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Pet Spotlight: Becky Masterman and Boodle the Bald

Seriously?  You want me to write about my pet instead of crazed killers?  Oh joy.

When I married Fred about fifteen years ago he had a black cockapoo named Raven.  He loved that dog so much that my sister commented she was glad we moved across the country to Arizona because she wouldn’t want to be in the same state when it came time for Raven to die.  Sure enough, when Raven passed on Fred took it hard for a year.  Luckily, as an episcopal priest he was busy as interim rector at a church until they found someone full-time.  But then what?  No work.  No dog.  

Ever the Fixer, I signed up for Arizona Poodle Rescue, and found several adorable dogs, but they were taken by the time I called.  On about the fourth try I saw a dog who was currently residing in the shelter in Casa Grande.  In his photograph Boodle was wearing a red kerchief and didn’t look like he’d win any contests, but I’d grown desperate.  Fred only had a week to go at his post at Christ the King.  My husband’s happiness was at stake. Losing no time, I called the shelter and screamed, “Hold him!  I’ll be there in two hours!”  If they thought I was dangerous, they were polite enough not to say so. 

Picking up a friend on the way I high tailed it to Casa Grande and told them I’d like to see the dog.  After being led into the hellhole where the barking sounded like the cries of the damned  Isaid I might even take two.  While I sat on a bench they brought out Boodle, who stood placidly tolerating the other dog’s fascination with his privates.  The other dog looked more like a chupacabra.  I backed down from taking two dogs, and to this day hope that someone else had a warm spot for hideous mythical creatures.  

I got home and introduced Boodle to Fred who was sitting on the couch.  “Surprise!” I said.  Boodle and Fred stared at each other, a little too warily, I thought.  Ever honest, somewhat to a fault, Fred said, “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”  My heart sank.  For the first time I thought, what if they didn’t bond?  Why did I always think I knew what was best for other people?  Why?!

As I imagined myself driving poor Boodle back to Casa Grande to be some chupacabra’s bitch, something miraculous happened.  Boodle, who had maintained his quiet composure during the long ride home, jumped on the couch, grabbed the front of Fred’s shirt, and yelled, “Raven Shmaven! Ain’t nobody ever loved ya like I’ma gonna love ya!”  Okay, maybe my memory embellishes, maybe that was mostly expressed in terms of face lickings, but you get the idea.  And Fred was won.  Over the past four years he has complied with Boodle’s requirement that we never go to the store without coming home with a toy.  He prepares Boodle’s lunch, kibble with a splash of unsalted chicken broth (fifteen seconds in the microwave).  He ensures daily couch time and chases the ball (that’s exactly what I meant to say).  And when I’m leaving to visit the kids in Austin he and Boodle stare mournfully at me with what I swear are identical expressions.  “Bad Mommy is leaving us alone again,” he says.  Did I mention bonding?

It’s amazing how you might have broken relationships behind you, or people die, or you could be abandoned by your human companion and wind up in a shelter, but life can still get better instead of worse. You just never know.  As I take Boodle for a walk, watching his tail whip back and forth like a furry metronome, I sing to him.  If you don’t know the melody, you can find it on you tube by searching oh you beautiful doll and sing along:

“Oh, you beautiful dog, you great big beautiful dog,

There is not a pooch that’s finer, that humping thing you do is minor;

Oh, you beautiful dog, you great big beautiful dog,

Round the block we’ll troop, when you poop I’ll scoop, I don’t even mind it when you steal my chicken soup;

Oh, you beautiful dog, you great big beautiful dog.”

There are a few things that might affect this otherwise idyllic picture of life at what I call Masterman Monastery.  Boodle continues to cross the street whenever he sees a white truck or an open garage door, harking back to some trauma.  His bark can vibrate your fillings.  

Also he has lost his fur.  

Not all of it, just along his two sides between his front legs and back he’s quite hairless.  It happened slowly over the past few years and no tests show anything that can be fixed.  This occasions the oft repeated, hoping they’ll believe us, “He’s not contagious, he’s just bald,” whenever Boodle runs gleefully during his walks to greet another neighborhood dog.  It troubles Fred enough that he has recently made an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist to ask if there’s a safe doggy Rogaine we can use, or get him into a Hair Club.  

But what Boodle teaches us is the extent to which he doesn’t care that he looks like he’s mangy.  Dogs don’t feel sorry for themselves the way humans do.  Confident in his unique perfection since the first day he entered our lives, there’s only a joyful zest for whatever This Day brings;  there’s no self-pity in that dog.  You could try to body shame him and all you’d get in return is a grin.

We’re all a bit dinged-up, aren’t we?  When, after a shower, I look in the mirror at the age spots that are proliferating on my tum of all places, or notice that my hands appear to be covered in wet crepe paper, instead of mourning the progression of life I go lie down on the bed and let Boodle roll in my wet hair as if I were a dead bird.  At least I’m not a dead bird.  And we both laugh.

Becky Masterman’s fourth book in the Brigid Quinn series, We Were Killers Once, is available now.  Retired FBI agent Quinn shares her home and husband with a couple of pugs, but key to an otherwise serious thriller that reimagines Capote’s In Cold Blood is a three-legged schnoodle named Achilles.