Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who's A Good Girl?

When I was little my parents got a dog. He was a dachshund. His name was Beedie. I don't remember him.

When I was in the Army, I got a dog. She was part Irish setter and part cocker spaniel. Her name was Annie. She moved with me from the South to the West Coast and then back home.

When my oldest son was still little Annie got sick and had to be put to sleep. My wife and I brought her to the vet and held her while she took the injection. When she died we walked quickly to the car, not looking at the people in the waiting room, and went home and held our son and cried. I loved that dog.

Annie was a good dog.

When my oldest son was seven we got a dog. She was part black lab and part God knows what. Her name was Katie. She died today.

Katie was at the shelter when we went looking for a dog, my seven-year-old and I. We took her from her kennel, walked her around the grounds. Not really. Katie dragged us. all sixty pounds of her. When we pulled on her leash she'd stop, run back, wag her tail, and lick us. Then she'd drag us some more.

"We need to save her," said my son.

"How old is she?" I asked one of the volunteers.

The woman answered, "She was a stray, but we think she's about eighteen months. She's a sweetie. And she's housebroken."

She had big feet for a grown dog, but what do I know? We came back to the shelter with the rest of the family.

"I'm not sure this is a good idea," said my wife.

A few days later Katie was living with us. The three boys were still a little cautious about dogs and Katie spent a lot of the first part of her time with us behind gates. She'd be upstairs while the boys were downstairs. She'd be downstairs while the boys were upstairs. Always, she'd be pressed against the gate, tail wagging, delirious when a child worked up enough nerve to play with her.

After a bit the boys got used to her and the gates disappeared. She'd follow them around the house, hoping for a treat or a little bit of attention, but mostly just to be with them.

As she grew into her feet, it became apparent Katie wasn't eighteen months old. Soon she was approaching one hundred pounds. She used her weight to her advantage, pulling out of our grasp when someone came to the house. The door would open and there she'd be, never jumping up but always ready to lean against anyone, hoping to be petted. She took particular delight in regularly headbutting one of my friends, E., in the groin.

"Get this damned horse away from me," E. would say.

"She loves you," our kids and his would reply.

And she did. Katie loved everyone. She loved me. She loved my wife. She loved my mother. She loved my father-in-law. She loved our friends. She loved our neighbors. She loved the milkman. But who she really loved were kids.

Some children were scared at first. Who can blame them? A dog twice as big as they were, enormous teeth, a tail like a bullwhip. We did our best to calm her down, taking her to obedience class, which she promptly failed. We bought a copy of "No Bad Dogs," which she promptly chewed, one of two things she ever destroyed, the other being a copy of "Cujo." Still the kids would come, and she'd circle them once or twice, and then she'd collapse in a pile and they'd scratch her ears and she'd roll on her back and they'd rub her belly and then she'd have someone else to love.

Most kids got used to her. Most kids fell for her just as she did for them. She had favorites though, and one of them was a boy with a disability. He and Katie were crazy about each other from the start. He would sometimes invite her over and she would gladly go and in the morning his father would say, "I can't believe I'm having a dog for a sleepover, but everyone likes it so what the hell."

Yes, who she really loved were children. Who she really loved most of all were our children. Walking to school with my youngest in the morning. Greeting my middle son in the afternoon. Sleeping next to my oldest at night.

Who our boys really loved was Katie. Walking to school with her in the morning. Greeting her in the afternoon. Sleeping next to her at night.

We asked for a family dog and that's what we had. At Thanksgiving she got a special bone. On her birthday my oldest spent his allowance to buy her a bed. We all took turns on the floor with her, singing stupid songs just to watch her tail wag.

As she got older she settled down. When the doorbell rang she more often stayed at the top of the stairs, waiting to see who was there. Her hips started to hurt and she limped a little but the vet checked her out and said everything looked fine.

Last night we had company and Katie was a happy dog. This morning when my oldest got up he could tell something was wrong. She went outside but didn't eat. By the time I got up my youngest and his best friend were frantic because she wouldn't come in.

"Go get her," I said, and they both went out there, offering treats, but to no effect. I put on my shoes and went out myself. She was under the deck.

"C'mon, big girl," I said. She looked cold and wouldn't move. Finally I half carried, half dragged her back inside. I told the boys she seemed to be sick but that happens to dogs and she'd be likely be better by afternoon and if not we'd take her to the vet. They petted her and hugged her and told her they loved her and left for school, and I scratched her ears and left for work, and my wife came home at lunch to check on her and she was dead.

When my wife called I left work and my friend E. came over to help and we took Katie to the vet one last time. When the boys got home, their mother and I told them what had happened, and I guess that's one of the lessons you learn when you have pets, but it's still hard.

When we told the boys, they cried, and their mother cried, and I cried too. She was a good dog. We loved her.

UPDATE: Thanks to fish, Jennifer, the nice people at 3Bulls!, and everyone who's left kind notes or thought kind thoughts. It really does help.

23 comments:

Pinko Punko said...

Oh snag. I don't have anything to say. We never had dogs until the boys and I never understood pet owners, now it is like all my friends pets are mine too. I'm so sad for you right now, even knowing how much joy you had with her.

PupH said...

Man that reminds of the India pup up the street - such a big old loveable lug.

Sorry again.

plover said...

I'm so sorry.

Condolences to you and your family.

blue girl said...

So sorry, Snag. Love to everyone.

billy pilgrim said...

I'm crying Snag.

I wish I'd met Katie. even more, I wish she'd met our Mieshka. Dogs of a feather.

I know how big a gap a Good dog can leave.

so sorry.

Chuckles said...

I am sorry, Snag. I'd buy your entire family a chili dog, but they don't mail well.

Anonymous said...

Katie was a great old soul, who loved all of us. She was not only the snag family dog, she was everyones dog. We will all miss her and we all have our favorite Katie stories. One of my favorites is when M would sit in my lap and Katie would take her big old nose and push him off my lap, it was her time with me. Not his. I loved that dog.

E's wife.

Mendacious D said...

I'm so sorry, Snag. Best wishes.

Karla said...

re: BP and "I know how big a gap a Good dog can leave."

We had to put our family dog, Aimee down last summer. She was a bad lab of 15 years old. She never liked us very much but we adored her. I think she always wished she had been born a cat. Aimee wasn't a good dog and even so, the gap she left was so big. We miss her still. I am so sorry for the lost of your good pup.

mdhatter said...

Bummer.

Kathleen said...

I am crying for you and the kids. I wish I could make it better.

fish said...

You can have my dog. And my cat. And two of my kids. No make it all of my kids.

Mandos said...

I'm really sorry to hear that this has befallen.

Prof Scrub said...

Dear Bereaved Snag,

My dog, my dog, my kingdom for my dog.

All the best,

Prof Scrub

dbati said...

Snag,

I'm so sorry for your loss. We got our 1st family dog about 6 months ago. We found a beautiful mixed breed at the shelter, I think he's half beagle/half a-hole, but my boys are madly in love. He still chews, barks and nips the boys, but we love him to tears.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Katie was a beaut.

Touching The River said...

Wow... what a heartwarming teary eyed story...
My heart goes out to you and your family.

Brando said...

I am really, really sorry, Snag. You're right that it's a lesson you have to learn with pets, and more than right when you say it's always a hard lesson to swallow.

Best to you and your family. I am glad you had a dog that provided so many happy moments.

Diogenes said...

A bittersweet story. The loss of any member of the family is sad, but from the sounds of it Katie had about as good a life as any dog could. Cold comfort, perhaps, but from the sounds of it she made the world a better place while she was here. If only more of the "higher animals" could learn that simple lesson.

Righteous Bubba said...

You did and have done a great job writing about Katie.

almostinfamous said...

deepest condolences snag. it's always hard when you lose a member of the family.

Lefty said...

It sounds like she lived life on her own terms and died on them likewise. I'm not sure you could really ask for much more.

Von said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. My deepest condolences.

TLB said...

I'm so sorry about your dog. I know it's easy to make a pregnant woman cry, but I would have anyway.

Hope you and your wife and boys are doing well.