Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ode to Fly

Fly is not a pretty dog, but since she is usually in motion, most people don’t realize that. Some strange alchemy occurs through which her rat face, chicken legs, and large, splayed feet become something entirely different when she runs: true, guileless, joyous. Fly’s natural gait is a rollicking gallop – she only trots when on lead or indoors, and rarely, if ever, walks. She hurtles around the park where I take her and Solo, my other Border Collie, to play, and people watch her flash by, a black and white smear of pure momentum, and they smile.

“Wheeeeeee! Yay!” Fly says as she goes. She runs like a kid who hears the ice cream truck coming, white forelegs reaching in great ecstatic bounds, spindly back legs with clown-shoe paws doing an enthusiastic swimmer’s kick, tongue flailing from the side of her laughing, Cheshire mouth. Fly slaloms this way and that, dodging trees, giggling over her shoulder at other dogs, who struggle to keep up, and trying to anticipate where Solo and I will walk next so she can beat us there and hunker down, waiting, waiting. As we approach she does the mental geometry required to predict the next part of our trajectory, and she’s off again.

Fly is innocently humorless: she’ll throw herself with abandon into any sort of fun activity (she’s a fun junkie), but is incapable of understanding a joke, least of all a joke that involves her. Solo loves to tease her, picking up a toy, giving Fly a narrow sidelong glance, and then squeaking the toy for all its worth. This, Fly can’t stand. Her body tenses, she dances, she spins, squeals erupt involuntarily from her. Solo redoubles his efforts. “Squeak squeak squeak squeeeeeeeeeee!” His white teeth flash, his yellow eyes crinkle in an evil grin.

“YARK!” Fly screams, dashes in, and nips away with the toy. (She’s got the most awful bark anyone ever heard. It’s really more of a shriek.)

Any other dog would pay dearly for stealing Solo’s toy, but he merely sits back with a self-satisfied smile and licks his feet nonchalantly. It’s a side of Solo I never saw before Fly came along, and remain grateful to Fly for revealing. Fly, for her part, has no idea she’s just been made the butt of Solo’s joke and settles on the bed with her soggy prize clutched between giant forepaws. Since the toy is not self-animated, it quickly loses its appeal, so Fly decides to leap atop Solo and drag him around by the facial hair instead. He thinks this is just fine. Solo’s got this grin on his face like being dragged around is the best thing ever. They take turns biting each other’s heads. “Now you.” “No, it’s your turn now.” “OK. Ha! I got your ear!”

My silly black and white dog is truly beautiful working sheep. She creeps like a commando behind them, chin skimming the grass, hindquarters in the air, one foot after the other, purposeful, steady. Her white-flecked, prick ears cant forward slightly, like devils’ horns. The sheep, like everyone else who meets Fly, are enthralled, and happy to march along quietly at her command. She is the consummate professional in this milieu. The only token of the headlong girl I live with is the look of maniacal glee she wears on her face as she takes her sheep along.

I call Fly and her head shoots up. “Really? Oh well. OK!” And she comes bounding over, tail flying, oh so pleased with herself. She screeches to a halt at my feet and rolls over shamelessly. I like to make fun of her as I rub her belly. “Oh Fly, poor Fly, ugly Fly. So ugly, look at you,” I croon. “Ratty face. Ugly feet. What good are you? You aren’t even soft.” And she wags her tail.


Fly makes people happy. She makes me happy. She makes Solo happy. How lucky Solo and I are, to have a dog like Fly. Shouldn’t everyone?