Monday, June 1, 2009

Motita (or, Canine Devotional)

When Nick and I decided to shrug the shackles of apartment-dom and buy ourselves a proper home, my heart's instant reaction was to need a dog. NEED. I had suppressed this feeling for a year, out of necessity, but our pending freedom incited me to search out the canine companionship that I had cherished, quite literally, every day since I was born.
The months leading up to buying our house were mostly bleak for me. We were having major roomate turmoil: drugs, sex, catfights, and general scandal. I slept every single chance I got, I gained 20 pounds eating Nick's extraordinary cheese sandwiches, and I was seriously questioning why I had thought it was a great idea to further my education in a career I had come to hate. I was working part-time and going to school full-time, but I stole every spare moment I could keep my eyes open to troll PetFinder for a small adult dog. This little dog was going to be my ticket out of this shithole existance. I cannot tell you how many adorable little Lhasas, Shi Tzus, Poms and mini Shelties I mooned over. I loved each and every one of those precious little furballs, all fluff and moxy. It was too early yet, but I was getting geared up. I knew I would find the right dog-baby for us, if only I persisted.

Then I found her.

We still hadn't picked out a house yet, let alone made an offer, but I knew. And I had no illusions. I could tell that her face was carefully angled, her hair coyly coiffed: something was up with that hidden eye. The particularly gray and hairless belly did not escape me either. Her bio said that she had been rescued from Puerto Rico. I had been to the territory a few years prior, and was appalled at the mistreatment of the animals there. She needed a family with no small children. Our home had some childish behavior, but no actual children, and none on the way just yet. They were looking for a home that had experience grooming Lhasa-type dogs, which I did. She had some food guarding issues: so did my mom's dog Wally, so I was pretty used to it. She had a bit of an attitude. I don't think I would want a pet that didn't. But the clincher: she was a special-needs animal. She had bad skin and would need eye drops and perhaps oral medication for the rest of her life. No one would want this dog because she wasn't perfect. But I wanted her. We were perfect for each other.
This is something weird about me: I don't know much about the stock market, I don't know a lot about antiques or fancy dolls or any of that crap. I don't invest in things that could benefit me financially, or that could offer some kind of security. For me, the deepest satisfaction is investing in lost causes and things that are deeply broken. Maybe I feel a little like that about myself. Maybe I feel I can be redeemed by works. I don't really understand it, but I am irresistably drawn to the things that other people don't want. I want to discern value in something other people consider worthless, even if that currency only carries weight with me.
I had waited a year for my Motita. In some ways, you could say I'd waited my whole life, because she was my first dog. And not only that, she was my first choice. I waited further through several months of house shopping, house buying and moving in. I checked up on her every day, fully expecting some very canny person to have recognized her worth and snapped her up. I would later learn that no interested families made it past meeting her. No one could see past her cosmetic flaws.
As soon as we'd gotten most of our important crap unpacked, I finally contacted Animals In Need about adopting Miss Motita. They wanted a fenced year, which our condo definitely did not possess (it's really an unfenced, inintentional bog). Nick had taken notice of my dog crush, and prodded me to contact them anyway. Well, glory be, they responded! Would we like to meet her? You couldn't hide her from me anywhere, people!
This little girl is so ridiculously important in my life. She's not my dog, exactly, as her heart belongs decidedly to Nick and bacon, not necessarily in that order. Regardless, I cherish her funny little face and all of her adorable mannerisms. I have made many compromises to give her the best of everything. I've dragged Nick, unwillingly or unwittingly, into these compromises as well. Since she's been with us, she's shed most of her food guarding issues, her tiny body has taken great steps to heal itself from its previous neglect, and her clever personality has blossomed. Although she is often sweet and funny, she is such a challenge every single day. Motita is a stubborn, button chewing, zipper dismantling, cat-headbutting, belly rub demanding, bed stealing, foot snuggling (even when your feet are plenty warm enough, thank you), STINKY, intrepid discoverer of the cleanest spots in the house (so she can dirty them up).

I saw a program recently that made mention of the habit, held by many tremendous painters, of reusing their canvases. They would take a piece of art, maybe whitewash it, and paint something entirely new over the top. Sometimes a single work of art would even evolve, over many days and weeks, layer by painted layer. On one hand, this is practical: buying new canvas is expensive, and they can't all be winners anyhow. On an esoteric level, these canvases were given new lives, given a chance to be something great. But regardless of how they look on the surface, the same mundane master's castoff still exists underneath: it's all a facade. It works the other way around, as well, and I have found a great blessing in what most people would consider an unexpected place. It doesn't take a deep mind to realize that neither gods nor men would hide their greatest treasures where one would think to search. What I have is not just a dog, but a witty and compelling companion. She's no lap, leash or yard ornament, and she is certainly no accessory to my life: this girl is front and center, always.
Anyhow, it's late/early, my stomachache has mostly passed, and I am feeling right exhausted. Truckasaurus is snuggled up to my knees, having a hard time getting back to napping between my sporadic ear scratches, back massages and belly rubs. The cat will probably make a big ruckus any minute now, and get Nick up for the day. I should really get to bed.

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