Two weeks ago, when Mike and I went to pick out our puppy, there was only a little boy and a little girl left in the litter that we wanted, and we picked the little girl. But yesterday when we went back to pick her up, Soumontha told us that the little girl had met with an unfortunate accident underneath the wheels of a landrover. The only one left was her little brother.
Her little brother who whimpered and moaned whenever we picked him up, and who let the other 14 puppies walk all over him. Literally. Most of the litter was smaller than our little fellow but I saw more than one of them standing on him and biting his head while he just lay there and cried.
“I think maybe he just need some love,” Soumontha said, a trifle uncertainly, as she looked at the groaning little bundle in our arms.
“What type of puppy is he?” I asked her as an afterthought.
“Oh,” she said. “Mother medium. Father large.”
As we were driving home Mike and I talked names.
We were briefly tempted to name him khao niao (sticky rice), but then I vetoed.
I liked Jabulani (which means happiness in the Zulu language), but Mike vetoed.
“We sure didn’t end up with the alpha of the litter,” Mike said, looking sideways at the tiny, motionless, bundle of fur in my lap. The puppy had stopped groaning, presumably in the hope that if he lay still enough we might forget that he existed.
“Maybe we should name him Beta,” I said.
“Maybe we should name him Zulu,” Mike said.
“He does sort of look like a lion,” I said, laughing, “a very timid little lion. But maybe he’ll turn out to be an African prince after all.”
“Oh, I was more thinking that Z is the last letter of the alphabet and I don’t think he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer,” Mike said.
“He may have been standing last in line when they handed out brains in this litter?” I asked.
“Maybe,” Mike said.
“Are you going to defend yourself against this assertion?” I asked the puppy.
He rolled his eyes back and looked up at me without moving. No, he clearly wasn’t, and Zulu it was.
The first thing he did when we put him down inside the house was to go look for a hiding place. He started out behind the stairs, in among piles of my books (we’re still waiting for bookshelves to be made) and every time I went to check on him during the next three hours he’d somehow managed to worm his way further back into the stacks.
All he did all afternoon was sleep, squeak (he makes the most peculiar un-puppy like sounds), and scratch. I started to wonder whether he might be attachment disordered in addition to everything else. But perhaps he’s not as dumb as we thought he might be, because in light of the three scrubbings and the thorough de-ticking we subjected him to later in the evening his instincts to hide may have been serving him well.
Yesterday, however, after we rolled around on the floor with him, napped with him, sat outside with him, and petted him all afternoon, he started warming up to us.
“We love you,” Mike proclaimed, nose to nose with him on the floor. “You will love us.”
“You might as well give in then,” I advised Zulu. “Once Mike decides to inflict love upon you there’s nothing that can be done.”
“That’s right,” Mike said.
By last night Zulu was wagging his tale and begging loudly not to be abandoned, despite the bottle of water we’d heated up and then wrapped up in a towel to serve as a fake sibling for him. We had to bring the crate upstairs to our bedroom, where at least he slept peacefully until 5am.
“Go back to sleep, Squeaky Z,” I said, when he woke us up this morning by sounding remarkably like a large guinea pig.
Apparently my voice does not carry as much authority as Mike’s, which is why I’m yawing as I write this.
We haven’t yet figured out whether he’ll earn his name for being a princely African warrior of a dog, or a lovable and squeaky dumbo. On the one hand we’ve seen him tumble himself backwards off a ledge and into a pile of stones, and squirm under the door of his crate rather than figure out how to go around it. On the other hand, he’s already toileting outside like a champion (though I guess it’s possible he just lacks the willpower to resist Mike’s enthusiastic exhortations to, “go poo in the grass, that’s the boy!”). Either way, it’s sure fun to have him around.