‘Sasha, the dog with the 38-inch neck’
First, let me firmly establish, for you all Animal Lovers out there, that I am also one. An Animal Lover. When I was growing up in the Midwest we, like everyone else we knew, had not only a yard with plenty of room for pets to roam, but remarkably animal-tolerant parents.
Through the years, we not only hosted dogs and cats of all stripes and dispositions (including one dog named Horrible because he was, in fact, ‘horrible’), but also turtles and rabbits and some guinea pigs who disappeared from their cages and were never seen again. Oh, and some guinea hens my brother Roger brought home from a sleepover. (They lived in the basement, roosting on the water pipes.) My Mom and Dad even tolerated reptiles (a couple of chameleons and an iguana named Cleopatra), probably because they didn’t last very long.
So. Now that we’ve set the pro-pet record straight, let me tell you about this dog.
The Dude and I hadn’t been married all that long. We were in that stage where you’re getting to know each other’s Friends From Before. One of the Dude’s was this guy named Gerry. They’d bonded while training together as ophthalmologists. We’d met them for a wild evening at Regine’s once, but this was the first (and, as it turned out, the last) time Gerry and his wife Mary (they later divorced; I am convinced it’s because their names rhymed) invited us out to Connecticut for the weekend.
We decided to go. After enjoying a pleasant drive in the ole VW Rabbit, Connecticut being a pretty state and all, we were pulling up to their house when we noticed two things: a very big ‘Beware of Dog’ sign in the front yard, and a wildly gesticulating Gerry standing on the front step.
‘Pull into the garage!’ he shouts. (This is, of course, in the Days Before Cellphones, which is why he has to shout at us instead of just texting.)
So, we do. We pull the VW Rabbit into said garage. We’re just about to open the car doors and get out when Gerry appears again, this time at the back door (which opens, natch, into the garage). This time, though, he has what looks like a small pony by his side. Except that the ‘pony’ is growling. Really loud. And slobbering.
Omigosh. It’s a dog. The biggest dog I had ever seen in my then-30ish-year-old life. I found out pretty soon that this dog was an English Mastiff (photo above courtesy Wikimedia Commons). To give you some idea of how big this dog was, she had a 38-inch neck (neck!) and weighed 185 pounds. Oh, and Sasha, since she was a she, was on the small side for English Mastiffs.
Okay, so Gerry is holding this snarling dog by the collar (and Gerry was not a big guy). Every hair on this dog’s body is standing up in alarm. So then Gerry tells us that Sasha has been trained to attack anyone and everyone who comes in by the front door. Which is why he had us drive into the garage. (Gee, thanks, Gerry.) Then he says that thing that owners of snarling huge dogs always seem to say: ‘She’s really very friendly.’
But then he adds ‘Don’t try to pet her.’ (Oh darn. And I really really wanted to do just that.)
Right about now the Dude and I are wondering if we’re going to be spending the rest of the weekend in the garage, sleeping in our car. But Gerry shows us how to Make Friends with Sasha. He grabs each of us, one on either side, and starts kissing us with loud resounding smacks. ‘Say her name’, he instructs, ‘and smile!’ So we start going ‘Sasha! Sasha!’ as the dog in question keeps snarling and growling and Gerry keeps grinning and kissing.
After a while, the hackles go down and so does the growling, so we finally enter the house. We say hello to Mary (who is as tiny a woman as Gerry is smallish as a man), we accept a drink (you bet). And sure enough, Sasha starts to ‘make friends’. This friendly behavior consisted of sitting on my feet (all 185 pounds of her) and licking my face with her, like, 10-inch-wide-and-very-rough tongue (her head is at eye level with mine while I’m seated on their couch).
Here I must pat myself on the back and say that I was an extremely good sport, especially since Sasha took a liking to me, bounding after me in the back yard (I swear you could feel the earth vibrate), and following me all around the house. I’d hear a little whine then feel a very big nudge of her huge noggin because she did, in fact, want me to ‘try to pet her’.
Okay, we get through dinner (you wouldn’t believe how much kibble that Sasha could take in; I faint to imagine her output), engage in some pleasant, though interrupted-by-slobbering conversation, and before you know it, it’s time for bed.
We’re saying goodnight when Gerry asks for our used underwear. Both of ours, the Dude’s and mine.
Gerry explains that Sasha, since she has essentially been trained to attack any and all strangers, needs to sleep with our used underwear so that she will recognize our scent in the morning and not maim and/or kill us.
Ho-kay. I was just glad I had listened to my mother, who always said to wear nice underwear ‘just in case’. I think, though, that she was thinking more along the lines of ‘in case’ of an unfortunate traffic accident, and not ‘in case’ a killer dog needs to sleep with them.
Yes, we did fall asleep. Dealing with giant pets is pretty exhausting. But, sure enough, in the middle of the night I am awakened by hot breath in my face and the sensation that someone or some thing is staring at me. I open my eyes and see that Sasha, my new Best Animal Friend, is standing over the bed (and me), whining. It’s pitiful, or as pitiful as a 185-pound animal can be, so I hiss ‘Wayne…Wayne!‘ (that’s the Dude’s Actual non-blog Name) ‘Go get Gerry. And hurry!‘
Wayne manages to slip out without attracting hostile attention from Sasha, and gets Gerry. Who is all apologetic and explains that Sasha has many fine canine qualities but isn’t a highly intelligent example of her breed, and sometimes gets into rooms and then can’t figure out how to get out of them.
Okay. Glad we got that straightened out, Ger.
Well, we were actually supposed to stay longer, but we cooked up some Lutheran Lie and got the hell out of there the very next day. And never went back (duh). Oh, and remember that I mentioned that Gerry/Mary got divorced? They actually fought over who would get custody of Sasha. And by that I mean that they both wanted her.
I’m going to go pet Wombat now.
New York City. October 2014