmer would take a puppy that was not housebroken.

Chapter Three: Wendell came to the farm. For almost a week, he pretended to be the sweetest puppy on Earth. He laid around in the farmer's arms in a very cheesy manner, looking up with an expression of kindness, obedience, docility, deep devotion. The farmer began saying things like: how lucky we are to find Wendell! what a sweet puppy! What could he possibly have done to get kicked out of a house in one day?

Chapter Four: True Wendell began to emerge. Several pairs of shoes (not the cheap ones, they were left alone) were eaten. Holes were dug under the fence. Goats were chased, until Winnie took matters into her own hands and t-boned Wendell definitively. This sent him rolling down the hill, curled in a festive little soccer ball shape, to the gratification of all of us in the lower pasture. A round of goat applause went up from the crowd at the fenceline.

A familiar sound began to be heard many times a day. This was the word "WENDELL!" yelled by the farmer in a tone of uncontrollable fury. One day Wendell ate the farmer's cellphone. This was the darkest day yet; the farmer simply said, "Wendell," without yelling at all, but in a tone of deep disappointment. Wendell hung his head.

Chapter Five: Wendell started to be good again, little by little. He was a year old by now, after all. He stopped - for the most part - eating shoes. Sometimes, when he was called, he would actually come.

Chapter Six: The Hay Lady came over. As usual, she came unannounced and unexpected. The Hay Lady has what the public health nurses like to call some "social deficits." When she comes over, the first thing she always does is take out a pack of cigarettes and start smoking in the barn.

"There's no smoking in the barn," the farmer always says, right away, and the Hay Lady blinks at the farmer, baffled that anyone anywhere would have a rule against smoking in a bone-dry douglas fir structure, filled with hay and straw and live animals who cannot open their stall doors (well, I can, but that's another story) should they need to leave in case of emergency.

"Good grief," the farmer always says, after the Hay Lady leaves. The Hay Lady has nothing going for her, except for the fact that she has nice, good, clean hay. And it's cheap. Actually, that's quite a lot.

The Hay Lady has a habit of bombing up the driveway, as if she is starring in a Ford truck commercial - you know the ones I mean, where some guy in a t-shirt goes blazing down a dirt road that runs between two cornfields in an F-150 with dust billowing behind him while country music plays.

Except the Hay Lady has an F-250, a jumbo one, for hauling her trailers and tractors around.

On this day she came bombing up the driveway, looking neither left nor right. Nor front. Wendell was outside by the back door, taking a break from tormenting the border collies. The Hay Lady ran right over Wendell.

The farmer heard Wendell crying - that horrible crying that you will never forget if you have ever seen a dog hit by a car - and ran outside. Wendell couldn't use his back legs, but he dragged himself to the farmer using his front paws.

The farmer picked Wendell up and put him into the car and drove him right to the emergency vet. He did not cry or whimper once on the way, just lay gazing at the farmer with deep devotion.

At the vet, he did not cry or whimper when the vet moved his legs around to see if she could find any obvious fractures. Instead, he looked at the farmer with deep devotion and a strange calm. The vet thought perhaps there were no fractures, since Wendell never flinched or cried out in pain. The x-rays would show.

The x-rays came back in a few minutes. Wendell's pelvis was fractured in at least four places. His bladder and kidneys were bruised; blood was pooling in his abdomen. Both hips were broken; one was shattered, with the head of the femur displaced.

"I can't believe he never cried," said the vet, looking at Wendell. Wendell was looking at the farmer, shaking a little bit, but still surreally calm. And with an expression of deep devotion.

Wendell would have to be put down unless an operation was performed to put his pelvis back together. A very expensive procedure. Without it, the vet explained, he would be in pain for the rest of his life, with bone rubbing on bone in several places. The operation would have to be performed in the city, 70 miles away, by a board-certified othopedic surgeon. Again, just to clarify, it would be very expensive.

Back at home, there was a message on the answering machine from the Hay Lady. "Sorry about the dog thing," she said. "Do you still want some hay?"

"His name is Wendell," the farmer said, to the answering machine.

Chapter Seven: Wendell went to the big city for his million-dollar surgery. For almost a week after, he pretended to be the sweetest puppy on Earth.

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