By the time my backside grew to epic proportions, along with it its ability to be the perfect surface to bounce quarters upon, I was graduating from one institution and signing up for another. By that time, I had dedicated nearly a decade to gliding across a slick surface on an eighth of an inch of sharpened steel in order to propel a piece of rubber into a netted frame. My teammates and I wore our "I can't... I have hockey" t-shirts proudly, making it clear to our friends that we had a better idea of what it meant to have a good time. I left Aquinas and entered the hallowed halls of Niagara University, still thinking about hockey, still playing almost every day. I can remember the jeers from my peers and family who begged me on numerous occasions to give up the sport, save the years of torment being put on my body, act normal, be normal. I obviously never did, I have the scars, aches and pains to prove it. I was born to be a hockey player, nothing could convince me otherwise.
We have been trying, without real success, to convince Avery that she is a duck dog. When she was a mere 14 weeks, scared to death of those around her, as she herself was left, along with her litter, to rot at Uwharrie State Park, she came home to a new home, a new life. Her blackness astounded us. From the tip of her tail to the inside of her mouth to the surface of her tongue and pads on her feet, she was black. Not a square inch of that pooch is otherwise colored, save for a few stray snowy hairs that make up her little soul patch. Hence, we figured that she would be the perfect duck dog. Sure, she hated water and seemed positively terrified when she came anywhere close to it. And we couldn't deny the look of pure hatred she gave us anytime we placed her gently into the lapping blue of Lake Wylie but we figured this is just what children did when faced with something their parents want them to do.
Time passed and just like in any cheesy Lifetime movie, Avery started to see our perspective. She dropped the whole "I'd rather sleep than do your bidding" attitude, then adopted the "I guess water isn't that bad so long as I get food afterward" persona which rapidly progressed into "WATER IS AWESOME! IT'S LIKE CRACK FOR DOGS!!" Soon enough, she was swimming around like a champ. When her best friend, an overweight black lab named Sprocket, or her boyfriend, the neighbor's Australian shepherd, came for a visit, she would run in circles then attempt to coerce her companion into the water with her. Best yet, she actually started to retrieve things. This was the biggest crux in the enigma that is Avery. She would get really excited about having something thrown in her general direction, she would run for it but after that, nothing. Sure, she'd prance around with it for a while, showing whoever was around that she found something, perfectly tickled pink about her MacGyver-eqsue brain. However, the charade ended there. Generally, she became bored with whatever she was holding approximately 3 seconds after she picked it up. She would drop the retrievable item wherever then proceed to chase squirrels.
Soon enough, we abandoned the whole duck dog training thing and figured she would be yet another spoiled pooch who gets to sleep on the couch, watch TV and eat pound of puppy chow without ever really contributing to the family as a whole. Our attitude towards our defected pup changed, however when Avery began to leap over our 6-foot tall fence. It began as a puzzling mystery. We could not figure out how Avery kept appearing at the front door, much less how she was getting out of the yard. We realized she was leaping, much akin to a Kangaroo or a teenie bopper at a Taylor Swift concert, over the fence to chase rouge squirrels plaguing our yard. Disappearing like Chris Angel was annoying enough but her magic tricks came to a head last week.
I brought the trio to our local dog park to run around while my mom was in town. We were enjoying ourselves, making lists of Wedding planning to do when Avery started barking. She ran to the side of the fence, leaped over it, then proceeded to chase whatever it was that propelled her over the containment wall until my cries turned her around.
Days later, fed up with my child's shenanigans, I told DU to take Avery to the woods to let off some steam while he and his buddy, Shoes, moved a stand.When DU came home hours later, he told a tale that spoke to my hockey-player heart.
Avery was given free reign to run, as she always stays with DU when he's out doing man things. The boys were walking around, checking out the land for urban archery when Avery took off like she was attached to a round of exploding dynamite. DU, fearing that her affinity for shiny things would lose her to the overgrown forest, chased after her disappearing form. By the time he caught up with her, she was dancing under a tree, eyes deadlocked on a squirrel who had chosen this day to screw with the wrong pooch. Flabbergasted, DU clipped Avery's leash and watched as Shoes shot the offending rodent from his perch. My black lab then picked up her prize, brought it to her master and began searching for her next target.
DU reported that she ran for hours treeing squirrels and standing as a still as a statue until the fatal shot tattooed through the trees. I could tell she was proud of herself when she got home so I showered her with the praise only a mother can. I was then reminded of those who had tried to tell me to change who I was and realized, shamefully, I had done the exact same thing to Avery. I wanted her to be a duck dog so badly that I missed her talent, her passion and dedication for the siege against tree rats. Least to say, I have learned my lesson. My little girl will grow up exactly like her human mother; free to follow her dreams (even if they're covered in fur), ferocious in her practice and praised for who she is.