Monday, January 27, 2014

Dogs Are More Than Just Pets - Part 1

Andrew,  Lucy and Peter
Tarzan. Elke. Lucy. Molly. Rooney.

Five names for five dogs over the course of a lifetime. All very different and, yet, also the same. They are different by breed, by personality, by size, by where they live, but the same in that there is nothing like the love of a good dog.

I used to be embarrassed to admit that my first dog was a very black miniature poodle. And, yes, my grandfather named him Tarzan. No one could ever figure out where he got that name or why it applied to a dog under one foot in height. He came to me for my first communion when I was but seven years old.  My mother was not amused. He was a lovely little thing, but eventually decided he was a cat since he shared space with the kitten my brother received for his first communion a couple of years later.  Dandelion (another name courtesy of my grandfather) was the alpha dog in that pair. Tarzan lived until long after I left home for college.  He was a feisty little thing who drove my mother nuts.

Although my mom was no fan of canine or felines, they soon got a Norwegian Elkhound for my much younger brother as a companion when my middle sibling went off to college.  They gave her the creative name of Elke. She was an outdoor dog, preferring the sunshine to the house no matter the temperature. She may have been my brother's dog, but she really belonged to my dad.  He would let her roam the neighborhood after dark.  She always returned in thirty minutes or so for her daily dose of peanut butter.  I do not quite remember when Elke left us, but my younger brother was off in law school by then.

Like my mother, I was not a dog person.  No way. No how. Tarzan was fine, but my married self did not want to be responsible for a dog. My husband felt differently and friends of ours knew it. So, after my husband did some work for them, they left their dog in a box in our kitchen as a way of telling us they wanted to get us a dog in payment. Great. I resisted, but eventually gave up the battle. And that is how Lucy came ended up as our first baby
We named her Lucy because those friends who lived next door moved away soon after and we felt as the Mertz's did when the Ricardo's moved to Connecticut.  Besides, Lucy was a dark red Golden Retriever. She was also quite possibly the smartest dog I had ever known. She knew the boundaries of our property without a fence. She seemed to be able to tell time. She guarded our youngest in his cradle against my trespassing mother soon after his birth and never took to the uncle who came waltzing into my parents' house without ringing the doorbell. If we let her out to do her thing and forgot her, she sat by the door until we let her in. She never roamed. She never took off. She never whined. Smart girl, that lovely dog was.

Lucy lived with us for 16 years.  By then, my boys were in elementary school.  It was a hard goodbye.  So, I wanted one dog-free year.  A year to travel without a dog sitter.  I got four months.

And so, Molly, another red Golden, came into our lives. Although I thought Lucy was a smart dog, she had nothing on Molly. Molly understood English. I could tell her to go upstairs and she would go. I told her to go to the basement and she went. We could leave the front door open and she would just sit there, watching and waiting, but not leaving. If she wanted to come up on the bed when we were in the room, she would lay her face on top and wait for permission. She knew the rest of the furniture was forbidden. She never jumped on people. She played well with others. She sang Happy Birthday and We Wish You a Merry Christmas to family members with us over the phone in her own unique way.  She was simply the most intelligent and most lovable dog one could ever hope to know.

She was also nothing if not crazy.  She had a talent for catching her treats, but none whatsoever for catching balls or Frisbees.

Molly liked to sit by the front door, just watching the world go by.  I had read that you should not leave a door open as it frustrates a dog, but no one told that to Molly. 

Sadly, Molly left us unexpectedly after just seven years.  It was a horrible day.  This is the last photo I ever took of her.  Little did I know she would be gone just two weeks later.

I was the one, this time, who could not wait to bring another dog home. But that is a story that will have to wait. The next dog, Rooney, deserves a posting all her own.

I have no pictures of Tarzan although I know one exists somewhere.  I was gone from the house before Elke came along.  I have many pictures of Lucy, dozens of Molly and probably already a good hundred of Rooney.  Now that my kids are gone, she has become my new baby.

For dogs, like children, worm their way into your hearts.  They are more than pets.  They are family.