His name was Rude Dog, but I called him Rudy. When I came to Indiana 30 years ago, I was newly single, and wanted a companion.
I chose a Black Lab/Pit Bull/Great Dane mix puppy from a co-worker’s dog’s litter of 13. The most relaxing time of the day was holding him while catching the David Letterman Show after my newspaper deadline was met.
Rudy turned into a giant lap dog, always near me, and he went many places with me. I overlooked the tooth marks on my camera, and overlooked the awful howling noises of excitement he made every time he met someone new. I overlooked his eccentricities, just as he overlooked mine, because he was my dog and I was his person.
By the time he had matured, he was about 120 pounds with a thick neck, a big Marmaduke head and a glossy black coat that suggested he should really be some type of show dog, rather than a mutt.
He could run like the wind.
I found that out the hard way many times, because he was an escape artist.
He first escaped the house while I was covering a school board meeting. A fellow reporter called me to report hearing some police scanner traffic about a giant black dog foaming at the mouth running loose in the neighborhood I lived in. Rudy was definitely a drooler, though he didn’t have a mean bone in his body, so I bolted to find him and make sure he didn’t go to dog jail. It’s the only time I have ever left an assignment.
I drove 14 miles to get back to my neighborhood, then cruise slowly through the streets in my 1988 Monte Carlo, until I saw him. I sounded the horn. He was a sucker for a car ride, and I gave him one straight home.
He seemed happy within the confines of my house until he discovered the neighbor’s chickens clucking around. They crossed over into my back yard, and I couldn’t put a damper on his interest in the birds.
Within days of seeing those chickens, he escaped again. I went looking for him, and checked in at my landlord’s business, asking if he had seen him in the neighborhood. He hadn’t seen him, but pointed to a dead chicken on the sidewalk.
I couldn’t believe it, but I found Rudy back at the house, looking for another chicken in my yard. I looped a leash on him and he was on house arrest until the neighbor fixed her chicken fence.
Things were calm for a few months, until springtime. My first house in Indiana was a rental with no central air, but wonderful high ceilings and screened doors. Taking advantage of the air flow was a mistake. Rudy pushed right out the front door to investigate, and went on an adventure.
I stood on the porch, yelling my head off, and he came running back to the porch, into the house — through the house — and straight out the back door.
At wits’ end, I ran out the back door and told Stan, the man who I would eventually marry, that Rudy was on the loose. We kept calling his name and he came running down the driveway. Stan is an animal whisperer, but Rudy wasn’t listening, so Stan dropped to a football tackle stance, ready to knock that dog over.
It didn’t work that way. With 120 pounds of dog momentum, he toppled Stan and made straight for my other neighbor’s yard, to investigate a rabbit hutch.
I was able to capture Rudy by grabbing his tail and yanking him out from under the hutch, much to the relief of the rabbits that were bunched up at the end of their pen.
I swore that when I could buy a home, I’d have a fence, and after Stan and I married, he set a fence for the back yard of my new house. Rudy’s last years on earth were spent taking naps next to me when I was carrying son Drew, and trotting along the back yard fence, watching Stan’s gardening.
Rudy only escaped one more time, finding the garage door open just as I opened the big door. Out he came, but fortunately, when I honked the car horn, he jumped right in for a ride back into the garage.
He was a rude dog, but a good dog. Every dog I have loved has been a good dog.
I had a Rudy flashback earlier this week after Drew left for classes at the University of Southern Indiana.
He didn’t latch the front door properly, and a gust of wind blew it open.
Rudy’s third successor, Newfoundland Gideon, watched in curiosity as the door opened. Before I could get untangled from my laptop to close it, Gideon strolled right outside.
Again, I found myself shouting at full volume, “NO! NO! NO!,” anticipating a wild goose chase around the neighborhood when I didn’t have the time to spare. Gideon already outweighs Rudy, and I’m a lot slower than I was 30 years ago.
But instead of leading me on a merry chase, Gideon stepped back into the house, looking at me like I’d lost my mind.
He came to sit in front of me, and I ruffled his ears, thinking there’s a lesson or three in there somewhere for me: Lock the doors, definitely. Or, I should remember that not every open door is meant for me to walk through. And then maybe it’s just comforting to know that not every big dog will lead me on a chase.