A 10-month-old St. Bernard, while technically still a puppy, is not a small thing. I could see this particular not-small-thing as it wandered around the back area of the wife’s element. Even with the seats folded up, there didn’t seem to be a lot of space for it. The Element shook with the weight of this thing bounding around inside of it, trying to find a way out. The wife hooked a leash to her, then opened the door and let “Darla” out.
During the first few minutes of her time with us both, I tried in vain to get a picture of this dog. I wanted some sort of record of her arrival, but she simply would not sit still. Making matters worse was that I insisted on trying to use my cell phone camera to do the job. It’s great for outdoor shots with lots of light, but not so great when your subject is in constant motion. If she was still, by the time the camera had summoned up the energy to snap the picture, she’d long since moved on. So I just started randomly snapping in the hope that I might accidentally get a good shot. “Darla”just kept moving as fast as she could go and as far as the leash would allow. Meanwhile, our other two dogs, Sadie and Moose, barked ferociously from inside the glass of stairwell window as the new dog ran around sniffing and peeing and pooping willy nilly. She was a giant wiggly, wobbly mess of a dog, and seemed to be composed of mostly legs and tail. She was also terribly skinny, though not what I would call malnourished. The wife said she was pretty aggressive in her eating habits, as though she might not be used to receiving more than one meal a day, but we could train her out of that pretty quick. When we finally let the other dogs out, there was lots of growling and barking and sniffing to be done. Couldn’t say anyone made any fast friends in the first few minutes, nor really for the rest of the night. Moosie drooled a bit. “Darla” didn’t seem too concerned with the other dogs, though.
After introductions has been made with everyone and the new arrival, the wife asked if she could see her present. “Which one? I asked. “You have one on the table, one on a leash and another in the shop.”
“The one in the shop.”
So I led her in to see the horse project, in all its weathered, spattered glory. I led her in with her eyes closed until she was positioned in front of it. I’d turned on all the shop lights to help catch the gold spatters. She then opened her eyes and grinned. She immediately recognized the inspiration and loved what I’d done.
“I don’t know how we’re going to hang it up, it weights 500 pounds,” I said.
We both agreed that my stain idea was probably a good one, which would help the horse shape stand out more and be more in tune with the original inspiration. It would just be a matter of getting some and painting it on.
After admiring the painting a bit longer, we finally left it and headed to the house. The wife’s sister, Amber, who had spoken with one of Maya’s former owners, had explained that the dog had at one point in her life been housebroken. However, she had spent a considerable time outside of anyone’s home, so they weren’t too sure if she had regressed in this training. We soon found out that she had indeed forgotten most of her excretory etiquette. This led to such phrases being spoken as: “Your present just pooped in the kitchen. Happy birthday.”
“We’ve got to do something about that name,” I said. The only Darla I’ve ever heard of was the girl in the Our Gang shorts, and she–at least in my memory–was kind of a manipulative bitch. And while you might think this would make her name fitting for a female dog, it just didn’t sit will in our minds. We were still hesitant to change it if the dog was used to “Darla,” cause why confuse matters unnecessarily? But then again, she was going to have to learn a whole new set of commands that would match up with the ones we’ve taught our dogs already, so maybe a new name would not be that much of a stretch (particularly if it was a better name).
“What’s your name?” we asked the dog. Not that we expected a response, but this is what we usually ask a new animal that comes to us without a name. (Or, as was the case with our cats, inappropriate names–theirs originally being Emma and Dejavu, for male cats. Emmett and D.J. are much happier with their current names, we’re sure.) Asking the pet their name sometimes causes them to give you an expression that might suggest something to you. Nothing great really came to mind. The wife suggested “Clara” as a name. And this might actually be a perfect name for a female St. Bernard if it didn’t come loaded down with the baggage of it also being the name of a character on Doctor Who. I’m such a reknowned Who fanatic that I would have to either own it, or spend all my time explaining that I had not named my dog after the Impossible Girl. (Though Clara: the Impossible Dog did have a nice ring to it.) We toyed with other possibilities and heard more suggestions on Facebook. My mother-in-law insisted that we should call her “Heidi.” While I think it’s a great name for a saint, I already have two friends named Heidi and wouldn’t want to answer the inevitable questions there.
The one name we kept coming back to, though, was a suggestion from my sister: “Maya.” Other than being a bit of a hippie-sounding choice, it seemed to fit well enough. This would be a giant Earth Mother of a dog, and we thought the name would work in that regard as well.
As for how she was received by the other dogs, it was pretty mixed. Moose wasn’t actively unfriendly, but was still cautious about the new arrival. He didn’t drool as much as he did with Amber’s dog Thane, but then again he wasn’t being pursued as a target for rough-housing nearly as much. Plus, Maya was a girl, with all her female bits intact, which he seemed to think was pretty cool. Sadie, however, wanted nothing to do with Maya and would snarl at her whenever she came near. Maya began to bark in return, though usually only when Sadie snarled in proximity to us. We quickly figured out that Maya was trying to be protective of her new people and didn’t like other dogs snarling at us. After a bit, Sadie settled into a pattern of trying to herd Maya, which we figured would be just fine–it would give her something to be active with and might keep Maya in line.
The cats were also a mixed bag. D.J. Kitty, our gray skinny cat, is a pretty decent soul who gets along with our other dogs. Sure, they chase him, but he understands that it’s only because they want him to run, so he just stops whenever they try and ends their fun. Emmett Kitty (a.k.a. “Fatty Lumpkin”), however, while willing to put up with our existing dogs, has let it be known that he will suffer no more and has chased dogs three times his size away and left many a nose scarred. (He actually tried to kill my mother-in-law’s tiny dog, Rascal and we had to literally stitch the poor thing back together with superglue.)
At bedtime, we brought them all into our bedroom. We already had three dog beds in our possession, one of which usually lived in the garage. Dogs were settled on each of them. Moose still preferred to sneak into our bed after he thought we were asleep, but we let him since we figured he’d had a hard day of it, too. The following days would prove to be a real test, not only of Maya, but of me. After two days off and a trip to Kentucky, the wife had to go back to work for a four day stretch, leaving me to ride herd and bucket over the new addition.