ode to laika
April 6, 2009
A couple years after Kim and I got married, we moved into a terrible, rundown, little pink house in a swanky area. Like I’ve mentioned, this swanky area had some stinky holdouts, like the house we were renting, and the house to our south.
The house to our south housed a family that had lived in the Provo Riverbottoms for generations, probably in this same house, which had been additioned to death, including my favorite house edition, making the garage a room, but not getting rid of the garage door. Love that. Wish I had a picture.
These guys had a horse or two, and a large pen in the lower backyard where they housed a couple dozen geese. Who keeps geese? Are goose eggs yummy? My dog Laika educated me on why geese are good to keep.
Kim and I didn’t have kids the first couple years of marriage, since we figured we should get to know each other a bit first. But after a year or two, we knew each other sufficiently to experiment a little. Not like that. We wanted to see if we were ready to have kids. So, of course, we got a puppy.
I guess we expected hinky kids, because we got a hinky dog.
I had never had a dog. Ever. I wish someone had told me not to get a Siberian Husky, but I was overwhelmed with those cold steel blue eyes. We named him Laika after we watched My Life As a Dog, where the kid keeps wondering about the Russian space dog, Laika. He figures his life, as hard as it is, never gets as bad as Laika’s, since Laika was sent into space to die. Which seems a healthy way to look at life.
Anyway, we probably would have been better off if we had sent our Laika into space to die.
Despite our dottering love, Laika ran away constantly. Our “yard” had only rudimentary fencing, which I continually reinforced with chicken wire, but Laika would find a way to squeeze through the small holes, like a mouse. I don’t know how many times someone called us and said “hey, I think I have your dog.” We’d go pick him up, thanking the finder, who would invariably say “he’s sure beautiful.” Yeah, whatever. Thanks a lot.
The crazy neighbors had a little boy who thought it was funny to open the gate to our backyard and let Laika out. I hated that boy. I still hate that boy. Maybe I’ll use Facebook to find him and tell him how much I hate him, like the reverse of people looking people up on Facebook to apologize. Like that.
One late afternoon, middle of winter, that kid opened the gate, which I know, because, well, the gate was open. It was dark and snowing, so I got a flashlight and followed Laika’s tracks. You know. Like an Indian tracker.
I followed the tracks with my head down until they descended into the neighbor’s back yard when it became pretty apparent where they were headed–the geese.
Laika and I saw each other at roughly the same time. I shined the flashlight on his face, from which hung the neck and body of a big plump goose. Still squirming. Laika smiled at me (I swear), gave the goose a solid shake to kill it, and immediately chased down another one.
As I swept the flashlight around to follow him, I saw the carnage of about a dozen already dead geese. He wasn’t eating them or anything–he just liked grabbing them by the neck and killing them. Woo hoo.
He managed to kill 2 or 3 more before I got hold of him.
It turns out the neighbor kept geese because there is a market for stuffed geese, which people then hang from their ceilings like Lego space ships, or mount on mantles. I know this because when I went to apologize, he invited me in to the living room, where he had a stuffed cougar raised in attack position, a bear’s head above the fireplace, and several huge stuffed geese hanging from the ceiling, like a flock heading south. Except they weren’t. Heading south.
Also turns out that he used to sell those stuffed geese for $25 each. All told, Laika killed about $300 worth. At a time when I was making about $18,000 a year.
Turns out having a dog is WAAAY better in the idea than the execution. Like a lot of things I guess. You know. Cold Fusion. Unprotected teenage sex. Multi-level marketing. Sarah Palin.
The next time Laika ran away and nobody called, we just called it good. Kind of like sending him into space.