Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why I love my dog

I just finished reading "Marley and Me" by John Grogan. I laughed so much that I hurt. At one point I was sitting on the front stoop while Leica was warming up in the shade and I began laughing so loudly I caught myself and quickly looked around to see if I was embarrassing myself. I was safe, so I began to read again. The laughter got louder the second time, so rather than subject myself to anymore concern over being thought a fool, I tugged on Leica's leash and we retreated to the safety of the living room.

As hard as I laughed throughout that book, I sobbed at the end. Of course I knew that Marley was going to get old and die, I was just hoping that he wouldn't write about it. You see, I like my books and my movies to be happy. No one ever dies, no one ever has trouble in life ... everyone is happy.

But, what a glorious book about the relationship between a man and his dog - even if the dog is the world's worst dog ever.

Every dog I've ever had was a great dog. When I was young, we started out kind of rocky with our pets. My grandfather kept trying to have dogs, but he was very bad at it. Joey and Katie ended up at our house after he discovered he couldn't deal with them. Katie was an absolutely insane Viszla. There was no controlling her. But, we found good homes for both of those dogs. We also found that three children had gotten a hint of the fun of having a pet and weren't going to last very long without a dog around. It was all over for dad. Mom had grown up with dogs, Dad hadn't. He lost.

We soon found ourselves looking into large metal cells at the Burlington Humane Society for the best dog ever. Charcoal went home with us that day and became an immediate part of our family. She was followed by Odie (actually, OD - Other Dog. Jim and a friend had rescued two part-Schnauzers from a man who was going to kill them and hid those two dogs in the loft of our garage. When he asked mom what we would name another dog if we got another dog, she flippantly said, "OD - Other Dog." And Odie came into our lives). After Charcoal died, Ghenghis Khan, King of the Mongrel Hordes soon came to live with us. That little Shih-Tzu lived up to his name. Mom died before Ghenghis and he moved into an apartment with Carol and me. I believe he was stolen one evening when he chased around a corner before I got there. After weeks and weeks of looking for him all over the neighborhood, our hearts were broken. But, during that time, I was at the Humane Society every evening looking for him. I didn't find him, but I did find my very first dog. She was all mine. A little black poodle mix. I named her Isolde. I took her home that first evening and she plastered herself against my body. From that day forward she rarely left my side. She loved me with everything she had.

Several years later, Isolde died and it wasn't long before I got my first dachshund - Bert. What a great little guy he was. He was insane over rubber toys that had whistles in them. It was great entertainment to watch him go nuts while trying to remove the whistle. Once it was out of the toy, he could relax. He was never more than 10 feet from me and I could trust him to be off-leash and never wander away. He transitioned with me from Carol to Max.

When he died at about age 16, Max and I felt freedom for the first time. We could travel as we wanted and never had to hurry home from dinner. But, you know what? Those weren't nearly as important as I thought.

I heard about a miniature dachshund in Kansas that desperately needed a home. I begged, cried, pleaded and whimpered at Max until he relented. He said we weren't going to have another dog until I could be home with the dog. I didn't care. I needed a dog in my life. We drove to Nebraska City, met the woman from the rescue and met Leica. She wasn't terribly sure about all of the chaos that had been in her life to that point, but I was.

She was 9 years old when we got her. I can see grey around her snout. I know I don't have a lifetime with her, but she is definitely worth every moment I do have. There is something wonderful about the incredible love a dog offers you. Leica is definitely my dog but she loves Max like crazy. One evening he sat on the couch and she leaped up to get close to him. He looked at me and said, "she really does love me, doesn't she?" Of course she does. She's a dog and is so glad to have her people around.

When we leave, she dashes for the kitchen counter to watch out the window. I hope that at some point she settles down to sleep, but when we come home, she's there again, wiggling with joy that we are home. She follows me up the stairs and down the stairs all day long and when I head for the front door, she can barely contain herself at the possibility of going outside.

At night she snuggles in the crook of my legs, but before crawling under the covers she launches herself onto my chest to kiss me over and over.

I love my dog.

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