There’s a Reason Dogs Aren’t Called Woman’s Best Friend

That is Gertie. I can assure you she smells every bit as dead as she looks.

“Stupid Gertie.”

This is a phrase uttered at least 12 times a day in our house. 


That one is uttered about 27.5 times a day.

Gertie aka Gertrude aka Stupid Gertie aka Dumb Dog No. 2 is one of our three dogs. She is by far the worst. She acts the worst, smells the worst, is just … the worst.

She’s kind of, but not entirely, my fault. I had just finished PetSmart obedience class with Mabel, our latest four-legged junior resident, when she lunged toward a rescue group perfectly situated by the front door so you couldn’t go in or out without passing the people and adoptable pets. Mabel spotted her Soul Sister, another black Lab mix.

“Her mother was just adopted,” the woman holding her leash said. “She is ALL ALONE.”

She might not have emphasized the last part of that sentence as much as I’m making it sound but that is how it felt. I crumbled. “Awwwwwwwww.”

“Yeah,” the woman said, looking sadly at the dog. “All by herself.”

I went home and told Joe about the dog that Mabel took a shine to and how he should go see her because maybe Mabel needed a buddy.

Because Gertie may be stupid, but I am an idiot.

That was the beginning of the end of our quasi-peaceful existence. And our backyard plants. And our unblemished* carpet. And occasionally our cable service.

Gertie never made a peep the first few weeks she was around. Her brown eyes were vacant, and that was really the only notable quality she had. She was just kind of there.

As the days went by, though, she made her presence known. Boy, did she.

Mabel, who’d always been well-behaved, was now happy to go on destructive sprees with her partner in crime. They had a GRAND time obliterating our grass and irrigation. Destruction continued inside, too. Sticks of butter disappeared off the counter as well as avocados, which are supposed to be poisonous to pooches.

We had had Gertie only a few months when I came home from work one day to find her wedged into a too-small dog house that was missing its roof. I thought it was hilarious. But when I called her to come into the house, she didn’t budge. Which was very on-brand for Gertie, who was not much into obedience or listening. 

I eventually had to round up a teenage neighbor to help me carry that 90-something-pound dog into the house, doghouse and all. When she finally peeled herself out hours later, she dragged her right back leg limply behind her. 

That looked expensive.

It was.

Gertie had snapped her femur somehow, while just hanging out in the yard. The break was so severe the vet guessed she’d been hit by a car. 

Price tag: $3,000. 

She hated being crated and wearing the cone of shame. Her recovery was the longest six weeks ever and when she went back for a follow up — plot twist — the bone that had been cut just below the break had filled in and was pushing against the hip socket because she must have been way younger than everyone thought and was still growing. A do-over surgery was suggested. We chose Option 2, which was keep her fit and trim and thus prevent any issues that might result from too much weight bearing down on that $3,000 leg.

What kind of return on our investment did we get?

Gertie helpfully wiped out the neighborhood populations of birds and lizards, sometimes thoughtfully even bringing them inside. She demonstrated, multiple times, how spot-on her nickname was by getting her head caught in the wrought-iron fence around the pool, whimpering pitifully until someone carefully pushed her head out.

This is a dog who will never, ever, nudge a hand, trying to alert us that someone has tumbled into a well. 

Probably the most useful thing Gertie and Mabel ever did was devour a heavy saguaro arm. 

It was huge; its sheer weight was too much to hold up and so one day during a heavy wind it just plopped right off.

“Now how are we going to get rid of that?” I asked my husband “That has to weigh a ton.”

Turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

I’d come home from work and let the dogs in and when I peeked outside, it looked like the fallen arm had gotten smaller. I went to inspect. There were teeth marks. The dogs thought it was good eating. They chomped it until it was gone. Every last bit.

While it’s hard to choose, I’d say Gertie’s worst character trait is her wanderlust. She escapes every chance she gets. She just needs the slightest opening and she’ll push her way out and go wilding through the neighborhood.

Even at 12 years old.

On Wednesday, for the second time in as many weeks, Gertie muscled past a not-quite-closed carport door and hauled her scruffy butt across the street while I yelled.

“Gertie! COME!”

She stopped and turned her head ever so slightly.

Then she took off in the opposite direction.

For a dog who spends 14 minutes hoisting herself up out of the dog bed when she’s summoned to go outside, she can really bust a move when she wants to.

It sounds bad, but we’ve learned not to go after her. She’s impossible to find and she always comes home. Always. Still, the people in our neighborhood are such sweet, kind souls that they actually try to corral this Chupacabra. She comes home when she’s good and ready and then goes for a dip in the pool.

When she decided to cut short her day trip and limped lopsidedly up our driveway an hour after her not-so-great escape, she had a souvenir with her. In her mouth. It was roughly the size of a deflated volleyball and pale pink and fleshy and possibly innardy, but I was not at all interested in inspecting.


It was a miracle — she did.

Then she nonchalantly brushed past me, making sure to wipe plenty of black hair onto my leggings. 

No. 2 and I stared at the blob on the carport.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I also don’t want to deal with this right now,” I said and decided to leave whatever** it was to bake in the sun until it dried out enough that I could handle its disposal without gagging. 

As it turns out, No. 2 was not happy with The Dead Thing right next to her vehicle and so she shoveled it up and tossed it in the trash. Two miracles in one day.

Moral of the story: Sometimes, it does pay to procrastinate. And also …

Stupid Gertie. 

*Ha ha ha. I’m exaggerating — toddlers wiped out that carpet long before the dogs.

**I was still kind of curious but wanted to keep my distance, so I zoomed in on the piece of carcass, shut my eyes and snapped a pic to send my least squeamish friends and get their take on what it could have been. It’s still a mystery.

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