In which my dog fails to protect me

I didn’t buy a dog for protection. Which is a good thing, considering Buddy is a big wimp.

Maybe that isn’t fair. Buddy does have protective instincts. We just have very different definitions of what constitutes a clear and present danger to the family. For example, based on the tenor of his barking, Buddy is unable to meaningfully distinguish between teenagers walking to school in the morning and a horde of Vikings intent on pillage. Now, in fairness to him, there are some passing similarities between those two groups, but overall, I do not feel threatened by the neighborhood teens.

Then there’s the issue of wildlife. According to Buddy’s deep canine instincts, the chickens next door must die but the snake that appeared in my living room should be given a wide berth. That’s not a hypothetical situation. We really did come home to discover a baby rat snake curled insolently on the hardwood and I am here to tell you that the dog was absolutely no help. He was clearly terrified and barked frantically at it, but I was the one who had to trap the danged thing under a Tupperware container and relocate it to the front yard.

Thanks for nothing, dog.

As a single woman, I sometimes find it comforting to have a dog in the house, particularly on nights when I find myself home alone. Other times, my furry companion actually has the opposite effect on my sense of well-being because he has a tendency to look intently at nothing or suddenly perk his ears up at sounds I cannot hear. There is nothing quite so apt to kickstart an overactive imagination than seeing the hackles on the dog rise for no apparent reason. What does he hear? What does he know? Is there or is there not an axe murderer in the garage?

Truly, though, I am not afraid of axe murderers or masked burglars or any of the other ‘bad guys’ that might be frightened off by a dog. I love my dog, but to be honest, the things that I am afraid of are beyond his purview.

I am afraid that my son will fall off his skateboard, hit his head, and die. The sight of him zipping along the road causes my heart to clutch every time. More so now, as I grieve alongside a friend who lost his son to that exact accident last week.

I am afraid that, despite my best efforts, my daughters will succumb to the swirling cultural messages that their value is in their beauty and their sexual availability. I am afraid that they will wake up one day and look in the mirror and see nothing but flaws and imperfection instead of the strength and confidence and power I see and love.

I am afraid that a drunk driver will cross the center line on a country road. I am afraid Ruth Bader Ginsberg will die before the next election. I am afraid that if the world ends up looking like the nightmare dystopian fiction I sometimes read, my utter lack of basic survival skills may be a problem.

Wait. Having a dog might come in handy in a post-apocalyptic world. Whew. Okay, I can move that one further down the list of things to keep you up at night. Buddy’s proven ability to hunt will become an asset rather than a liability if the world collapses. Until then, I’ll enjoy his companionship – and I will protect him if any more snakes come to call.

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