October 19, 2009

The dog in our lives.

I was born on a Monday and my first dog was born on the Sunday before me. He was my friend and because of his breed and bloodline, my protector. The Skye Terrier is not a terribly popular breed largely due to their somewhat aggressive nature -- they aren't easy. They have the terrier pluckiness and interest in life, but they tend to be one-man-dogs and have fearfully powerful jaws. This particular dog was bigger than many in his breed. He was as smart and as loyal as a dog can be, but that loyalty was to one person, my dad. He spent an entire day once when my great grandmother was visiting, lying on the bed draped over Dad's jacket, growling each time the dear woman neared the room. He was guarding property. His loyalty to me, though mixed with great affection, was based on his job. I was his charge. My mom, to whom he was not loyal in the least, learned about his commitment when she went to spank her rather impetuous and certainly defiant, child. As she was attempting to land a swat, the dog caught the sleeve of her sweater and produced a hole there that clarified his position on spanking. There was to be none. And there was none in his presence. He chose to sleep at my dad's feet and occasionally mine. He was attentive and communicative and lovely and his absence, when I turned eight, left a great hole in the sleeve of my heart.
When I bought my very own first pup (after many, many family dogs) it was a terrier, a Cairn. He was a fabulous specimen. Hearty and joyous and funny and truly, truly a girl's best friend. He was a traveler, a follower, a greeter and one of the most interested personalities I've ever known. He lived a lovely life and just two weeks shy of his 17th birthday, passed on to the green, green rolling hills that any good Scotsman longs for.
My life is now inhabited by a beautiful, noble, handsome, German Shepherd Dog who will never leave a footprint on my heart because he's taken it and stashed it in his doggy pocket. He lives right in the middle of our lives and each of us has our own relationship with him. He delights in lying next to my youngest for a cuddle. He walks the blocks with our eldest. Goes to the park in the car with his master and for long walks with me. We might each think he loves us the most. But the focus is on me, my comings and goings. He has studied my ways from the morning's alarm to the turning of the covers at night. He reads my pants and knows every shoe choice. There is a leap when they communicate, "go." I certainly haven't earned this loyal following. But the minutes, when his eyes grasp mine to figure out the next step, are filled with collusion and excitement. We have secrets between us. We've been somewhere together without the others. It is a magical bond. And at the end of the day I revel in all the dogs I've known when he's welcomed up on the bed for those sweet minutes at the close of the day. He circles in that doggy circle and lies down, making sure his back rests against my leg. In this space of peace and connection, I drift off to sleep, connected to the many and the singular, this marvelous creature: the dog in my life.

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