Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Best Friend (Yeah, My Dog)

Those of you who do not have, or have not had, a dog may not understand my blog today. You see; I have a little Beagle and when everything else is said and done, he really is my best friend.

I am single and although I always had a dog while I was growing up, as an adult I did not have any intention of having a pet. Being single I was "foot loose and fancy-free", able to go out when I felt like it, take off for long weekends on a whim and be generally free to do what I wanted on a schedule that pleased me. Having a dog changes that. With a dog at home you have to remember to get home to check on them, to be sure they have food and water. You can no longer just take off for the weekend, at least without considering taking the dog or making some arrangement to take care of him (or her). --What I mean to say is, with a dog you have responsibilities that just aren't there when you are single.

My last dog came to me by way of my Mother. Mom's dog had passed on and I wanted her to get another one for her for both company and security. Mom had always had a penchenant for very small dogs (the uglier, the better) so I was sure she would get some pint sized little thing, maybe something like a Yorkie. Personally, I have always been more attracted to Beagles, Sheppard's and Labs, but the dog was for her so I kept and eye open for something more like a Boston Terrier or a Pug.

Now you should understand that my Mother was ill, she was diabetic, on oxygen support and suffered from several chronic conditions. The only reason she was not flat on her back in a hospital room was her own stubborn refusal to give in. She refused to leave her home and she was not the type to argue with. As a result, when she wanted a dog, I simply said OK and then started looking. We had always got our dogs at the animal shelter because those dogs need homes (or they are 'euthanized'). So I took Mom down to the shelter and we found several dogs I felt met the bill, they were small and ugly enough to be cute.
Mom said no, she wanted to look some more. This same thing happened several times over the next few weeks, I would take her to look and she would say no. I got the impression that she was looking for something in particular.
Finally one afternoon I called her and said I would be by after work to take her to look at some more dogs. She said she had found one and wanted me to go with her to pick it up at a pet shop. That surprised me - how had she found one at a pet shop without my knowing? But, OK, whatever Mom wants, If I can, it's hers. So off we went to the pet store. When we got there I was surprised again. Instead of a little ugly yapper of some kind, Mom had picked out a cute little female Beagle, white with black and brown spots, not unlike Snoopy.
Mom asked if I thought she was a good pick. I looked at her and watched as she ran around, bouncing up and down, trying her best to make friends with her tail wagging 80 miles and hour and her eyes saying "pick me, pick me" as dogs in pet store windows seem to be so good at. I said she seemed like a good choice, a little hyper, but a good choice. We brought her home.

She quickly established her self as the center of her new world -so much so that Mom gave her the name little "Miss Chief". A name I quickly morphed into Mischief and she proceeded to earn that name.

Mom passed on within a few months and I was left with the decision of what to do with Mischief. But, she had already become my buddy and there was never any real question about it. She stayed with me and was a constant companion from then on.

Having her changed my lifestyle pretty dramatically, but it improved my life immeasurably. She was there when no one else was. She knew when I did not feel well or when I was upset or angry. She was happy when she saw me and always made me feel good when I got home. She had my back and was always alert to danger when we went for walks or hikes. She sat in my lap or with her head across my arm, just wanting to be close and letting you know that you are valued and appreciated. For all that her expectations were pretty reasonable. Make sure she had food and water, a clean place to live and a little attention. Play with her a little and take her for walks or hikes from time to time. It would be nice to remember her with a little treat from time to time (several times a day and a piece of jerky or hot dog will do nicely, thank you). But when you think about it, dogs do not really ask very much of us at all. They do not care what TV programs you watch but Mischief learned to turn the TV on and off and how to change the channel (if I left the remote on the chair or the bed).

My Mother was a smart lady. She knew the time was coming when she would not be there as my 'best buddy' so she went out and found one for me. Mischief was no substitute for Mom, but she was definitely my best friend. One who is always there, never complained (except to ask for more treats) and no matter what I said or did, she was always glad to see me again. --And do you know what? I was always glad to see her too.

Mischief passed away last year and I was heartbroken. The evenings were suddenly very lonely. 
After a month of mourning and missing her, I suddenly had an opportunity to get another Beagle. He was sick and had been abused by his former owners. If I did not take him in they were going to take him to the shelter (and you know what that meant). I met him and we instantly became best friends. He will never be another Mischief but "little Harry" has become a major part of my life. I am very greatful for him and I know he is greatful for me.

Those of you who have, or have had, dogs or cats will understand how much they add to your life. Those who have not experienced the bond between owner and pet, you should condsider it -if you have a little time and a lot of patience, it is a commitment you will never regret.

Personal Note: Several days ago Harry was ambushed and attacked completely without warning by several dogs including 2 Bulldogs and a Pitbull. He was badly mauled before the attacking dogs could be beaten off. I spent several days at his side while he could not stand and could hardly move. I thought I was going to lose my best friend. Today he started drinking water and eating food and a few hours later he stood for the first time in 3 days and walked, limping and painfully, to drink more water. I can not tell you the joy and relief I felt when I saw him standing (on 3 legs, he still can not put pressure on the fourth). I believe he is going to recover. Once I am sure he is out of danger I will decide how to deal with the offending animals and their owner -and I assure you it will not be pretty.


Live Long and Prosper....

1 comment:

Kiara said...

Hey Gary,

I stumbled on your blog by chance, while I was clicking around on links waiting for class to begin. I'm a Medical Student, and I've always grown up with (big, big) dogs, but when I came out half way across the country to live by myself, I knew that I would have to time between class and studying to give a dog the proper attention s/he deserves.
One day a few months ago, after a particularly brutal exam, I was food shopping and saw that the store was clearing out it's pet-food stock. I grabbed a few big bags of cheap cheap dog food and decided to bring it to the near-by animal shelter.
I walked in the next day, dropped off my donation, and walked around the shelter looking at the cats and dogs. On one kennel was a timer-counting down with about four hours left. I asked the staff what the timer was for, and they informed me that the kennel's occupant was considered unable to be rehabilitated from three years of severe abuse, and that the timer were the hours left before he was euthanized.
I walked up to the kennel and this tiny little dog looked up at me and wagged his tail. I adopted him on the spot.
Toby has been my best friend--I thought I wouldn't have time, but it turns out that I have more than enough. He forces me to go outside every couple hours, and keeps me company when I'm homesick or not feeling well. He's really changed my life, and I can't imagine I would be nearly as happy without him.
And, as it turns out--while Toby may never be comfortable with a roomful of men reaching down to pet him, he's turned out to be an incredible, resilient friend.