Author’s Note: I had to let my dear sweet dog go last week, and adjusting to life without her has been painful and difficult. Here’s a story I wrote about her a few years ago. Whether or not you have a dog in your life that you love dearly, I hope you enjoy it. – Paula
Occasionally people will call, write or stop by to talk to me about my column and what they enjoy reading about. And while the subjects vary, one invariably comes up much more often than all the others put together.
People want me to write about my dog.
Dogs hold a special place in our hearts, don’t they? No matter what, they are always happy to see us, whether we’ve been gone five minutes or five hours. They are always there to share our reactions, whether we are happy as a lark, or deep in a dark depression.
They are always there to make us laugh, and sit with us in comfort when we cry. Is there more dearer a friend than a dog? Doubtful.
My dog, Miss K (not her real name, she likes her privacy) is all this and more to me. I had just moved into my new home back in 2012, and it needed something. Leaving for work, I’d holler out “Bye house!” and upon returning I would holler, “Hello house!” It seemed a bit ludicrous.
Lots of people find having a pet a great burden, but I’d lived with a dog for most of my life, and it became apparent that was the one thing that was needed.
She kind of found me one wintery afternoon. An old friend who knew I was looking, said, “I found the perfect dog for you.”
“Oh, really?” I thought, always beings the skeptic. Miss K had been surrendered by a woman who could no longer keep her due to failing health and being put into a care facility. I’m certain it broke her heart to do so.
When I first met with Miss K, she was indifferent. She was half lab and half chow, and I was not familiar with the chow breed. We hung out for a while, but she didn’t seem very interested. Not disinterested, she was being … polite.
She had been trained as a therapy dog, so I knew she was fairly bomb-proof and would get along with other dogs, cats and be gentle with my grandchildren. I decided to take her home and hope for the best.
I didn’t know if she liked me for almost two weeks. During that time I read up on the chow breed and it’s temperament. Aloof, loyal, quiet, independent. Eventually she showed me some form of affection, and I was glad. She liked me! She really liked me! It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Until the first time I used the vacuum, that is. According to notes from her previous owner, I knew she didn’t like them, so I put her outside the first time I used it after she came home.
When I went to let her in, she put her nose in the air and stalked past me with utter disdain. It was the doggie equivalent of flipping me off! Indignant and cute as hell, it made me giggle. She proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the afternoon.
I was told that she would “tell me” when she wanted to go out. When I asked for more detail, I was told, “Oh, she’ll just tell you.” Well, they were right. This dog has the sweetest brown eyes you have ever seen (I’ve always been a sucker for brown eyes), and she definitely knows how to use them. And being half chow, she has a teddy bear quality about her, and who can resist a real live teddy bear?
Well, Miss K knows all this somehow. When we drive down the street, I hear a lot of “Awwwwww!’s” from people we pass by, and often at a stoplight, people in the next car will have entire conversations with her. Sometimes I feel a little bad for driving away when the light turns green. I think maybe I’m just her chauffeur.
She also uses those sweet looks to get treats at the dog park. In fact, she can find treats on people who don’t know they have treats. Many times I’ve watched her stare someone down while that person apologizes to her at length about not having treats, and when they finally check their pockets, they are amazed to find a treat there. “Oh, she knew!” I tell them. She always knows.
There is one gentleman who owns her soul though. When we happen to run into him at the dog park, I no longer exist. She will follow that man anywhere, even if we’ve already been around the park once or twice and she’s too tired for another go round. She’ll be on his heels without a second thought, never once looking back for me.
When we’re alone at the dog park, she will keep an eye on me, running ahead but checking in on me if I fall from her sight. Sometimes I duck down and wait for her to come bounding back to see what happened to me, and then I jump out as she’s upon me, and we both have a good laugh. She does like to be teased!
It’s surprising how much a dog can key in to a person. Miss K knows when it’s time for me to get out of bed. She knows not to get me out of bed too early on the weekend. Yes, she understands sleeping in on weekends. She knows when I’ve slept in too long, even on a weekend. She knows when I’m done in the bathroom, and it’s time to head downstairs. She knows when I get a text, and will come over to let me know about it.
She knows when a meal is late, and gives me The Stare until things are rectified. If she could drum her fingers at me, she would. Somehow that dog does it with her face, I don’t know how. She knows if I’ve been at the computer too long, and will come and huff at me until I do something about it. I have no need for a doorbell – as she doesn’t just let me know when someone is on the porch, she has a different bark for when they are in the driveway, the sidewalk or across the street. And I know which it is without even looking outside.
An interesting symbiosis.
It doesn’t matter who is on the porch, though, a regular visitor or a new one, her bark is just the same, very loud and long. As soon as the door is opened, all is forgiven, and there are wags all around. After all, some visitors have treats in their pockets!
When they told me she was trained as a therapy dog, it never occurred to me that I might be the beneficiary of her skills. For Miss K not only notices my moods, however subtle (or not – she certainly understands the F-word, no matter how quietly it’s uttered), but she actually anticipates them. I’ve sat on the stairs of my porch in tears, only to have her quietly pad over to me and lick my tears away with her blue tongue.
Another time, during a quiet but painful conversation in my kitchen, she came into the room, concerned, before I even realized I was about to burst into tears. But she was there for me, and ready to comfort me when it happened. It’s hard to believe, but it was clear how proud she was to be there for me in my time of need.
My buddy, my best friend.
It’s through these moments that I’ve come to understand that Miss K is, in fact, no ordinary dog. I’m completely convinced that Miss K is not really even a dog at all. Miss K is some sort of angel in disguise, with fur instead of wings. A guardian angel that has been somehow sent to me, by someone from beyond who loves me very much.
Now, if only I could get her to go out and start my car for me on these cold mornings.