Before we had Bootstrap we were always losing and misplacing stuff. Since Bootstrap has come into our lives we are still messy and absent minded enough to misplace things daily. Before Bootstrap, the eyeglasses, tuners, wallets, checkbooks, shoes, dustpans, game controllers, and cell phones that we distractedly searched for, were always, without fail, to be found where we left them. Since we’ve had Bootstrap, all bets are off as to where we will find our stuff; though the backyard, rain, hail, sleet or shine, is always a good place to start.
There is always so much to keep track of and so much to lose. I have a beat up 100 year old house that will hopefully outlive me and the havoc my dirty dog life has wreaked within it’s walls. I have two almost grown children that have their own trails to break. I still have my husband, barely. I have good Sister, old and happy, with less of her life left to lose than the rest of them. I have Atka, his wishful loyalty and history yet to be told, still a powerful presence in my life and dog yard. I have his always undervalued and diligent half sister, Lia and his hopelessly sweet and willing daughter, Aura. I have beautiful Bootstrap, goofy and wild. I have a garage full of stuff: dogsleds, training rigs, crates and scooters. I have my truck, built special to house the dogs on our journeys. I have my health more or less, what’s left of my mind and my time and patience to play with it all. I have my mother who tries too hard and four younger brothers with their own inventories of hope and loss. I have friends and fellow travelers in my world of obsessive dog training. There is a lot to lose.
The smaller stuff is almost hopeless to keep track of. My own ability to forget, lose and misplace life’s little details is legendary among my friends and family. It’s hard to say just how I came by the almost witchlike ability to make things disappear. My own mother is not forgetful and her mother daily did newspaper puzzles to make sure her mind was sharp up until nearly her 100th year. I have never been able to muster the patience or concentration to complete a newspaper puzzle. My father was astute and careful, raised firmly with the knowledge that the consequences of forgetfulness can be costly. Possibly, my mother has a sister that shares some of my talent for losing and forgetting things. She and I share the trait of walking toed out like a couple of Penguins too, so perhaps we share other dubious disabilities as well.
My Aunt’s most famous act of forgetfulness was leaving her youngest daughter at home in the crib as the family left for vacation, “Home Alone” style. I have left at least one dog at the training center and not been aware of this until I arrived home and couldn’t find him at dinner time. I rarely misplace children at home, but I did lose my youngest in the woods several times. I am still not sure whether that marks my own ability to lose and forget or the possibility of having passed it down yet one more generation.
Unfortunately my husband, George, is not tremendously better. A day does not often go by without,”Raaaaaiiiiiiiiisa!” “What is it?!” I generally shout back from elsewhere in our small house. “Have you seen my tuner?” he implores, an edge of impatient irritation in his voice. I have come closer to where he is at, which is by the desk near the computer, frantically scuffling through piles of old papers and bills. Old junk that was already in a state of semi disarray is now being completely rearranged again. “Did you see it when you cleaned up?” he asks, almost accusingly. I wrack my foggy brain for memory of the last time I picked up anywhere close to where he might have been with his tuner and can’t make any hits. I am also trying to recall exactly what the tuner looks like. I’ve seen it lots of times, but it doesn’t rivet my attention when I do and it looks a lot like a half dozen other remote control devices that populate the two cluttered downstairs rooms of my house. It’s black and rectangular and flat with buttons on it.
Wanting to get out of it, but knowing I am now fated to search for the tuner, I say, “I haven’t seen it,” because unless it is lying on top of all the junk on the computer table, which it isn’t today, I never do unless he’s using it. Then, he pops” THE QUESTION.” It goes something like this: “Did THE DOG take it??!!” In the two decades since George and I have been married we have had 8 different dogs and 2 children. George has had a number of tuners. During the years when the children were toddlers he never asked, “Did THE BABY take it.” Not once. Never. I, of course, am always a potential culprit, supposedly having removed whatever he is looking for in a “cleaning frenzy”. Anyone who has ever been to our home can attest to the ridiculousness of that idea. It was surely me or THE DOG, and until we had Bootstrap, for twenty years of losing tuners and all manner of stuff, THE DOG never took it.
That fact, that the dog NEVER took it, not once, never in 7000 days time, has never prevented George from broaching the possibility, “Did A DOG take it?!” If we have five current dogs, and he loses something almost every day; to be fair we’ll say five times a week, even if this has been just for the last four years since we’ve had four dogs, that alone is over 1000 times he’s asked THE QUESTION. It was as likely that George Clooney had picked up the tuner and walked off with it as one of our dogs. That is, of course, until Bootstrap became part of our household.
Yes, Atka removes dirty dishes from the kitchen sink and slides cutlery under the stove. Yes, Atka has been known to snatch a burger or buttered bagel from the hand of its human counterpart in the time it takes said human to stand up from the table with goodies in hand. He’s bold about these things though, and has never shown even the slightest interest in most of the things we all regularly misplace, from checkbooks to eyeglasses. Yes, almost every pup I’ve had destroys one thing you wish they hadn’t, but it’s mostly things like the kitchen wall, or the car door, not usually objects that move about easily. Yes, though the dozens of baby puppies, before they head to their new homes, have made short work of many a roll of toilet paper or paper towel, have disemboweled a few stuffed toys that were not in the puppy play box, never once in those two decades in a 1000 sq ft house over run with dogs did any dog or puppy EVER take our stuff, the small important things that make the world go round, like car keys, credit cards, and for the kids, game controllers.
Now we have Bootstrap and the rules have changed. I didn’t suspect the rules had changed until one rainy spring evening, just a day or so after the last of Bootstrap’s brothers and sisters had gone to their new homes. Bootstrap was almost three months old. I could not find my checkbook. It is not entirely unusual for me not to be able to find my checkbook. Though some may find this alarming for me, missing things like my checkbook, for a few hours or even a day or two is not a reason for me to panic. I had accomplished the Stage One search of “looking for my checkbook” without it turning up. There was still no cause for alarm. A“Stage One” search involves scouring the computer table, mail cubicles, and kitchen counters with some attention to the bowels of my purse and dog training bag. No checkbook.
I did not even get to my Stage Two search, asking the kids, the husband, and finally digging deep into the crevices in the front of my pick up truck. The later is a task that involves moving everything from gloves, harnesses, hand-warmers, old coffee cups, vet bills, crumpled jackets, hats, and always “Navigator”, the stuffed Coyote that rides shotgun with me everyday, really just other stuff that could get lost anytime. It’s a lucky thing I didn’t get to stage two. If the Stage Two search reveals no result, both Stage One search and Stage Two search need to be repeated before initial panic and Stage Three search begin. It’s fortunate; I had not begun the Stage Two search when I walked into the back yard that rainy spring evening, because it would not have found my checkbook. Since we’ve had Bootstrap, we have additional search Stages added to our household hunts for lost objects.
I don’t recall exactly why I ventured into the yard. It seems that I needed to inspect the dilapidated picnic table that sits just a few feet outside the dog door, off the back porch. The dogs like to jump up on or sleep under the picnic table, but jumping up on it was no longer safe as the boards had come loose, and if one end was jumped on the other would go flying upward. I was headed out to secure the loose end, even if it was only with a couple of fifty pound bags of dirt. As I stepped toward the picnic table, a bit a paper beneath, half buried in wet dirt, caught my eye, none other than my now very soggy and muddy checkbook, devoid of its cover. “THE DOG” took it: Bootstrap.
It had to be Bootstrap. The new kid on the block is certainly guilty without trial as all the others, for years now, Sister for 11 years, Atka for 9, Lia for 7 and Bootstrap’s own mother, Aura, for 3, had shown no interest whatsoever in checkbooks of any kind. Whatever concerns I’ve ever had about the mental stability of family members or myself, none of us was likely to have buried my checkbook under the picnic table. I have to confess now, that I did not share this discovery immediately with my family, but certainly took note that next time George was looking for his tuner, I’d have to take THE QUESTION seriously. Maybe THE DOG did take it. I filed this thought for future use.
Alas, Bootstrap has turned out to be a household kleptomaniac. It seems there are objects he covets, just has to have. We have not had to take Bootstrap to a doggy shrink to determine that the items he covets are always the stuff we seem to value: he steals the stuff we use, that we fuss with. It’s not hard to find one of my high rubber black boots, at least a foot and a half high of hard rubber, in the back yard. The boot is not much worse for the wear either. My dirty rubber dustpan didn’t suffer much for it’s time in our nearly grassless back yard. Not so, for the checkbook, small, muddy and torn, that would likely never have been found had I not coincidentally been headed to where it was buried.
Bootstrap’s kleptomania has added an element of wizardry to our household. I remember in the first Harry Potter book that one of the tricks the wizards play on mere mortals is taking stuff from where they put it, driving people to distraction. Bootstrap is almost in their league. To date, he’s stolen eye glasses cases, credit cards, an assortment of pens, my bathrobe, and innumerable shoes. He’s walked off with game controllers, notebooks, shirts and rolled up socks, one computer mouse and pad, cell phones and mail. He eats mail. If Gideon would leave the door to his room open more often, he would really be able to have the excuse that “THE DOG” ate his homework. Unlike the Harry Potter wizards he has yet to return anything he’s taken. If he does, I will really have a story to tell.
Bootstrap does not really “lose things” though. From his perspective, surely he “finds” them. When taking stock of what we are trying to keep track of these days, what all seems so fragile and likely to slip away anytime, Bootstrap is just keeping his own score. Dogs, or certainly Alaskan Malamutes are primitive creatures. Things found and taken are resources, deemed valuable, as in “he who has the most toys wins” kind of valuable. Bootstrap is not in the game for losing. Though I know that one way or another I will lose him too, someday, I know he is here now to help me find what eludes loss. In the meantime, so long as I can feel that soft head leaning heavy into my chest and see that mischievous look that erupts into a flying fuzz fountain of joy, I’ll keep losing and I’ll keep looking and I’ll keep track of what I can.