This post originally appeared May 2, 2018, on the Chile Today Hot Tamale! website. (www.chiletodayhottamale.net)
Last week I learned from a Facebook post that a high school friend had to put his pet dog of many years down. I immediately felt the pain he must have been feeling. Pets, especially dogs, have a way of becoming members of the family. Danny, my heart goes out to you.
We still miss our beloved Ronnie. He was my dog, at least on paper. I owned him for a full five years before I met Kathy. I trained him, and we bonded as only a bachelor and his dog can do. But when Kathy arrived on the scene, he changed. Kathy thinks that she became his owner, but in fact, Ronnie claimed ownership of Kathy. She was his charge, his duty to protect, his love. When Kathy went back to the bedroom, so did Ronnie. When she got out of bed, so did Ronnie. She took him on long walks. He looked out for her.
Shortly before his death, we took him on a camping trip. Kathy would take him with her on her trips up to the bath house, and every time another camper would come down the path, Ronnie would stop, fix the camper with a gaze, and keep the other camper in his sight until the camper had passed well down the trail. We didn’t realize just how sick he was then, but illness did not stop him from doing his duty, which was seeing to Kathy’s safety.
Given that, it isn’t surprising that Ronnie’s death hit Kathy pretty hard. We both knew we wanted another dog, but I voted for a decent interval of mourning before adding another member to the family. Kathy, on the other hand, voted for a new pet immediately. So, as usual, we compromised, meaning we did what Kathy wanted.
One Saturday morning I received a call from Kathy, who was supposedly out doing errands. She was calling from the Humane Society of Morgan County (Georgia), a no-kill shelter in our beloved town. “You’ve got to get over here now. You must see this dog!” I stopped whatever Very Important Chore I was doing and hopped in the pick-up. Within a few minutes, I met our newest family member, the member we have named Lucy.
I should point out that the shelter called Lucy by a different name. As luck would have it, they called her by our granddaughter’s first name. Our granddaughter is, of course, amused by this coincidence, but we could foresee trouble ahead, having both a granddaughter and a puppy with the same name. Thus we set about to find a new name. I offered my selection, and once again we compromised by going with Kathy’s name. She called her Lucy, after the comedienne Lucille Ball.
Lucy is a Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, or a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Feel free to do what the rest of the world does and abbreviate that mouthful to “Swissie.” The picture at the beginning of this post shows her in Kathy’s car, on the way home from the shelter, on March 28. At that point she was 11 weeks old.
She is going to be a big dog. On one recent weekend, as I lay in bed catching up on my sleep, Lucy decided that I had slept long enough. She came bounding into the room, and with a burst of puppy energy, flew through the air, landing on my chest. At that time, I believe she was only 31 pounds. Trust me on this one: I got out of bed. After, that is, I recovered my breath.
Lucy was aptly named. She may not be as funny as Lucille Ball, but she is trying hard. Puppies are funny creatures, anyway, and this one is hilarious. She fetches, of course, but refuses to return what she fetched. Throw a ball to her when she already has one in her mouth, and she will spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to put both balls in her mouth. She has an expressive face that makes me laugh for no good reason.
She is not Ronnie. In the same way that no two children are alike, she is her own dog. I can tell already that she will not be the sort to protect Kathy with her life, as Ronnie would have done, but that is just fine. She is our new child, and we will see what personality emerges from the furious cyclone of puppy energy.
To my friend Danny: at the right moment, find your Lucy.