You’ve Got A Friend (Thank you James Taylor)

by Betty Zubritsky

Anybody who has been keeping up with my Boyfriend stories will probably remember Bare Lee. A monstrous big boy with endless enthusiasm for … everything. The lad wore me out, and I adored him. And though I’m older now, and considerably more frail, I still love the big dumb mannerless brutes. Always will, I guess.

Little Stevie is up there now, launching his enormous self (“Little” Stevie… sure, you bet) into my heart of hearts with all the joy that a dog can muster up. Little Stevie has lots. Mustering is not a problem for him. He is joy, and he is joy in a very big way.

Turnouts.. he’s a nice mild-mannered guy. Waits patiently for his muzzle to be put on, and saunters outside to be among his friends. He does not cause trouble. Of course not. Trouble would be an un-joyful thing, and he will not do that. So he saves up all his joy … for me.

I’m the luckiest person alive. You bet.

Little Stevie loves the individual attention that comes along with race preparations. He is bedded close to my workspace, so he can see me pulling muzzles, opening the cookie jars, setting up my assorted “stuff” on the ledge above my scale. And he knows that if I’m hanging a muzzle above his bed, all he has to do is wait his turn. It’ll come. Yes indeed, it’ll come. And I know it too, and just to save myself I let him be the last one. Because he beats me up. If he were to damage me, I wouldn’t be able to weigh the rest of my card.

Ok honey… here we go. Pop the crate and take 4 steps backwards immediately. Little Stevie is in my arms, and he’s actually getting better about bashing me in the face. “I LOVE YOU LADY!!!!!” Yes, honey, I know. And I love you too and I will love you the very best if you keep all your feet on the floor for me. I hurry to get my fingers under his collar, and guide his body back to a horizontal position. Thank you dear. He drags me to the scale and pounces on it…. briefly. Because the cookie jars are up there on the ledge and he can reach them. I’m quick, for an old broad, and I get him back (again) on all fours. You know the routine, darlin’. He laughs up at me. Stands like a nice boy and allows me to do my stuff. Record his weight, clean his ears, rub my hands over his body and down his legs and check his feet. Trim toenails if needed. He’s really very good about all of it. It’s just the Getting Him Out of Bed part that threatens my life.

It is the same when we go to load him up for his race day. Deb has seen the methods I have to employ, just to get him hooked up and out the door. He’s a brute. But he’s MY brute, and I adore him.

But it’s not over. Oh no. Not at all. Because Little Stevie loves EVERYBODY, and he’s quite sure they all love him too. So now we’re at the scale for the official weigh-in, and there’s a whole bunch of people around for Little Stevie to love very very much.

The leadouts hate him. *sigh*

When leadouts hate a dog, they aren’t always nice to him. I set about to find Little Stevie a friend. I’ve watched this one young man cooing and cuddling his special favorites. They climb him like a monkey, and he allows it. Gives kisses. Holds them in his arms and promises them all the love in his heart. This was my guy. If he would do it… this was my guy.

I handed off Rosie to him. He adores her, and she climbed him like a monkey and he held her in his arms. And I said “I need you to like Stevie for me.” He replied, with a smile as big as Texas, “you got it”.

Bless him, he was true to his word. Whenever I weighed in my monster, I could count on this young man to step up to take him from me. Little Stevie pounced him like a bug, and our new friend just laughed and loved my dog. And in these three weeks since I begged him to “like my dog”, he has been the friend I needed for him. I suspect (but I can’t be sure) that he has even talked the other leadouts into not hating him.

Last night, while I was still Happy Dancing over our qualifiers, I went to pick up Little Stevie from his race. His was the last race of the evening, and I was dismayed when Our Friend wasn’t on the track with Our Boy. But he was busy sweeping and mopping, and I didn’t intrude on his time. I watched my race and I gathered up my dog, and set off to the kennel.

“Stevie!! STEVIE!!!” He could have been in his car, on his way home. But he ran to catch up with us. Held my monster boy in his arms, and cuddled him. “Hey buddy! Did you have fun? You’re tired!” I chatted with Our Friend while he touched and tickled Our Boy, and I felt the sting of tears behind my eyes. Damn, they’re so easy these days. The tears. Grateful ones. Proud ones. Tears of many colors.

Leadouts have a tough job, and they get a bad rap a lot. I’ve had to hand my dogs off to such a variety of people on the other side of the scale, and it scares me every time. Every time. Because for some of them, it’s just a job and all they want to do is get it over with so they can get on their phones. And then I get a guy like this, and it all melts away.

Little Stevie is still a heathen. He still beats me up. I still love enthusiasm and I love this dog with every moment of my soul. It never occurred to me to ask a leadout to like my monsters…. until now. And I’m glad I did. I don’t know the young mans name. I don’t need to. He’s Stevies Friend.