by Jon Kaufman
Friends, when last we spoke a congregation of teenaged hooligans were plundering my home, seizing any and all consumables they could lay their hands upon. I am relieved to report that the pack (including my son Will) has returned to their respective universities, restoring peace to my small universe; or so I thought.
Quiet has always been a fleeting luxury in our home. Our three hound dogs, whose antics are often described in this space, provide a daily symphony of yelps, barks, and howls that compose the soundtrack of our lives. As if we were not dog-heavy enough, we occasionally host doggy play dates for some of our friends and their pets. I am not often consulted on these arrangements, which is probably why they occur. Southern people, (like my wife Janet) seem to be much more tolerant of constant house guests than transplanted Northerners (me) and over the years I have learned to just get along and follow the circus wherever it leads.
Recently, our friend and neighbor James acquired a puppy who has become a frequent visitor. “Ace” made his first appearance at our home around six months ago. At first we were a bit leery of this new addition mainly because of his breed; you see Ace is a Pit Bull. Would our dogs be safe around him? Could Roscoe, our Basset Hound, fend off the jaws of this monster? Quickly, we had our answers.
Baby Ace was a huge head with a small, skinny dog attached. Picture yourself in the body you have now with a head the size of a truck tire. Despite being awkwardly front-loaded, Ace had little problem moving around. In fact, James’s puppy was fueled with enough energy to run the Mill Mountain Star for a decade. This furry blur was not only fast, but he didn’t seem to differentiate humans from the floor, furniture, other dogs or squeaky toys. Each time Ace exploded into our den he would fly through the air, land on someone or some thing, and bolt across the carpet exiting the room. In less than a half hour, Ace had all of us conditioned to assume a defensive position each time we heard the thundering of his paws. Ace would have had Pavlov flinching in a matter of minutes.
Ace’s reign of terror was not limited to the humans in the room. Aside from Mya, our Coonhound and youngest, who saw Ace as a speedy curiosity, the night would be long for the rest of the pack. Poor sweet Roscoe looked like a teenaged babysitter in a room full of six year olds, his pleading eyes searching for help from his cowering family. Shiloh, the senior member of our pack, donned the persona of that old man in your neighbor who chased kids off of his lawn and kept your baseball when it crossed into his yard. Shiloh would snarl and snap as Ace whizzed by, grumbling to himself before returning to his resting spot. Although Shiloh is small, blind and diabetic, his contorted roar always sent his larger nemesis scattering for cover.
Like most people I equated Pit Bulls with violence, yet after making Ace’s acquaintance, I found that tag to be quite untrue. If anything, Ace was too affectionate. Upon landing on my lap at the speed of sound (which was a treat in itself), Ace licked my face with the desperate fervor of a shopper rushing the door at Best Buy on Black Friday. As I checked to see if my teeth were still intact, Ace momentarily sat on my chest before bolting into an adjacent room.
Months later, Ace still visits now and again. The Ace of today is a somewhat calmer, gentler example of the breed. Although he has grown considerably, his prominent cranium still dwarfs the rest of his body. His missile-like leaps smart a bit more than they used to due to his increase in size, but he is still the same sweet, crazy dog.
My comfort zone is lost forever. Following a continuous parade of college students and dogs, I am beginning to think that peace and quiet is overrated. As the poet Bob Dylan once said “Chaos is a friend of mine.” As it turns out, it’s my friend too.