Sasha, we called her, not knowing it was usually the name of a Russian man.
Now the name has broadened for me. There are poets and Presidential daughters and even a pop star alter ego who bear the name. But as a child, the only Sasha in my world was our very bad dog.
My teenaged sister had endlessly begged for her, and sworn to train and care for her every need. Big surprise: I only recall seeing her once or twice with an empty milk carton and the ‘pooper scooper’ in hand.
Sasha was (of course) adorable as an incontinent mutt puppy. Puppies are charming. As she grew, however–unfettered by discipline and authority–she hardened my heart toward nearly every drooling crotch sniffer I would meet for the next couple of decades.
Sasha scratched our back door until the bottom right corner was worn thin, and flapped loudly with every paw nudge: her own relentless doorbell.
And if the door opened for any reason, that dog shot out like Usain Bolt after a case of Red Bull. The next 30 minutes were spent trying to find in which neighbor’s yard she was digging or defecating.
Since my sister was busy dating boys my mother disapproved of, I was often saddled with the job of dog walking. Sasha had a choke collar and what seemed at the time to be a twenty-pound chain. I would occasionally wrap it around my hand in an attempt to maintain grip on the wild beast, forgetting that this was the quickest way to crush my hand into a temporarily useless hunk of flesh. Sasha would lurch from the house, dragging me past a couple of houses before leaving me behind to nurse my fingers and hope she turned up shortly.
She had many other talents:
Stealing fresh-baked items from the dining room table. Sometimes whole cakes. Especially during parties, while people were distracted.
Lying in motor oil.
Getting unsightly mats in her fur from rolling in trash and dirt.
Hearing scissors open from 100 yards away–even when sleeping.
Due to the combined result of the last two, she once had a soup can lid stuck to her belly for a couple of weeks.
I have heard worse. I have heard of a dog that–during a time out in the garage–broke the car window and chewed through the dashboard to get to half a Power Bar in the glove compartment. Shenanigans like that are way out of Sasha’s league. To be honest, she did have some sweet moments now and then, and her shortcomings were the fault of her owners. Sasha was a part of my childhood and a member of our family, and it was a sad day when she succumbed to liver failure.