by Betty Zubritsky
This recent stroll through Boyfriend-ville has pulled quite a lot of memories out of the mist. Oh, they’re always there, not out of reach, but often out of mind and I function pretty well. Most of the time. My loves in Kansas City may always be my most treasured, but part of that is likely to rest in the fact that I had them for so much longer. I spent 3 years there, and our romances were lovely, lengthy affairs. And while I was there, I could reasonably imagine those fine boys in my house…. because I had one then.
There were many Boyfriends in Kansas, and their stories are really only mine. PBall and Bam, Huey and Lowie. Lawman, Andy and Goody. And Big.
But the one that will round out my Kansas Boys is the one that …. well, he was The One.
The hauler popped open a door and 2 lovely heads emerged. 2 whole dogs would have too, but the young man is quite good at this and he deftly snagged both collars in his skillful hands. “Here ya go, hon. Got him?” as I took hold of one collar. I assured him that I did and he held his dog slightly back so I could bring mine out. Not that there was any difficulty in the “coming out”. My Big Black Boy launched himself nearly over my head. “Got him, honey???” I’ve come to be accustomed to the concern. I’m not very big and handling these dogs is sometimes a challenge. But my hand was still firmly on the collar and I was still on my feet. So far, so good. The hauler, with the second dog from that compartment, was right on my heels as I took …. actually, as My Big Black Boy took ME .. to the turnout yard.
More dogs, more trips to and from the hauler, and when the transfer was complete I stood out on the patio and watched over my new arrivals. Craig and the nice hauler guy remained inside, sorting out the papers and chatting about whatever trainers and hauler guys chat about. Alone with my dogs, I gazed upon the beauty of them. It never gets old, this first encounter. Those first few moments when they are released from the trailer, and they snuffle about and explore their new surroundings. They trot and prance, they roll in the sand. They make their outputs and investigate every link in the fence. There are rarely any scuffles, and my interference is unnecessary. I just watch them, drink in the fluid movements of their bodies, the curious tips of their heads. Dogs are just plain fun to observe.
This particular haul was one of our earliest ones, and I really hadn’t formed any criteria for Boyfriend Status yet. I’d fall madly for just about anybody. So I homed in on the Big Black Brute that was so much fun to get out of the trailer, and I ran my eyes over him. They lingered on his broad face, his muscular shoulders. He stepped with confidence about the yard, and trotted away from me so I could admire his beautiful butt. Hey! Son, you have no pompoms!
Indeed, he was nutless. It mattered not a drip to his racing ability, and certainly didn’t matter to me for the purpose of Boyfriend-ness. Not a criticism, just an observation.
When the hauler departed, Craig and I set about to match our dogs to their papers, and I learned that my Big Black Boy was named Morfin Gaunt. This was apparently a character in the (then very popular) Harry Potter books, which I had never read. I know, I’m un-American or something. So he morphed to Morph for me, and without any particular reason, I fell in love. Funny how things work out.
Morph was delighted in his status. He would lay his face on my hip and gaze up at me like I was all the world. The I Love You gaze. This was the Boy that went out with me to pick up the yards, and he knew it. Waited by the gate while I bedded the rest of the boys. Would not be distracted. Spoiled rotten, he sure was, and I was perfectly ok with that. His enthusiasm didn’t quite match that of Bare Lee (as if anybody could come close to that), in fact he walked beside me like a Nice Boy whenever I weighed him in. “I’m a-walkin’ with My Lady. She loves me.” The leadouts, however, didn’t have such an easy time of it. My 84 pound Boyfriend dragged them mercilessly to the box. And I’m just enough of a jerk to have found it amusing.
Our scale clerk was used to me by then. We had a dog with a really awful name, one that I just couldn’t make myself say out loud. When I weighed that dog in, I’d declare “Stupid Name”. The clerk dutifully checked his ledger, saw what I was referring to, and gave me the nod. So when I weighed in my Morph, he figured I knew what I was talking about when I declared “Handsome Boyfriend”. Chuckles all around. Betty’s in love.
On a sunny afternoon, I finished up my turnout and popped the gate for my Morph. Time for our little date, honey. He was a very attentive Boyfriend. Didn’t charge around the yard like a lunatic, but stayed quietly beside me as I picked up the remaining plops. “See honey? Rake and scoop, all these little piles have to get picked up. Go along and play now.” But he lingered, rested his face on my hip. Something was on his mind, and I leaned my tools against the fence to give him my full attention. “What is it, darlin’?”
Soft as a butterfly, he took my hand in his mouth.
We strolled around the yard together, just enjoying our special time, “holding hands”. In my mind as we walked, the sandy yard drifted away, and we were on the grassy bank of a stream. Willows waved their gentle fronds, and sunlight glittered through. “I’m a-walkin’ with My Lady, where-ever she wants to go. She loves me.”
I ordered the materials for my fence. I’d already lost GoodBar. I wasn’t going to lose Morph. My friend Jim took him to his farm to wait the couple weeks it would take me to get the job done.
And it’s not at all funny how things work out. The day my posts were delivered, Mr. Grace announced the end of The Woodlands. I scoured the want ads for a job that would support me. There were none. Took 2 part time jobs and still couldn’t scrape up enough of a budget to keep myself alive. Sold stuff. Sold more stuff… and the grim reality just could not be denied. I called Jim.
He and Kate made the arrangements for me. I was too ruined to arrange much of anything. On the night before the haul, I was invited to visit my precious boy, and I didn’t know if I could. And I knew that I had to.
He bounced on his toes when I walked into the kennel. “MEMEMEMEMEME!!! What’s the holdup??” Yes honey, I know. I popped his crate door and he flew into my arms. We hadn’t seen each other in 2 weeks, and his joy was a frenzy. Mine was … well, it was something else, and I took my Handsome Boyfriend out to the yard. Picked up a rake and a scoop, just to have something in my hands. Just to feel normal. Waited silently while he peed. Ran my eyes over him, much as I had done on that very first day. They lingered on his broad face, his muscular shoulders, and then they couldn’t see anything anymore.
He rested his face on my hip. Gazed up at me like I was all the world. I propped my tools gainst the fence.
And he took my hand in his mouth. Soft as a butterfly. Soft as my tears on his sweet head. I love you, son. I’ll always love you best.