Monday, October 09, 2006

October 9

On 9 October 2002, Hazel squirmed forth into the world, possessing few natural advantages beyond her astounding appetite. Markedly less intelligent than most other Newfoundlands, this 115-pound mound of jollity has made up for her brainlessness by reinventing herself as the life of the party -- grabbing her crooked tail and spinning around the room for no clear reason, beating her absurd pink baby blanket against the furniture, offering sloppy and unwelcome kisses to anyone she meets, and so on. With the dimmest of bulbs illuminating her mind, however, Hazel is an easy mark for the con games of her step-sister Greta, who by hook and crook always manages to steal her toys and rawhide bones. For complicated reasons, she is afraid of the stove and hides in the bathroom whenever it appears that her caretakers are concocting a meal.

In addition to her vacant intellect, Hazel is also an anatomical monstrosity. With an extra-wide ribcage and back legs that stretch two inches or so longer than her front, Hazel's stride is noticeably awkward; when she "runs," she appears merely to be shifting her girth from her back legs to her front. She manages to get where she intends to go, though at somewhere between one-quarter and half the speed of her more athletic and graceful step-sister. To make matters more ridiculous, she appears to somewhat cross-eyed and therefore fails to catch nearly everything tossed in her direction (with the exception of cerealized and compacted meat by-products, otherwise known as "cookies.") Her hips, according to our veterinarian, are "not good," meaning that she will likely cost us thousands of dollars in medical bills during her lifetime. She may someday have wheels for back legs.

Her manners and overall deportment are erratic and undignified. Hazel spends an unusual amount of time cleaning her privities, a habit about which the less said the better. She barks at our neighbors no matter how many times she's met them, and she frightens all our visitors, whom she greets by thundering down the front stairs -- the very flight of stairs she once somehow tumbled down, heels over head, during a particularly active nap. Incapable of listening to the simplest of commands, Hazel has never met a moldering fish carcass or heap of bear scat she didn’t like; lowering her massive shoulders and flipping her skinny legs into the air, she has wallowed in some of the worst smells known to humankind. On at least one occasion, the Wife and I have driven home from a hike with our heads hanging (canine-like) from the windows of the car.

Hazel -- a.k.a. “Beanie Weenie,” “Jabberjaw,” “Hazelpotamus,” “Hazelnut,” “Dumbass” -- shares a birthday with the French King Charles X, the famous mobster Johnny Stompanato, and the communist intellectual and revolutionary Nikolai Bukharin. She is currently living with her third and last family, who would not -- in spite of her many, many flaws -- trade her for anything in the world.