Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dog Person

When I was growing up, my family always had dogs. They were mixed breed dogs that survived on table scraps and small furry creatures that wandered too close to our yard.
These dogs, for the most part, were family dogs. Everybody petted and cared for them but they were not “mine”.
My older sister had a Chihuahua given to her by Mama Watson, our grandmother on my father’s side. The dog was about the size of a well-fed gopher and my sister loved Bozie like a child. I loved the dog too but I never really had a dog of my own.
That changed the summer of 1974 just after Jilda and I married. My father-in-law (Sharky) asked me to help him with a plumbing job down below Burnwell, Alabama. When we pulled up to the house, there was a German Shepherd sitting in the yard. He was a longhaired shepherd that weighted about as much as my new wife did.
He bounded up to me as if he had been waiting for me all his young life. All day long, he followed me around. I wrestled with him and tried to teach him tricks. When I picked up a stick and flung it, I thought he might retrieve it. Instead, he looked at the stick, and then looked back at me as if to say, “What’d you do that for?” He never did learn any tricks.
When we finished the job and were collecting our pay, the shepherd was there standing on my foot. Sharky said, “That woman might give you that dog.” I mistakenly thought he had already discussed it with her, so my face lit up with excitement. She stuttered a little but said, “I’ll need to ask my husband. We have a new baby and we had been thinking about getting rid of the dog, but I need to make sure.” She called her husband at work and he agreed to give me the dog. I was ecstatic. I walked to my truck, opened the door, and Duke hoped into the passenger seat and into our lives. That was the day I became a “Dog Person.”
We kept Duke for over thirteen years and when his health deteriorated, we made the decision to put him down. I can say without hesitation, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
When you become a dog person, you pretty much give up the notion of eating an entire hamburger in peace. You should also expect to have some things chewed….like shoes, tools, furniture, sports equipment and small appliances. Your house will never be “spotless” again. When you ride in our cars, there is a very good chance you’ll get some dog hair on your clothes. Sometimes when you least expect it, the air in the room gets as foul as a clogged sewer and the only way to breathe normally again is to open all the doors and windows.
But the dogs I’ve had throughout my life have been a blessing to me. The thing about dogs is, they’re always happy to see you no matter how bad a day you’ve had. When you’re sad, they hang with you until the sadness passes.
They make a simple walk through the woods like a mini vacation. Jilda and I never had children so in some ways our dogs are like our kids. I know this; life would not be the same without the love of our dogs.

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