I’ve got a dog named Rufus James. A terrier mix. Showed up Dec. 26, 2004, in my Northeast Georgia lawn. Sat down on my foot. That’s how I got him. He wore a tattered, camouflage collar; was covered in scabs. My dad still thinks he was turned out for killing chickens. I still think my prayers were answered with Rufus James. For a long time, I’d believed that when I was supposed to get a dog, a dog would appear. Now, when people in Raleigh stop and pet him and tell me how cool he is, I look down at Rufus James and say, “That’s my dog.”
He bit a guy once–an old mountain man outside Harrisonburg, Va.–while I was visiting a friend who lived on a cow farm. The guy came over the cattle gate and startled me. Seeing this, Rufus James calmly put a four-inch gash across the back of the guy’s knee. We had to go to the emergency room–with Rufus James riding in the back seat. I paid for the antibiotics.
Another time, Rufus James got into a stray cat. Another time after that, he spent 45 minutes chasing geese at Meredith College. Then, on the car ride home, he panted and stared at me so intensely that I really believed he was thankful for being rescued and for being allowed to pursue so many geese. But, a couple nights later, I doubted this when he used a 2 a.m. break to stroll recklessly through my neighborhood–ignoring my calls, off-leash.
Maybe it’s not too much of a surprise that I’m looking for a good home for Rufus James. Right now, I’m a grad student at N.C. State, and I’ve realized I can’t keep him. Between school and work, I find time for one 30-minute walk a day. I come home and ask, “Have I fed you yet?” Last month, I gave him his heartworm pill two weeks late. But, he still puts his head in my lap. In June, I leave for an internship in Massachusetts.
If you know someone with an enormous back yard, won’t you tell him about Rufus James? He’s a leaner, not a licker; barely barks; mostly lays quiet on the floor, except when we wrestle. He’s housebroken; he doesn’t do his business all over the place. And while he’s growled at strangers twice during this whole year I’ve lived in Raleigh, there’s only one person he truly doesn’t like: I think her name is Mary, my across-the-street neighbor. Mary says things such as “Y’all look like you just woke up” when we emerge from my house at 11 a.m. Hearing this, I always say, “Good morning.” Rufus James just turns away.
I can’t believe I’ve got to get rid of him. But there’s a reason his last name is “Dog”: i.e. he found me, I didn’t go looking for him. All I did was get his nuts chopped off, nurse him through kennel cough, give him my old sleeping bag for a bed, and bring him with me here, to the city. We’ve had some big times, but this isn’t the best situation for Rufus James. When I see him running in his daydreams, I’m pretty sure he’s headed back to the country.
(Jack Christian can be reached at email@example.com.)