Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Marley and Me, and Our Dogs Three

Watching Marley and Me this week turned my thoughts to the dogs I've had over the years. It is a great movie, by the way, as much about marriage and family as it is about a crazy dog.

I think you could classify me as a dog lover. Okay, a dog nut. We didn't have a lot of pets when I was a boy. My dad wasn't all that big on pets. There was Tex, a Brittany Spaniel who ate dad's green tomatoes. Then we had a Dachshund named Doxie for a year or so. (My mother's name was Dixie, but Doxie's name didn't bother her, except when my father—using mom's middle name—called the dog Doxie Marie.) We had another Dachshund named Cindy who had back problems and had to be put down. And we had Snoopy, a Lab-Pointer mix we had when I was 11 who was my favorite. She had a habit of pointing—at airplanes flying overhead. She also had a habit of barking and of chewing up things. Like trash cans. Dad found her a new home. I was heartbroken.

I didn't have another dog until I was in college. While still living in the dorm, I managed to talk Shan, my fiancé (now wife), into letting me keep a dog at her duplex. Sheba was a black Labrador who had been raised without much human contact until she was six months old. She absolutely adored me, and liked Shan pretty well. When Shan and I sat together, Sheba would wedge her way in between us and lay her head on my shoulder. The day after our wedding, we came back to the duplex to get some things. Sheba had escaped from the back yard (she was a prodigious digger). I left Shan inside to pack, and went out with the car to look for her. It was early in the morning, and few people were out. I found her a few blocks from the house, and opened the car door so she could get in. This was the car we'd had at the wedding, the one that was still decorated with streamers and balloons, with "Just Married" painted on it. Sheba sat right next to me in the car with her head on my shoulder. We passed a man out watering his yard who gaped at us, surely thinking, "That is the ugliest bride I've ever seen."

We had Sheba for many years, along with Lady, the Sheltie that Shan had when we met. Sheba was the best mother I've ever seen. She had false pregnancies several times, and she took care of Lady's pups and the cat's kittens.

When Lady died, Sheba pined for her. (We all did. Shan was nearly hysterical.) Sheba had seen Lady when I laid her in the front yard, and cried piteously. She wouldn’t eat for days. Shan finally got her to eat by putting bacon grease on her food, and when she stopped a few weeks later, Sheba ran to the stove to show her where the bacon grease was.

With Sheba we had several Shelties (we've almost always had a Sheltie), including one male named Scamp who managed to open a locked door in between them and knock Sheba up. They were really cute puppies (all ten of them), who later grew up into strange looking black dogs. At that time we lived in a mobile home, and couldn't leave the dogs outside during the day. Every day when we got home, Sheba would meet us at the door, wagging furiously, and we'd play a game of "Find the Puppies." For some reason, perhaps to keep them away from the cat, she would hide puppies all over the house. One even fell down into an open heater vent and was stuck in the duct work. Getting a blind puppy out of a heater duct was an experience not to be missed, unless you had something more fun to do, like exploratory surgery. Without anesthesia.

We've had lots of doggy adventures over the years. I'll write more about them at another time. At the moment, though, we have three dogs, Chewbacca, Snickers, and Murphy. You might have guessed that the rest of the family is just as dog crazy as I am.

Snickers is our obligatory Sheltie. I bought her for my wife four years ago. She is an incredibly smart and fast dog, and my daughter Rachel trains her for agility trials. You know, where the dogs jump over bars, weave through poles, run through tunnels, etc. It's great fun to watch, and Snickers is very fast—when she pays attention. She's also a beautiful dog, and obsesses over a ball or toy, or anything she can chase.

Murphy is my daughter's dog. He was last year's Christmas present for Rachel. We'd lost my son's beagle, Pippin, in the summer, and all Rachel wanted for Christmas was another dog. When a 15-year-old girl shuns all the iPods, CDs, clothes, and other stuff you offer, you know she is really set on that one thing. When she opened the box that held a little stuffed dog and a certificate good for one dog of her choice (some restrictions apply), she burst into tears. A few weeks later we had Murphy, a cross between a Sheltie and a . . . well, who knows? He's black and tan like some dachshunds, but his long legs seem to belie that ancestry. He's a real character, who always, always grabs a toy to show everyone when he comes into the house, running around wagging his whole body like a canine sidewinder. He is also a very game little dog, and pesters Snickers and Chewbacca constantly.

I've saved Chewbacca (Chewie) for last, because we thought we'd lost him recently. He's a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a hardy breed known for jumping into icy water to retrieve ducks and geese. Light tan in color, with a wavy coat, Chewie has never hunted anything (to my chagrin), but is a big, goofy kid. He makes more vocal sounds than any dog I've ever owned, including my previous Chessie. He loves to curl up in my recliner, as you can see.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that he was listless and throwing up. Shan made an appointment at the vet and left him inside to run some errands. When she returned there was blood all over the floor. She called me and we got him into the vet immediately, where they did x-rays and blood tests, and kept him overnight. He was one sick pup. The x-rays showed nothing, and the blood tests gave no indication of what was sickening him. We brought him home and when I let him out, he passed a huge stream of nothing but blood. He wouldn't eat at all. On Saturday he lay in the floor all day, not moving. At one point I thought he'd died because he was completely unresponsive, and his breathing was so shallow and slow. I sat and held his head, bawling. After a while I called Shan to let her know I thought he was going, and sent out a prayer request to a bunch of folks asking for his healing. Really, I was asking for my own sake.

Those of you who don't have dogs may not understand the love we give to our dogs and how much we get from them. I'm not one of those people who equate animals with humans. There is a difference. But dogs seem to reflect and magnify the love we give them. I sometimes wonder if that isn't the reason God gives them to us. I think they teach us a little bit about how we should reflect God's love.

People prayed for Chewie, and for us. And he just got well. Nobody knows why. By Saturday night he ate a little. By Sunday he was getting up and walking around. By that evening he was eating everything we gave him and asking for more. (He asks very loudly, with a kind of a cross between a growl and a howl. In fact, it sounds a great deal like Chewbacca did in Star Wars.) In another day he was running laps around the back yard for no particular reason. Maybe it just felt good to feel good.

That's all for now. Maybe I'll relate the story of the needle next time . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment