Airdale Chronicles: Blesséd Bruno

IMG_20180319_174442886Bruno is eight months old today, napping in his crate in a Super 8 outside of Green Bay while Gabe and Trevor read and I write. We spent the past few days at my folks’ place in Michigan, which means Bruno got to spend time with their dog, Maggie, an older, big-boned Oorang type Airedale. Too old to roughhouse too much, but not too old for Bruno to begin to notice something different about her.

What’s it like having an eight-week-old male Airdale pup? I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: like having a preschool boy who’s somehow going through puberty.

He got his first adult haircut a week ago. What a difference a day makes: he went in a big, woolly pup and came out a much lighter, leaner dog, clearly an Airedale despite a shorter than average cut (due to matting) and his corkscrew ear. He seemed an odd combination of energetic and embarrassed when we brought him back from our groomer—especially when Rosebud said he was naked.

He’s hardly the same dog. But then, he’s been different for the past two weeks. You see, Bruno is blessed.

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with Fr. Nathan LaLiberte at his parish in Delano for Confession, among other things. The other things took almost too much time, which led Father to check the time near the end of an hour and say, “I’m sorry, but I have a call coming in—let’s get you cleaned up quick!”

The sacrament was not rushed, of course, but afterward we said our goodbyes, and he walked me toward the door.

“We’ll have to reconnect again sometime when you’re not pressed for time,” I told him. “This is the second time I’ve brought Bruno along and…”

Father put his hand on my arm and stopped us both. “You brought your dog?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I love dogs! Is he out in the car?”

“Yup,” I said. “You were very encouraging when we were considering getting him. I was hoping to introduce you two.”

“Just a minute.” He called into the parish secretary: “I’m expecting a call. If it comes in, tell them I’ll be just a minute. Don’t let them hang up—but I gotta meet Jim’s dog!”

“I love the name,” Father said as we walked to the car. “Did you get him on St. Bruno’s feast day?”

“Nope—it’s kind of a family name, or nickname, I guess. My Polish great-grandfather’s name was Bronisław (bro-ne-swaff), which means defender of glory, but when he came to America, people called him Broni or Bruno.”

I opened the car door, and Bruno, who lay curled and napping on the back seat, stood and stretched: seven and a half months and fifty pounds of fluffy brown and black puppy. I took his leash and called him out, warning Father that he can be a bit mouthy but that he doesn’t really bite.

As if to spite me, or out of respect for the Roman collar, Bruno exited the car, sat promptly and politely at Fr. Nathan’s feet, and allow our priest friend to thoroughly rub his ears, neck, and shoulders while praising his canine nature.

“He’s a beautiful dog,” Fr. Nathan said. “Would it be alright if I blessed him?”

“Of course,” I said, and Father knelt and took Bruno’s head in his hands. Again as if on cue, Bruno’s eyes half-closed and he stretched his face toward Father’s.”

Whether the blessing was memorized or improvised I could not tell, but with beautiful words and through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, Father blessed and consecrated Bruno, among other things, to bring joy and peace to our family. When he was done, Bruno loaded up on command and rode home a happier, holier dog.

He’s getting better day by day. Good boy, Bruno. Good dog.

Airedale Chronicles: Bruno At Six Months

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Name: Bruno

Aliases: Bru, Bru-ski, Muttley, Fluffydog, Fat-Dog, Bonehead

Age: Six months

Occupation: Complete Nut

On Saturday, Bruno reached his half-birthday. People ask all the time how things are going with the puppy. I tell them, imagine your son hit puberty during the terrible twos.

Gone almost overnight are the tiny puppy teeth. We found some of his tiny incisors, and I snatched out three hanging molars myself, but those needle-like puppy canines simply disappeared. His adult canines are lengthening daily. They look worse, but feel better.

He no longer snaps or chews on us, but he approaches everything and everyone he loves with jaws agape. He wants to mouth you. He also wants to rub his head and body against your legs like a cat, to push himself between them as you stand or beneath them as you sit. (He took little Lily for a ride the other day by standing up while she was carefully stepping over him.)

If you are lying down, his first move is to stick his cold wet nose in your ear, and if you’ve only just gotten up and are wearing your pajama shorts, he likes to run that same nose from the back of your calf to the back of your knee, leaving a cold wet snail-trail to help bring your morning into focus.

As a young friend of ours says, he “got his puberty.” He is rapidly approaching fifty pounds, and beneath the dark puppy fur on his head, ears, shoulders and neck, he is rapidly turning tan. And he stinks. Again almost overnight, he went from a sweet-smelling puppy to a rank jock of a dog; we’re bathing him weekly to keep up (or rather, to keep the smell down).

Wanderlust has also kicked in, so we keep him tethered outside and are beginning to work specifically on coming when called.

It was bitterly cold for awhile, then quite icy, making the walking of a forty-plus-pound, high-energy puppy treacherous. Thankfully for the past few weeks Bruno has seemed content to play and sleep in the house, all the while gaining size (and storing energy, apparently). Yesterday I took him for a walk, and was struck by how much stronger, more energetic, and more fearless he is. He strained forward with his body and his attention; he needed constant reminders not to pull, and shot this way and that to investigate chunks of snow, icy patches, debris, and other dogs. A Pomeranian elicited insistent whining, two separate retrievers sparked whining and great leaps up into the air, and the pair of enormous, booming Great Danes up the street (which Bruno refused to walk past as a pup, and had to be carried), garnered leaps, barks, and playful growls and snarls.

He jumped around, spun circles, scrambled and skittered on the ice, snapped at his lead, and was generally nutty. He paid acute attention to the neighbor’s horse (his giiiiiirlfriend…) and to a pickup hauling a bouncing and rattling aluminum trailer (which caused him to jump back, scoot sideways, and stare). Then, when we returned home, he tore around the house, a rubber mallard in his jaws, tossing it violently, shaking it viciously, and generally showing himself to be an adolescent terrier.

He still tries to sit in my lap. He still has one corkscrew ear that springs sideways from his head. We joke that this ear is attuned to the voices in his head while the other is listening to us. Which one wins the moment is a crap shoot.

He’s a good puppy, on his way to becoming a good dog. Good boy, Bruno.

Airedale Chronicles: Little Big Dog

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Bruno at 15 weeks, with size 14 boots for scale

I took Bruno to the vet today for the last of his vaccinations. He will be 15 weeks old on Thursday, and in the past month, has gained exactly 11 pounds and (I’m guessing on this) about three or four inches in height. When he first came to us, he could scoot under the lowest cross-brace on our kitchen chairs or plunge beneath the futon almost without breaking stride. Now he belly-crawls beneath the futon and pushes between the chairs. At more than 27 wriggling pounds, he’s a lot to scoop up these days—like when he doesn’t want to get in the van or walk into the veterinary office. And he’s still got that puppy awkwardness, only magnified by his adolescent frame. He trips, stumbles, rolls, and keeps going.

The doc remembered him—she doesn’t see many Airedales—and voiced her approval of his growth. She checked him over and commented on how muscular he is for a puppy. On my way out, the lady with the mini (toy?) schnauzer said, “Look at those paws! He’s gonna be HUGE!”

I don’t know whether to be proud or scared.

Continue reading

Airedale Chronicles: Rise of the Snow Dog

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Skeptical…

When we heard last week that snow was moving in, I told the kids that one of my favorite parts of raising a puppy is seeing his or her reaction to firsts…in this case, Bruno’s first ever snow. When the skies finally opened Friday morning, he did not disappoint.

Bruno wakes up on puppy time, which means he can be a little sluggish until he gets wound up. Usually by the time we take our morning walk, however, he’s ready to go. On Friday, however, I opened the door to windblown white flakes, and Bruno stopped short of stepping outside. He stared a moment and then, as if to feign nonchalance, put his big front paws on the front stoop and stre-e-e-e-e-etched, glancing around all the while. He stepped outside, slowly put his front paws down a step, and stretched again, subtly sniffing the white and windy air around him.

And again with the last step down only to sidewalk: Gotta act casual…but what is this stuff? Continue reading

Bruno, or Feeding the Mouth that Bites You…

bruno21.jpgMany of you know by now that a few weeks ago, we welcomed a new, four-legged member to our family—an eight-and-a-half-week-old Airedale Terrier pup.

This is monumental in some ways. First and foremost, Jodi is not big on pets. Early in our marriage, not only did she deal with multiple dogs and pregnancies, sometimes simultaneously, but she also dealt with a boneheaded, dog-loving husband who was away from home a lot and failed to see why leaving her home with child and with a puppy was a big deal.

Second, I am a dog lover and do not remember a time when we didn’t have at least one dog, and usually two or more. Our most recent canine companion, a mini Schnauzer named Puck, passed away almost three years ago. The kids and I have been pining, but very carefully not pressing, for a dog ever since. Continue reading