Monday, January 10, 2011

You're either a dog person or you're not

My friend Sue lost her dog suddenly Friday, although she says in retrospect he hadn't been acting quite right for some time. Her children, teenager Alex and 6th grader Hunter, were and are devastated. And so is Sue. She came by for a drink tonight and--surprise!--she has already been to the humane society and adopted a new dog. She said simply, "I'm a dog person, and I am not happy living without one." I had been afraid to ask if she was getting another dog, fearing she might think it insensitive. She's a little touchy about replacing Gus so quickly, but I think it's a testimony to the fact that she loved having him in the house. This will be a radical change however--Gus was a small, terrier mix, always scrappy, always willing to take on any other dog but always anxious for affection and love. Sue, with her kids' encouragement, has adopted Jack, a lab mix (the pictures looks to me like he has retriever in him). He's a year old, and she put him through his paces, only to discover that he's sweet, fairly calm, obedient, and obviously came from a loving home. I'm delighted for her though I sense a mix of excitement and anxiety. It will all settle down, and they'll be happy.
I'm like Sue. I'm a dog person. For years in this house I had three dogs--my collie, Colin's Aussie, and Jamie's lab. My collie died (fairly tragic circumstances), then Maynard the lab died of cancer, and Colin took Cisco to Houston. I was without a dog for six months, and I didn't like it. Then Scooby appeared on the humane society list, and I was hooked.
Sue said tonight that she supposed at my age (she's a whole lot younger) I'd had and lost a lot of dogs, and of course that made me think of the dogs I've lost and the dogs I've loved. I could make a long list but I'll keep it brief. I think the most wonderful dog I ever had was a gorgeous mahoghany collie named Shea--my ex and I adopted him (almost stole him but the owners were grateful). He was the perfect gentleman, and we took him everywhere with us. At the same time, my brother had a German shepherd that I suspect was his best dog ever. King followed him to class and could not be kept out--he'd sneak into the building and find John.
I've had a lot of dogs since, from Cairn terriers to Irish wolfhounds, and loved them all. And I've grieved when I lost each one, sometimes to age, sometimes to accident and once to heart defect. I lost a puppy to distemper and another because it was blind from birth and couldn't adjust to the world--or to my children. I have a lot of dog stories. Now I have an aging Aussie (and an aging cat but that's another story). I'm thinking of getting Scooby a companion--I think it would be good for him, and I wouldn't have to hope to find the perfect dog in a few years when I lose him. But I'm watching for the perfect dog. In my mind, I'd like to have a labradoodle that I could train to be a care dog, visiting sick children or nursing home patients, something like that. The idea of taking my wild man Scooby into a nursing home boggles the mind--he'd jump in the patients' laps and lick them to death.
But Sue's big change got me thinking--some of us are dog people and some aren't. I was raised with dogs, though I remember being afraid of them as a young child. But my brother and my parents always had a dog, and I soon became a dog person. My ex and I even showed them for a while--it was obvious we were rank amateurs.
Scooby is a love, and I adore him, will grieve when old age gets him. Right now, he's just slower and a bit absent minded, but he sometimes jumps with joy when I come near him, he's curious as can be, and if he can filch food, he'll have at it. Some folks think he's ugly, with mismatched eyes. I think he's beautiful. Here he is in his bed, his most favorite ever place to be. At night, I find it comforting to hear him whimper in his dreams, and grunt and groan. Sue said her house is too quiet right now.

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