Friday, April 11, 2014
Every Day Is National Pet Day
This morning I awoke in my usual position - one arm flung over my best buddy. He's a black cocker spaniel named Max. I thought that today would be a good day to write about dogs. Then later I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that it is National Pet Day. How apropos.
I have loved and had dogs all my life. In my childhood I ran the woods and fields with a black labrador retriever named B.C.. He showed up one summer day, and stayed. If I was outside, he was right with me. This was a long time ago and the neighborhood dogs ran loose. There were very few fences and even fewer people that kept their dogs chained. B.C. was the best dog a kid could have asked for. He could play fetch, chase after my bike, or just sit and listen as I poured out my secrets. When I was in high school a friend of mine said he was "a dog's dog" and the term fits.
One day there was a knock at the door. It was a neighbor asking if we still had "that black dog". For a moment my heart jumped into my throat. Was he going to tell us B.C. had been hurt or killed? But, no, he told us that he thought we might like to see something. Once at his house we saw that his golden retriever had just had puppies. Every one of them was black! Because my father held B.C. in high regard he agreed to us keeping one of the pups. I named him Ra. (I had just entered high school and had discovered Todd Rundgren.) Ra grew to be a 145 pound baby. He had a habit of lying in the dirt to the side of the front steps and surprising people with his deep, throaty bark when they came to the door in the dark. Of course they couldn't see him so it scared the crap out of them. But he wouldn't have hurt a fly.
There were other dogs in between then and now. Dogs we bought for the boys when they were small because every kid needs a dog.
But my Max is special. He was given to me 14 years ago, a tiny black ball of fluff. We have been through a lot, he and I. He's lived with kids and cats. My first grandson was a toddler when he was a puppy and the two would play and cuddle. When my ex-husband was drunk and took off with him in the car in order to hurt me, it was that that gave me the impetus to leave that relationship. The vet called me later that day to let me know that Max was there. My ex had let him get out of his van and get hit by a car. Max was very bruised but thank goodness it wasn't worse. But since then he has not cared for the vet one bit.
I developed Meniere's Disease. You get dizzy, fall down, and throw up. Leaning over could bring on an attack so Max learned to get up on the back of the couch for me to attach his leash for walkies. When I had to have one of my inner ears removed in order to quell that Meniere's he did not leave my side during my six week recovery. I had to move his food and water into the bedroom because I realized he would not leave my side to eat and drink.
I never let him develop the common cocker trait of barking his fool head off at every little thing. He has disliked only a handful of people, and it always turned out that he was right in his judgement. Everyone loves him. In my apartment complex there are people who initially said they hate dogs that now pet him and coo over him when we meet.
Time passes. I used to joke that my dog was my doorbell but now he often does not respond to knocks at the door. His once bright, glistening eyes are now getting cloudy. The vet says it is just age. Just age. He now uses stairs to get on and off the bed. And I recently bought him a dog bed with orthopedic foam and he enjoys it when we are in the living room. He used to be snuggled against me on the couch but he can't jump up there anymore and I am afraid of letting him jump down. But he is still like a young dog on our walks. He does enjoy going walkies.
So, to Max, happy National Pet Day. Thank you for being my dog, my love, my reason to get up in the morning. Thank you for being a good dog. Good boy.