People adore hearing about dogs. All these tales are about lovely fluffy dogs whose owners like to dress them up in various fancy outfits, take photographs with them in automobiles and on walks, and create humorous photo stories. This will not be the case in this specific narrative. In fact, this one isn’t really about the dog. Read the story to know what the story is all about.
So y’all keep blowing up my notes with the various Family Lore stories I’ve been telling, so I guess I should tell one on my parents now.
My Mother’s Father was part of the United Auto Worker’s Union, and during the 50′s and 60′s, was on strike a lot. My point is, grandpa got himself an entirely deserved reputation for being a sucker who loved animals, so people would dump thier pets on him. Hence, my mother grew up in a house with pets such as Picket the one-eyed tomcat, Tweety the Bald canary, Dummy the cat, Stupid Son of Dummy, Spooky Garbage Dog and Chiquita the Tarantula. Eventually Grandma put her foot down when Grandpa brought home Gerta the Saint Bernard.
I say all this because it provides some context for how the following occured.
Mom and Dad had just moved in together (my parents dated for six years and were engaged for 13 days, driving everyone on both sides insane), and unfortunately, My mother’s German Shepherd, Cops, has just passed away due to bone cancer. After mourning for a bit, Mom and Dad decided to get a dog together, as a couple.
For context, my father had never owned a dog in his life. His mother had ‘Pretty Bird” the budgie as a child but parrots are alien life forms, not pets.
So they go to the Palo Alto Animal shelter to adopt. The year was 1987, and at the time, Palo Alto was… not a great place. Lots of drugs, gangs and poor civic managment. Mom told me that she learned to identify different types of gunfire while living there. They get there, and mom explains that she’s always had a preference for Big Dogs, and the guy’s face lights up. Oh Yes, he says, We have a Big Dog. For expirienced owners, yep, adoptable today, here we’ll give you a discount even-
Somehow my parents were not suspicious about this.
They were shown to the Animal in question, a Gorgeous blue-sable beastie with pretty golden eyes who immediately pressed herself against the fence and gave them the best PUH-LEEEEEEASE TAKE ME HOME puppy eyes 100lbs of canine can do. Mom and Dad fall in love instantly. They sign all the paperwork and take her home for $10, and name her “Mazel” as in “Mazel Tov.”
Within the hour, it becomes clear that something is amiss.
Cops had lived with his kibble stored in a plastic garbage can in the garage for six years without incident. Mazel figured out how to open doors and got the locking lid off the can in six minutes, horking down about four pounds of the stuff before my mother notices that it’s been weirdly quiet. Most dogs bark at or chase squirrels.
Mazel stalked and caught one the second day, presenting it to my mother like an offering. Mazel knew all her commands but would clearly stop to consider before obeying, and trained my dad to give her good treats within a week. The locks on the side-yard gate were undone, and she took a stroll around the neighborhood, but always retuned home for dinner.
After a week of gradually realizing that Mazel was smarter than most of the professors my mom worked with, they took her to the Vet for a routine checkup.
Dr. Hamada walked into the exam room, dropped the clip-board and said “Where the HELL did you get a Wolf?”
After a bit of prodding and a very-angry-dr.hamada-calling-the-pound, they determined Mazel was a high-content hybrid, probably with a husky, but was going to be a lil sh%t her entire life. OK, said Hamada, I don’t like destroying animals and you’ve got a lot of expirience with dogs, so I’m okay with letting you keep her, but you should keep her away from small children because her Prey Drive could kick in.
Two years later, mom got pregnant with me.
Mazel noticed instantly, and reacted by digging a large hole in the yard and catching even more squirrels for mom, because she needed the protein or something. That what you do when the Alpha B%tch is preggers, right? Dig a den and ply her with food? On the advice of my grandmother, my mom stayed overnight at the hospital once I was delivered, and dad went home with a shirt that had moms and my scent on it. Mazel spent the whole night puzzling over it.
The next morning, when mom came home with me, there was the sudden and instantaneous recognition of PUPPY!!!!!! :D:D:D!!!!! PUUUUUUUPPY!!!!!! and Mazel turned into the most aggressively maternal being I’ve ever met. Playing with me on the blanket, sitting under my chair at meals (I was a messy eater), sleeping under my crib, teaching me to walk by letting me hang onto her fur and shuffle around.
Dr. Hamada thought mom was a madwoman, until he saw me holding Mazel’s mouth open and sticking my face in so i could look at her teeth. He gave up when my mom announced she was pregnant with my sister.
I’m making living with a Wolfdog sound awesome, but it did come with some drawbacks:
- Mazel did have to be muzzled at the vets, because she had Opinions about having things stuck up her butt.
- HAIR. One of my chores growing up was to brush her out every week and I’d frequently end up with more hair than animal.
- the only way we could reliably get her to stay in the yard was with an overhead tether with a STEEL cable, which she chewed through anyway.
- Do you like waking up by being hit in the face with half a dead animal? No? Wolfdogs may not be for you.
- More than capable of opening the fridge and eating everything if you’re not watching
- Will get into everything if not otherwise occupied. Including eating your tax forms.
- Howls along with sirens at 4 AM.
PROS of growing up with a wolfdog, as a small child in the 90′s
- I was afforded a degree of freedom normally associated with a pokemon trianer. It was no big deal for me and my sister to walk three miles through my not-really-good neighborhood to the Froyo if I took Mazel with us. People tended to leave us alone when we had 100lbs of overprotective Apex Predator following us around.
- WINNING at Pet Day at school. There wasn’t actually a compettion but Billy’s hamster sucks in comparison to an animal that is perfectly willing to demonstrate how she can snap an oak branch in half on command.
- PTA moms losing their sh%t because Mazel would walk down the block by herself to come pick ups up from school.
- Grew up associating the word “B%tch” with teeth and the willingness to rip an a%&*ole’s face off for being rude. Never changed the definition.
- Learned the I-Own-This Strut and Murder-Stare from the absolute best.
When she was 17, Mom and Dad decided to add another room on to the house. They rigged up the overhead tether so she could be outside but not underfoot for the contruction guys. One morning, mom came out to notice them all milling in the side yard entrance, muttering worriedly. When mom asked what was wrong, one of them explained that Carlos forgot to bring the Hamburger. What do you need a hamburger for? Asked mom, and they pointed down the side yard to where Mazel was sitting, doing her best Viscious Alpha B%tch Stare.
Apparently they’d never realized that she was on the VERY end of her tether there and couldn’t actually get to them, and had been scamming them for a big mac a day for a month. Mom had my six-year-old sister pull her away to show she wasn’t dangerous and tired her best not to laugh but kind of failed.
Mazel ended up living to be 19 and a half, and except for some minor arthritis, remarkably hale until the day she passed away in her hole in the back yard while taking a nap. I maintain that Death had to wait until she was sleeping to get a crack at her, or she would’ve taken his scythe for a chew toy.