For each of us, one great dog
This week, the dogs took a break from shedding long enough to chow down a mound of used tissues. I’m talking snot-soaked paper. Lots of it.This is because, I’m told by the other human occupant of our household (the one producing excessive amounts of phlegm), every person is entitled to one truly great dog in their lifetime. And, we’ve both already had ours.It’s not that the canine quirkiness of our present set of freeloaders isn’t entertaining, or endearing in the way that only being unexpectedly kissed by a dog that has just eaten her own puke can be. They’re actually pretty good dogs, particularly when they’re asleep.They are my lovable step-dogs – the ones that have me doing something I never thought I’d be doing at my age (in my 40s, let’s leave it at that) – standing out in the back yard reminding a distracted moose of a dog and her sidekick to “go peepers.” I hope the neighbors never hear that.One dog has an amazing memory. She’ll repeatedly dump a slimy, muddy tennis ball squarely in your lap – an object that should be disposed of as hazardous material – because she’ll remember that you once tossed a ball for her seven months ago.She also keeps careful track of our route whenever we drive somewhere so she can begin a high-pitched whine when we’re still two miles from our destination, especially if it’s a fun place. Give her longer legs and opposable thumbs, and she could probably drive. She’s already figured out how to work the electronic window controls; if we don’t keep them locked with the childproofing feature, she’d have half her body out the window while we’re going 70 mph.Try to brush her, though, and she acts like you’re beating her with a stick. You could beat the other one, the moose, with a stick and she probably wouldn’t notice, but she quakes at the sight of the vacuum cleaner.The moose might get lost at the end of her leash, but she has sweet brown eyes and the uncanny ability to locate dead things and other smelly objects (and roll in them, or eat them, or both). We could hire her out for a staggering sum as a search dog, if only there was a high demand for locating the remains of dead deer and old cow pies.Apparently, they do these things to test my patience, and because I’ve already had my one great dog – the one who would sit and stay when I told him to, lay his silky head at my feet in the evening, and howl in obvious delight and wag his entire hind end in greeting when I returned home from work each day. He’s the one who stole everyone’s heart at first sight, the one whose good looks and delightful temperament enticed inquiries about siring (alas, he was one of a kind, having been fixed).He’s the one who, a decade gone from this world, still visits in my dreams sometimes, and brings a tear to my eye when memories linger.The last time one of the pooches currently in my life brought a tear to my eye, it was an involuntary response to her farting.Here’s the thing: Conveniently forgotten about my one great dog was his penchant for rolling in dead fish (we lived on a lake for awhile) and eating baby rabbits, the way he only came on command when something far more interesting than the fit I was throwing wasn’t vying for his attention, or the couple of nights he spent away from home after he ran off and didn’t come back, leaving me worried sick.These things come to mind now because I happen to have three friends who’ve all lost beloved companions over the past couple of weeks. Their one great dog? It probably feels that way.The loss of a dog is heartbreaking. Their absence is every bit as palpable as their presence.And then, after grief subsides to occasional dull ache, we go out and get another one, knowing full well our life span is likely to exceed that of the new, exuberant pup chewing on the kitchen chair.But who knows, every new dog could be the one great dog, stealing the title from the last one.The best we can do is try to be one great owner.Janet Urquhart’s bark is worse than her bite. E-mail her at email@example.com
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