Dog Chasin’ Wellies

I have a decidedly non-traditional pair of Wellies standing at the ready in the mudroom. I bought them thinking they might come in handy for messy yard work and muddy gardens. They really have served their intended purpose well. Yet, I have to give them credit where credit is due. Those obnoxious Wellies commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society and covered in pink cabbage roses have really become invaluable in a different way. You see, I can practically jump into them en route to whatever door Stella has exited (sans leash) to chase God knows what through the wilderness that is my back yard.

Stella. Good old Stella. Good thing I like to run…and have a big, loud mouth. I’m quite sure the furry little jerk can hear my calls echo throughout the little valley that houses just a handful of homes. There’s certainly a decent echo here in the neighborhood and when the wind is right, voices sure do carry. That’s a tidbit of information that on occasion one of us forgets as our patient calls of, “Here Stella” turn to angry bursts of profanity laced rage, followed by manic laughter.

Over the summer I heard David, who rarely swears in public let alone raise his voice, spouting such loud and filthy profanity at the dog that my own face turned red. Of course, I headed straight to the window closest to the sounds of his tirade to watch. For me, there’s something hilarious about watching my 6’1″ husband try to catch a 12 pound Jack Russell Terrier who is clearly just having a good time. From my hiding spot in the drapes, I watched as Stella appeared to go to Dave when he called her. As he bent his tall frame toward the ground with hands outstretched, I watched his face brighten and he praised Stella with some crap about being a good dog. Stella however, took this as her cue to dart to the left with the precision of…hmmm, a very fast Jack Russell Terrier. Dave stumbled forward slightly in a desperate stretch to catch her as she whizzed past his fingertips. The momentum pulled him forward but Stella adjusted her sleek little body with a slight cant to the left and another precision turn. He quietly called her a “son of an ass” and straightened his body to full length as the dog stopped short a few feet away. She threw her body into the grass for a breather and with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, she looked like she was smiling. Fast forward about three minutes and 10 more laps and Dave’s quiet profanities have morphed into a full blown stream of not-so-quiet, filthy insults. The dog is still smiling. I’m still in the drapes stifling giggles and wishing I had the video camera.

Stella is yet another in a long line of Jack Russell Terriers. We both had them in our lives long before we even met. Stella is the third that we’ve lived with since we’ve been together. When we moved to Maine and decided to give the dog thing another try we explored every breed OTHER than Jack Russell Terriers. Dave swore up and down that he never wanted another. He adamantly declared that he has had at least one (sometimes four at a time) Jack Russell in his life “for the past 30 years” and “I’m tired of those little assholes.” So off I went on the hunt for the right breed for the Fahertys. My first requirement was no drooling. Second requirement: no breeds with weird health issues. Third requirement: personality…no crotch sniffing, no big lazy loads of fur sprawled across the floors, no long fuzzy hair stuck to furniture, no tiny girly dogs…as the list grew I found myself sneaking a Google search for a breeder of Jack Russells in New England. Google nicely offered up a breeder only 20 miles away. The Jack Russells in her kennel were fantastic. I happen to think there’s no puppy as cute as a Jack Russell puppy, so of course I looked at the breeder’s past litters. I showed Dave because he can’t resist a JRT puppy either. We sat there looking at the photos and reading about the breeder and finally looked at each other. Without speaking, we agreed that we are not suited to another breed. We are Jack Russell people. The following day, I spent an hour on the phone with the owner of Connemara Jack Russell Terriers in Maine. When I hung up, our bank account was missing $350 and the breeder had herself a nice deposit on one of the pups in the next litter.

We knew what we were getting into. We’ve both been here before. We knew that we’d have a biting, chewing, barking, spiteful puppy living with us. We also knew that we’d have a hilarious new friend who would be able to illicit belly laughs often. We knew she would be so smart that her well planned actions would border on sneaky. We knew that we were going to look into those amber eyes hidden beneath a furrowed brow and melt. We knew that we’d be standing in the yard chasing her and yelling profanities while the other stood in the drapes and quietly laughed. We are Jack Russell people. Any other dog would bore me to death. I have come to realize that Jack Russells are the dog version of me. They are funny, spiteful, energetic, sensitive, grudge holding, loyal, snugly, smart and sometimes manipulative. Any other dog just wouldn’t work.
So as I sat on the window seat enjoying a cup of tea and a rare moment of silence yesterday afternoon, I saw a beautiful bird flying by, slightly low to the ground. It flew into the woods next to a stone wall. A nanosecond later, I watched a white and brown blur race by and dive over the stone wall. Stella was swallowed by the underbrush and off on a pheasant hunt. I sighed and placed my tea on the counter. As I jumped into my Wellies, I turned on Cartoon Network for Joe and Gwen (Kate was napping) and informed them that I was off to find Stella. I grabbed the gourmet dog treats that Her Royal Highness loves and the training clicker. By this time, the kids who are now Jack Russell people too, simply threw me a look that said, ‘Godspeed, good woman’ and turned to Tom and Jerry.

Outside in the crisp fall air I began my trek into the forest. I stepped over the stone wall and attempted to tune my hearing in to Stella’s collar. She isn’t a barker, so I have to rely on the jingle of her tags. In the distance I detected a slight jingle and an unnatural rustling of leaves. A squirrel angrily chattered from the same general vicinity so I knew I was on the right trail. “STEEEELLA! STELLA. COME!” Nothing. I shook the gourmet dog treats. “STELLA, TREAT, TREAT.” Nothing. “Goddamn dog”. I climbed over a few logs, slipped on some mossy rocks and then I spotted her. She was snorting around in some leaves and completely ignoring my existence altogether. “STELLA!” She threw me a cursory glance then pounced off, Pepe Le Pew style, after some unseen woodland critter.

Game on, dog! I started running through the woods following the sounds of sniffs and glimpses of white fur. Now we’d managed to emerge near the road and as I ran through the woods in my pink flowered Wellies, I clicked the training clicker and called for Stella. As my neighbors began trickling in from work, one passed by and spotted me running at the threshold of the woods. She slowed and stared at me with a mixture of shock and surprise. I imagine that to her, it would appear that new neighbor woman has chosen to run through the woods in her rain boots while pointing some sort of odd, clicking remote control and yelling at an imaginary creature. I waved at her as if it’s completely sane of me to be traipsing through her woods in my pookie pink boots with a clicker and continued on my jolly way. I lost sight of Stella, but did find the pheasant, nonplussed and pecking at the ground. At least the pheasant doesn’t think I’m bat shit crazy.

Defeated, I gave up and headed home cursing at Stella under my breath. I took the road so I didn’t have to face the neighbor. I just didn’t have it in me to generate small talk aimed at making myself appear sane. Frankly, I don’t think I would have changed her mind. She’d stand there and engage in a polite conversation about the dog…bla bla…when we all know she thinks I’m a scary nut bag. As I walked up the driveway muttering to myself and picking sticks out of my hair, I spotted Stella sitting on the porch waiting for me. As she came running, I called her name and clicked my clicker. By the time she reached me her tail was wagging so hard that her hind end moved with it. She smiled that mischievous Stella smile. “Sit Stella”, I commanded. She sat down immediately. I clicked the clicker and fed her a gourmet dog treat. She walked by my side, followed me into the house and patiently waited while I took off my dog chasing Wellies. Good dog.