Dogs

Published by pam on Sun, 03/25/2012 - 4:04pm

 

I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember.  In the fourth grade, the serious pleading began.

 

Please, can we get a dog.

 

I'm an only child.   Both my parents worked.  We moved a lot.  I was a lonely kid.  I did crafts.  I had puzzle books and one-person games.  But seriously, how much solitaire a person play.

 

Please can we get a dog.

 

It took me years to wear my parents down.  The turning point came, I think, in the sixth grade when I wrote a painfully long report on dogs.  I researched and described every breed I could find.  Research, in those days, meant looking things up in the World Book and swapping around a few words.  But I included every dog listed in the World Book and my report came in at one hundred and eleven pages, complete with illustrations.   My parents began to realize this dog thing wasn't going to pass easily.  

 

It helped that nightly, I scoured the classifieds for available dogs and announced my findings at the dinner table.  

 

There are free pug puppies in Bellevue.  

 

There is an adult labrador in Kirkland.  He's already house broken.

 

My favorite dog, the French Bulldog rarely showed up, but when it did, I didn't hold back on extolling its virtues.  

 

The puppies are $200, but that is a good price.  They're small and really cute.

 

Somewhere in the winter of that sixth grade year, a stray adopted my parents.  They had moved their boat to a sheltered slip so they could do some work on the fittings.  The first weekend,  a golden retriever showed up.  He slept on the dock beside their boat and never left.  For three weeks, every time they went to the boat, the dog was there.  When it came time to take the boat back to its permanent slip, they didn't have the heart to leave the dog.  So they packed him up along with their tools, and brought him home.  

 

We were not prepared for a dog.  We had no fence, our lot was small, but my parents, bless their hearts, gave it a go.  The gangly, underweight dog was in questionable health, but a vet quickly cleared up his infections, counseled us on how to feed him,  and confirmed that, judging by the dog's heart and his worn down nails, he had been a stray for some time.   

 

I named him Mister.  That dog was a great friend.  It didn't take long to teach him to fetch.  He learned to shake hands, lie down, and sit.  But our favorite game was hide and seek.  On my command, Mister would wait at the top of the stairs while I hid.  Then, as soon as I was tucked inside a cupboard or under a bed, I'd call and he'd come running.  

 

Mister loved the attention almost as much as I did.  

 

But we were novice dog owners.  The dog was left outside in our small Mercer Island backyard.  He was tethered, I think, but it didn't take him long to break free.  And once he did, Mister was off.  He made his way clear to the other end of the island.  An ad in the paper found him, but he was a wanderer, my parents told me.   Mister was too much dog for us.  We would have to find him a new home.

 

Mister went to live on the Eastside with a family who had acreage.  I told the new owners how Mister liked to play hide and seek, but I couldn't help but wonder if the two boys would be rough with him.  They pet him in hard pats, not long strokes like I did.  Would they know to wait until Mister was asleep before they wrapped an arm around his chest?  Or worse, would Mister become their dog as easily as he had become mine?

 

Once the no-dog policy had been broken, it would not return.  Shortly after Mister left, we brought home a beagle mix.  She would be with me until I left for college.  My parents have had a dog ever since.

 

At 26, I got a dog of my own.  I settled into an apartment that allowed dogs and soon began visiting the local shelter, test driving dogs until I found one that felt right.  Since that time, I have had a dog,  Or two. Or four.

 

All but one have been shelter dogs.  Shelter dogs, for those who don't know, often come with some interesting quirks.  They have likes and dislikes that often surprise their new owners.  They hate motorcycles or small blond children.  They move their food to a dark corner before they eat it or they howl at night.  It's always something.  And shelter dogs, in our experience, seem to adopt one person in the family.  Dusty and Katie were definitely Marc's dogs.  Penny, a broken down Dalmatian was mine.  Penny never left my side.  She watched me cook, fold laundry, struggle to write.  When I slept,  she tried to make the length of her body to touch mine.  Every time I looked at her panting grin, I knew what she was thinking.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

When Penny died, it left a hole in my heart.  She died at the veterinary hospital following complications in surgery.  She died alone in a strange place.  She deserved better.  I owed her more.  She never would have left me alone.  Never.

 

The night she died, I cried.  The kids made a "special place" for me.  There were candles and soft pillows.  They turned on music and placed a few treasured objects around the scene to remind me of happier times.  They said it was a special place to feel sad.  I sat in my special place and let the tears come.  And boy did they come.

 

Of all the dogs we've had, only one other has bonded to me the way Penny did.  That would be Lucy - a small Bichon we adopted a few years back to keep Miller company.  For the first year, Lucy split her time between Miller and me, but as Miller got busier, Lucy's loyalties shifted.   She's my dog now,  She follows me everywhere.  She watches me, protects me.  When I'm away, she sleeps in my laundry basket.  Lucy is my guardian. 

 

When I come home from the hospital, the house is quiet.  Too quiet.  It is almost as if a frequency of light is missing.  Everything looks different, feels different.   They dogs are gone - boarded for the length of my hospital stay.  Once I am settled in bed, Marc brings them home.  Lucy finds me immediately.  She doesn't jump or paw.  She sniffs and waits to be petted.  She settles in beside my bed and she doesn't leave.  

 

I smell of the hospital.  The scent of despair and antiseptic lingers on my clothes, in my hair, on my skin.  I wonder what she knows.  Miller told me once that Lucy could be the reincarnation of Penny, my Dalmatian.  She is just about the right age and she is equally devoted to me.  She reminds us both a bit of Penny.  We speculated, one night,  that Lucy had run away from her first home - which judging by her appearance wasn't a good one - just in time to find us.  She knew we were looking for a dog.  Maybe she had been waiting for us along.

 

It is a nice thought - that a dog could love someone so much.  That connections don't die when we do.  That love will find a way,

 

I rest and Lucy sits by my side.  Occasionally she sniffs my unfamiliar scent.  I have no reason to believe that Lucy has any spiritual connection to Penny, but due to the fierceness of their loyalty, they are connected in my mind   It is hard not to think of Penny, as Lucy watches me, panting with her I-Love-You grin.   I close my eyes and think of Penny and apologize once again.  

 

Penny would recognize the smell  She would know and remember the despair.  The fear.  The cold.  I have a dog by my side.  A dog who knows I am wounded and won't leave me no matter what.  

 

Penny was not so lucky.

 

And I m sorry.

 

Comments

We brought home an 8-week-old puppy ten days ago. In that time he has gone from a cowering, lonely little guy to a busy, bustling, nosey lover. He has brought so much love andl life to our home already. He smells sweet, snuggles and kisses, and wags so hard I think his butt may swing off into space.  Get a dog, Pam.

Hi Pam, when you're ready, a good book to read is A Dog's Purpose.  It talks of many of the same things you've written - including the thought that perhaps Penny and Lucy are really connected.  I say "when you're ready" because I found that after the general anesthesia, my ability to concentrate was nil, and I couldn't really read any of the books that so many friends and family gave me.
Anyway, just wanted to also let you know we're thinking about you.

Oh, Pam.  I'm sitting here reading this on Passover and I'm just flooded with memories~  Marc's poem that he could never get through without crying (and making us cry), our kids suffering through horseradish and pinkies dipped in wine, your delicious salmon, and most of all, your friendship.  And Penny!  God knows I loved that dog, even coveted her a little bit, and she was so sweet to me, to everyone, but her heart belonged to you.  I believe she fell asleep for that final time dreaming of all the good years with you.  I am so glad to hear you have a new little champion by your side!  You know I'm an old church lady, Pam.  I've prayed for you and your precious family every day since I heard the news of your battle~  praying for health, courage, peace, wisdom.   We all just want you to know that we're rooting for you, dear friend.  Love to you & all the Shors.
 
 

Mean a lot.  I think of you often, and truly appreciate you thinking of me!