A conversation on Twitter this morning made me think a thought. We were talking about the perils of trimming a dog’s claws, and I just started thinking about my own. Dogs, that is. Not claws.
Cookie was our first dog. One of my dad’s fellow firemen had a germain shorthair pointer and a dalmatian who made puppies. Cookie came to us at 8 weeks, hyperactive and not particularly social. We had her 13 years, for most of which she was my father’s dog and tolerated the rest of us. I was in 2nd grade when she arrived, so I never really noticed the difference. She died in spring when I was 20, and I missed her much more than I thought I would.
Just after Christmas of that year, we saw Reggie’s picture on the Humane Society website. We went to “just look” at this 8 year-old Dalmatian, a senior dog with probable digestive issues nobody was going to want. His cellmate, a yellow chowchow mix marked “needs confident owner”, was chewing on his tail. Reggie rode home standing up in the back of our Buick, his head on my father’s’s shoulder all the way down the 101. When we got home, he tried to stand up and put his paws around the waist of anyone who would stand still and press his face into them. I don’t know who taught him how to hug, but it was all he ever wanted to do.
From the day he entered our home, Reggie was a gentleman. He never barked without a reason. He never bit. He only ever took food gently. His favorite thing was simply to stare into your eyes. He would find whoever in the house was upset and sit beside them. The sound of crying would make him come find you to lick your face. It sounds like Marley & Me bullshit in retrospect, but it was uncanny. I’ve never known such gratitude in a person before, much less an animal. Whatever happened to him before he found us, he was so happy to not be there anymore. Just like Cookie, though, he loved my dad best.
Reggie was with us for six years. The day my dad brought home his ashes from the vet’s office was the only time in my life I’ve ever seen him cry. For the next year I would wake up in the middle of the night, hearing the crackle of his arthritic hips and our creaky floor, the jingle of his collar, as he’d make his nightly patrol down the hall past my room, around the dark house, and back to bed.
Reggie finally rested when we brought Katie into our home.
Unlike Reggie, Katie was a baby when we got her. A year and half old. A rescue. She and her sister were surrendered by “a single mom with a young son”, a “house rabbit”, and a boyfriend, who turned them out of the house so quickly they had to be boarded for two days before the rescue volunteers could claim them. We wound up with a dog afraid to be held by her collar, fearful of tall men and rustling noises, and who would hit the ground on her belly if you surprised her around the corner. Weimaraners are a very sensitive breed, not for the faint of heart or light of patience, and that’s without spending their infancy being dragged from under tables and shaken by toddlers.
But Katie will be five in Spring, and she’s learning to love gazing into our eyes the way Reggie did.