Loyal Child

My beagle, Maxfield, hurt his leg pretty badly in a rough n’ tumble play date with his best yellow lab friend Tuckerman the other day.

(Those of you who are Unitarian Universalists in the Boston area and remember Joseph Tuckerman may wonder if our Tuck was named for the great 19th century minister but no, it’s just a coincidence.)

Last night I was coaxing Max up the stairs, as I knew he would cry for me all night if he couldn’t sleep in my bed with me. I carried him up the stairs two nights ago and 32 lbs. of beagle plus my bad lower back did not make for a great combo. I knew he could make it up on three legs if he tried but he was acting wiggly and insecure. Then, voila! I remembered my friend Kim’s advice: if you want Max to come to you, get on the ground and cry for him as though you’re hurt.

And so that’s what I did. I flang myself on the floor and called to him. “Max! Max! Help me! I need you!”

I heard little scrambling sounds from below, as though Max were shifting around on his weight trying to figure out how to get started on his long journey on three good paws up the mountain to help Big Mommy Beagle.

“Max! I know you can do it!” I sobbed. “Oh, you’re such a good boy!” I heard thumping as he started his slow ascent. Look, I’m not into animal cruelty but he had gotten up the stairs on his own steam once already that day and I knew he was capable of it.

As I fake-cried and Max made it slowly up to SAVE MOMS in his own private Lassie drama, Miss Ermengarde shocked me by springing into action as a Guard Cat. Bolting down the stairs, she transformed herself into a huge, furious fur ball and rushed Max’s face, hissing murderous threats with her paw raised to smack him.

As I sat up, incredulous, she escalated the hisses into full-throated yowlings, persisting in her racket and pursuing Max with upraised paw until he was back down the stairs and cornered against the door.

You would have laughed once you caught your breath, too, right? I knew she was protective of me but I had no idea just how much. Max is her little brother (and her little bother) and she has no experience of him as an aggressor. And still, she sprang right into battle to protect me from him when she thought I was vulnerable.

After I soothed and calmed both of them (and carried Max up the stairs, of course) it occurred to me: there may be more fierce, protective love working in the world than we know. You never know who may show up on your behalf.

Lord, thank you for those who show up for the vulnerable. Thank you for their fierce loyalty and their courage.


Dearest Erm. My back is a mess today but I’m so grateful for her.

4 Replies to “Loyal Child”

  1. There’s no love like doggie love. How’s our Max doing today? [Sweet boy! Still limping on that leg and I don’t know why. Vet tomorrow. – PB]

  2. PB, I love it!

    And the picture of your loyal defender sitting at the table like she’s having a conversation is just priceless. 🙂

  3. I adopted my two cats, Charles and Allie, three and a half years ago. They had lived together six years already. Allie was very skittish and was afraid that I would SKIN HER ALIVE!!! for the first six months, although she gradually got better. Then, she decided I was okay, and started being fiercely protective of me.

    I was watching Top Chef one evening. Allie was behind me, sitting on the couch, and Charles was on the rug in front of the television. They sent the wrong person home, and I am ashamed to admit that I uttered an expletive at the judges for doing so. Allie looked up, certain that I was yelling at Charles, since he was right there, and raced over and started growling at him and attacking him. I laughed very hard, but felt bad for Charles, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    [Poor Charles! We love Charles! – PB]

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