A Dog is a Dog is a Dog And a Loved Member of the Family

 My son lost one of his dogs this past weekend.  His dog was ten years old and had a stroke.  That’s not particularly old for a dog, but not young either depending on the breed.  It came on fast and was not expected, which makes the loss more ragged and raw.  No one is ever ready to lose a member of the family, whether human or animal, but when it is unexpected there is a huge sense of loss. 

His loss made me remember Buddy, our yellow Labrador.  He was probably the best dog ever.  He always had a smile on his face.  Buddy was our constant companion going everywhere with us.  He was about twelve years old when he woke me up very late one night bumping into the cabinets in the bathroom acting disoriented.  His abdomen was huge and rock hard and he was panting heavily.  I thought that he needed to go outside to go pee or maybe he had to poop badly.  I had no idea what was wrong with him.  I took him out and watched as he stumbled outside.  He collapsed in the yard so I rushed back inside and woke up Mitch to help me get him in the house.

Mitch carried him in and laid him on the kitchen floor.  AJ laid down beside him, I sat on the floor by Buddy’s head asking Mitch what was wrong mentally imploring him to fix it, make it better for Buddy.  Neither one of us had ever heard of abdominal torsion.  We sat on the floor helpless watching him take his last breath.

As Buddy took his last breath, AJ laid his head on Buddy’s neck.  I believe AJ was trying to comfort Buddy.  I looked at Buddy but it didn’t dawn on me yet that he was gone.  I asked Mitch what happened, to fix Buddy.   Make it better.  Make him well.  As an adult, I knew Buddy was dead, but the little girl in me, wanted a higher power to fix everything, to right the universe, turn back time.  It wasn’t possible and I sat on the floor sobbing over Buddy, the best friend I’d ever had and beloved family member.

Family and friends all tried to comfort us, say something magical that would make us feel better.  It did and it didn’t.  Knowing that Buddy had touched so many hearts and we had so many friends helped, but the loss of him hurt so much.  It was a physical pain, in the chest, and behind the eyes, trying fruitlessly to hold back tears.  Trying to be a grownup, knowing it was just a dog and dogs die, but a dog isn’t just a dog, he was part of our family and it hurt as much as if he were a person.

I tried to comfort my son, saying all the things people say when you lose a family member.  Saying all the wrong things, realizing as I was saying them, it wasn’t enough and couldn’t find the magical words that would make him feel better.  But there is no magical word out there.  Loving and loss are the yin and yang of life and both are needed in our lives.  It’s what makes us compassionate and whole.

Buddy died in 2005 and I still miss him terribly.  I will laugh out loud as I remember some of his antics and shed a few tears occasionally, but that’s all part of loving and I am so glad that I have that ability.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Buddy –  1994 ? – 2005

My Three Dogs

We have three dogs.  AJ, The Good Dog, Charlie, The Green-Eyed Monster, and Orso, The Drool Machine.  AJ, The Good Dog, a seventy pound Labrador, is sweet and loving, soft and gentle and totally devoted to me.  Most of the time he has a serious expression on his face, but when the mood strikes him, The Good Dog is full of the Devil.  I’ve seen him put Olympic style wrestling moves on a ninety five pound Doberman and take him to the ground, laying on top of Rocky just chewing on his neck.  Now at eleven years old, the moments of the Devil are fewer and farther between, but it’s still there when needed. 

We got Charlie, The Green-Eyed Monster, when he was ten weeks old.  AJ acted like a proud papa watching over him and playing with him as Charlie grew up.  It was pretty amazing watching AJ play to Charlie’s level, never too hard, only as hard as the puppy could handle.  As Charlie grew the play got rougher, teaching him how to handle himself.  Charlie is a sixty five pound half German Shorthair half Labrador and total psycho dog.  Even though he  was almost raised by AJ, he will get extremely jealous of the attention we give AJ or Orso.  At seven years old, he will still look at you with an expression that says, “I’m the baby!  Don’t play with him, touch me.”

I didn’t want Orso, The Drool Machine, didn’t want to even go look at him.  A coworker of Mitch’s has a son that had a nine month old Chocolate Lab who needed to get rid of him.  I kept telling Mitch two dogs was enough.  The was no tension, both dogs got along, nothing was getting destroyed, life was good.  But Mitch said, “Let’s just go take a look see.  We don’t have to bring him home.”  What a crock.  Mitch knows me well enough to know that if I see him, we’ll be bringing him home.  So long story short, we came home with a ninety five pound puppy.  At five years old, The Drool Machine has wormed his way into our hearts, so he is here to stay.

The Mom Voice

Everyone knows it, everyone has heard it.  Everyone has felt the power of it. The Mom voice.  It has nothing to do with volume.  It isn’t even determined by sex.  Mothers and fathers both have the Mom voice.  Most of the time the Mom voice is spoken at normal volume, maybe even softer than normal.  The tone and timber are what is used to make the Mom voice so powerful.  It’s a no nonsense tone with such finality in it that makes the recipient cringe in terror.  I used it on my sons when they were growing up.  Nothing made them stop and take notice that I was not fooling around with them, more than the Mom voice.  When used, even the most hardened adult succumbs to it. 

I use the Mom voice on Mitch occasionally.  He hates it.  He would rather I screamed like a fish wife and throw a rant than to look at him and speak to him in the voice.   Mitch has said it makes him feel like a kid again that had just gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  Even the dogs know the Mom voice.  I use it on them when no one will listen and it’s a free for all.  I used it tonight when the wrestling got out of hand with dogs careening off the walls, leaping on and off our bed, totally out of control.  After the Mom voice came out dogs scattered.  AJ laid down by my chair, Charlie and Orso made themselves very scarce, going to lay down in the bedroom.  All is quiet for quite awhile after the Mom voice. 

It’s good to be Mom.

Writer’s Block

What do you do when you want to write and nothing will come out?  I’m been sitting here for over an hour staring at the computer, playing solitaire off and on hoping for inspiration to strike me from – somewhere – I don’t know.  Maybe if I knew, then the words and thoughts would start to flow.  There are so many things I want to say but for some reason, no cognitive thought let alone creative thought has come to me. 

It’s enough to make me crazy.  How do I progress and improve as a writer if I can’t get past this huge wall in front of me?

Fast and Deadly Charlie

Charlie once again proved that he is a fast and deadly hunter.  I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I let the three dogs out to do their business and Charlie shot up the steps, and disappeared behind the car before I could run up the steps behind him.  As I walked to the back of the car I heard a squeal and found Charlie flinging a squirrel to the ground.  Evidently he had run it down before the squirrel could get to the safety of a tree.  I called him off the wounded squirrel before he and the other dogs could finish it off.  The squirrel laid on the ground panting heavily for a few moments before getting up and scrambled to the closest tree, barely escaping death. 

I took the dogs back inside and checked Charlie for any wounds from the squirrel and found a couple of places below his right eye that looked like the squirrel had scratched him trying to get away.  I cleaned the scratches up and put ointment on them.  He looked up at me with a quizzical look of his face.  He wanted me to proud of him for his quickness and precision at snagging his prey and a part of me was.  I’m proud that he is fast and doesn’t have any hesitation when going after prey.  When we’re pheasant hunting it’s important that the dog is willing and without any hesitation, rushes into brush, tall grasses and plum thickets to flush and retrieve birds.  But at the same time I was appalled that he ran the squirrel down, grabbed it, flung it to the ground and if I hadn’t stopped him, he would have gone back in for the kill. 

Does that make me a hypocrite, it’s okay for us to hunt and shoot pheasants (we do eat them), but not let the dogs do what comes naturally to them?  It’s not like squirrels are on the endangered species list, and are terribly destructive, but somehow my sense of fair play was bothered by it all.  I felt bad for the squirrel and at the same time was proud that Charlie had once again proven that he will be an asset when we go pheasant hunting this fall.

Ah, The Quiet of the Early Morning, Not!

Where is a large bird of prey when you need it?  We’re on vacation this week, which means we get to sleep in past our normal 2:45 am wake up call.  Sounds wonderful, but only in theory.  In reality we have a neighbor that owns two very obnoxious “squeaky toys” with four legs.  They were up and at it barking their heads off at 4:15 this morning.  I know because I looked at the clock.  I laid there for a few minutes thinking all sorts of evil thoughts of different ways of their demise.  Of course, I could never actually follow through with any of my mental wanderings, because ultimately it’s not the dogs fault.  The blame rests squarely on the owner’s shoulders.

Maybe he was lonely, I don’t know, but getting a dog requires a lot more than just being a cure for loneliness.  You have to interact with them, a lot.  There’s training, training and more training. Affection and lots of exercise.  We have labs, and labs have a ton of energy and if left to their own devices, can get very hyper and destructive, mostly from boredom.  Everyone that comes to our home always comments on how laid back they are.  Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have giant rugs here, these guys can destroy a room in no time (and have) if we would let them.  Our neighbor even built a doggie door for them so that he didn’t have to get up to let them out.  Which means now he has even less interaction with them.  He fenced off a tiny little area in his yard for them to run around in. Maybe a six square foot area.  He fenced it off with a garden fence, something my dogs wouldn’t even notice as they walked through.  So now these two loud obnoxious animals rush outside at all hours and bark incessantly. Amazing how something so small can be so loud.  It is beginning to grate on my last nerve.  Even my dogs are tired of their irritating rants.  On our walk yesterday, Charlie turned and started to charge at the dogs with hair raised down his back.  I was almost tempted but I was sure there might have been witnesses.

I’ve even tried to make up to them with no success.  No I really don’t want to see the dogs dead, just quiet.