When Charles Gusewelle first saw Rufus as a pup, he was a mere tangle of orange and white fur. The plan was that he'd be an outdoor dog. But the feisty, inquisitive Rufus decided otherwise, and quickly made his way inside the houseand soon after, inside his owner's heart. The Rufus Chronicle is Gusewelle's moving chronicle of the thirteen years he spent with his devoted, loyal, and much loved Brittany spaniel, Rufus. It is an affecting, unforgettable portrait of the tender relationship between a man and his dog. As Gusewelle so eloquently notes, "Some of us learn forgiveness by studying the lives of saints. And some of us keep dogs. . . ."
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.95(w) x 8.59(h) x 1.00(d)|
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So Rufus, or Rufe as we sometimes call him, spends these summer days outdoors. It's not a hard life. He is fed regularly and well, has a large pan of drinking water kept cool and fresh, and a moderately sized yard to excavate as he pleases, and it pleases him much. He has a couple of nice flower beds to defile.
At night he is allowed to sleep in the bedroom. At first that was only when it rained. Then he began peering through the back door with such expression of bafflement and desolation that we began letting him in every night, regardless of the weather. We'll have to see how that works out.
He's still just a pup, going on 4 moths old but already full of fire and promise - too full of fire to suit the old dog, Cinnamon, who growls at him but does not bite, and whose empty threats have become less credible. He nips at her legs and runs along behind her, her tail in his jaws. He poaches at her food dish and brazenly filches her bones. She looks at us sad-eyed, as if to say: What's this you've done to me in the ripeness of my years? What does it all mean?
She cannot remember herself at that age - chewer of shoes, sly defiler of carpets, relentless bedeviler of the cats. Or if she remembers, she does not admit. The years have filled her up: the children's growing, our history in the house, country weekends and delicious wallowings in mud or worse. Short of wind, overtaken by portliness, she had imagined her life as a succession of tranquil days, enlivened only by her once-daily obligation to announce the passage of the postman, Ernie.
Now, horrifically, she finds herself with a family to raise.
It has been a long time - years actually - since Ibegan with a new pup. Other dogs have come to me, half-grown strays or castoffs, and have stayed to be indispensable friends. Two of those, two beagle brothers, stayed 14 years and saw me into marriage and fatherhood.
Rufus is of the pointing spaniel breed. All the tendencies of both the lines seem to have passed to him intact. He already is pointing a quail wing staunchly, stylishly, for as much as a minute, until, in a victory of temptation over will, he gathers himself to pounce and the wing has to be snatched away. When it's gone, he courses over the grass with a fury, hoping to come upon that beguiling scent again.
That is the pointer in his ancestry.
But he also has displayed an early interest in his water pan - not for drinking from, but for climbing into. The first time we took him to the farm, we left him on the pond bank while we went out fishing in the boat. He raced back and forth along the dam, anxious and whining, then flung himself straight in and swam the 50 yards out to us. Now he has a child's wading pool in which he thrashes happily and from which he retrieves thrown balls with unrestrained delight.
That's the spaniel in him.
Where the crocodile got in I can't say. Much of the time he seems all pink mouth and needle teeth. His world is divided into two categories of objects: those made of tempered steel, and thus not edible. And all the rest.
Sometimes, seeing him at play, it is hard to imagine him ever being of any serious use. but then that evening hour comes, when Cinnamon is upstairs asleep and Rufus and I go out for a few purposeful minutes together in the yard. I give him the quail wing to hold before we start, to remind him of the business at hand. In that moment, strangely, the puppy manner leaves him altogether.
He takes the feathered thing gently in his mouth. An expression of great solemnity passes over his face. I think he is in touch then with the sense of what he is and will be. I think he know the future he contains - of cold mornings and crisp leaves and beddings in the back of cars and the glitter of the birds' eyes in the instant before they burst from the grass.
There are not many things able to tempt a man in middle age to wish the seasons forward, to wish time away. But now, with Rufus, I yearn ahead.