Contributing Editor, Ron Carmean and I each share our home and some of the food in it with a dog. It appears our dogs are very much a part of our lives…but not necessarily in the same way. First, here’s Ron’s take on man’s best friend, in his case, Jake…
Our first dog was a yellow Lab. We got him when he was a few weeks old. We named him Angus. He was with us for 11 years. He loved to play ball and meet other dogs. He had a fantastic coat. Winter weather had no effect on him–except he loved to play in the snow. He got along with everyone. His presence made us better people: our blood pressure went down; we had more patience; we laughed more; we got more exercise. His death was devastating, affecting us more than almost any friend or family member.
Eight months later, we decided to adopt a dog. We did not want a puppy. We went through that experience and, being in our sixties, we wanted an older dog–house-broken and a little less frisky. The internet led us to rescue and shelter sites. Friends and neighbors, not very tactfully, sang the praises of the PC of adopting a dog. Their arguments were persuasive, though over done. We settled on a few sites and began the adoption process in earnest. We completed a 77-item questionnaire, talked with various people on the telephone and had a visitor check out us and our home for suitability. We passed.
We chose a dog and found out it had already been adopted. A second dog was suggested. He was described as a “senior dog” (i.e., 5 years of age or older), house broken and a “Lab mix”. Labs are the most popular dog in the USA. So, if a rescue organization can work the word “lab” into a conversation, it’s done. Later, I realized that the “Lab mix” in this dog’s case meant he was 70% Lab, 15% Harpo Marx and 15% professional eater. We were told he got along with adults and children equally well, and was energetic despite his years. (For a minute, I thought they were describing me.)
When Jake (as he was called and we kept that name) arrived, he was exactly as described: he got along with everyone, quickly became accustomed to our home and routines, took no food unless it was offered to him, when left alone he did no damage to our house or anything in it, he loved to play ball and go on walks. However, no one knew his age. His previous owners did not know it. A vet who gave him a physical guessed he was 8-10 years old. Our vet guessed higher even though he had no arthritis, was very quick playing ball, and energetic on his walks. Idiosyncrasies: he had two. When a telephone rang, he HOWLED. When he wanted to be rubbed, he positioned himself so you never had to wonder where he wanted to be rubbed.
For us, he was lively and affectionate and very cute. He became part of our family, and we became part of his. And the rescue got what they wanted: we would be his forever home.
image from burnspethealth.com
And now, here are some thoughts I have about our family dog…
We never had a dog when I was growing up. My parents just weren’t dog people. The void of not having a dog in the household is probably what led to my unrealistic perception of man’s best friend. My only reference points were the dogs I watched on television. There were two that come to mind: Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. I watched these dogs—and, oh yeah, there was Bullet, too…just thought of him. He was cowboy Roy Roger’s dog. So, where was I? Oh, I was about to tell you how I watched these dogs all the time and they were incredible. I thought if I ever had a dog it would really be nifty (that’s a leftover ‘50s word meaning “cool!”) because if I ever fell down a sewer or got locked in a frozen food cabinet at the grocery store, then my dog would run home and jump up and down and bark until the adults realized he was telling them I was in danger. Then he’d lead the grownups to where I was trapped and I would be freed just in the nick of time. And, of course, if some bad guy ever broke into the house, well then the dog would simply rip him apart limb by limb and chew on his bones for the next two years. Those where the kinds of things dogs did. I know; I saw them do them on TV.
So now you can flash forward 50 or so years and I’ll bring you up to date. Bill is our family dog. My wife named him. Not sure why Bill. “He looks like a Bill,” is Rosemarie’s only explanation. I call him BillTheDog, as if it’s all one name. BillTheDog is a Maltese. These are those little white dogs that look like furry footballs you could take to some vacant field and use to practice kicking field goals.
BillTheDog has lived with us for about 7 years. I have never fallen down a sewer or locked myself inside a freezer so I don’t really know how BillTheDog would react. My guess is he’d ignore me. In fact, he’d probably find a cozy place nearby, curl up and take a nap. BillTheDog doesn’t do any of the things TV dogs do. He doesn’t catch things if you throw them at him. He has no concept of what the concept of “fetch” means. And, if you get him really excited he’s liable to pee on your shoes. I never saw a TV dog pee anywhere. About the only thing BillTheDog has in common with TV dogs is that he will cause quite a stir if some stranger comes in the house. Like the TV dog, he’d probably attack the burglar and rip his limbs off and then chew on them for the next few years. That’s one thing about BillTheDog you can be assured of—if he doesn’t like you, stay away. He’ll bite, especially if you mess with him while he’s eating (the voice of experience speaking here). That line about “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”—well, BillTheDog never heard of it.
Thank goodness Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and Bullet aren’t around anymore or I’d be writing nasty letters. I think they were poor examples of what real dogs are like. When BillTheDog came along, I expected he’d be just like them. Not. In fact, not even close. Bill can’t catch, doesn’t fetch, won’t come when you call him, snarls at you most of the time, could care less if your life was in danger and if you let him sleep on the bed he’d probably pee on it. There are only about two things BillTheDog can do that have some merit: first, he can look real adorable when he wants to. Second, he really does look good sailing though the middle of the uprights.
Books by Marc Kuhn. Information at http://www.marckuhn.com
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