Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Dog Who Could Have Been

We first met Bella, a lovely smooth coat Jack Russell terrier, in our veterinarian's office during one of our many visits with our poor, chronically ill, miniature schnauzer, Cleo. My daughter instantly fell in love with Bella and, as luck would have it, Bella fell in love with my daughter. Whenever we had to make a visit to the veterinary clinic, we had to pay a visit to Bella too, as the clinic kennel was Bella's home away from home. She was (and is) one of Dr. Bill's own dogs. And last summer, for a very brief time, she was also ours.

Cleo was my daughter's special dog, and unfortunately she was a dog with myriad health problems. We knew that her life would be cut short, and sure enough last spring, just past her ninth birthday, Cleo had to be euthanised. Her death left a gap in our little pack and a hole our affections.

We had often joked with Dr. Bill that if he ever wanted to get rid of Bella, he knew who would take her, seeing as the dog and my daughter had hit it off so spectacularly. He told us that he had always wanted a Jack Russell and when he found one that was returned to its breeder in a divorce case, he jumped at the chance to adopt it. This was how he came to have Bella. Dr. Bill really liked her, but as time wore on it became obvious that the dog did not feel the same way. Not that the animal was hostile to him. No, in fact it was worse than that. As anyone who has experienced unrequited love will tell you, active dislike or hostility is at least something. The opposite of love isn't hate: it's indifference. My vet found himself in an unfulfilled, emotionally lopsided relationship with his dog. Naturally, he began to wonder if perhaps she would be happier somewhere else. So the next time we had business at the clinic, we came home with a Jack Russell terrier.

It started with the rabbit. Our pet rabbit Jasper, who completely lacks a fear of dogs (he must not have received the "prey animal"memo), looked on with placid amusement as this new deranged animal danced, yapped, bounced and snapped at his cage over and over again. She seemed never to tire of it, despite our repeated scoldings and corrections. A dwarf lop-eared rabbit and a Jack Russell in the same house was an accident just waiting to happen.

Then she fixated on our cats. First to catch her eye were the barn cats, and when she had succeeded in thoroughly terrorizing them, she turned her attention to our house cats. I knew that Jack Russells had a reputation as persistent hunters and could be problematic with animals of the feline persuasion; but, as Bella was already accustomed to living in a multi-cat household, and as Dr. Bill had assured me that she showed not the slightest interest in his cats, I didn't think this would be a problem. I could not have been more wrong.

The pursuit of our cats both indoors and out quickly progressed from an irritating game to something considerably more sinister. We were unable to correct Bella's behaviour because, quite simply, we couldn't catch her in the act. Hell, we couldn't catch her period. She was greased lightning on four legs, a white and tan Jack Russell whirlwind. Chased upstairs, downstairs, over the sofa, under the bed, up trees, and under the porch, our cats eventually became so panic stricken that they went into hiding. Obviously Bella couldn't stay. Even my daughter, who loved the dog, was not willing to sacrifice the life of one of our cats. Shortly thereafter we returned Bella to Dr. Bill. And do you know what? She was HAPPY to see him!

What's on the Easel

I couldn't send Bella back home without immortalizing her, now could I?

Bella Looks Up - painted paper collage on panel ©2010 Alyson Champ
In the collection of Dr. William Johnston.

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