I recently met a big dog while at a craft fair when he broke loose from his home to come join the party. He roamed freely through people and booths, happily slobbering and shedding on everyone. When he reached us, he leaned heavily onto my lap, tongue hanging, full of dog joy in all its no-manners-no-shame-no-guilt glory. He obviously cared nothing for the fact that he wasn’t obeying leash laws.
When the owners found him, he didn’t want to leave the party. He flopped, boneless, to the ground, refusing to move. They tugged, they pleaded, they lifted portions. Nothing worked. He was a limp rag. Until someone came with treats. Then he agreed to go home. Since I wasn’t the dog owner, I found it hilarious. I hope to meet him again.
He reminded me of an old dog named Jack who freely roamed the town. If someone was walking their dog on a leash, he went along. If kids were out on recess, he joined them in the playground. If there was something interesting going on at the town hall, he’d show up to watch. And if there was traffic, he’d lay in the middle of the road to keep an eye on who was going where. He was also the dog who sat in the woods and rain with me when our own dog was lost; a story some of you have heard.
This past weekend I watched an older lady making her way down the road with a daschund mix draped over her shoulders. She struggled with balancing him and as I watched, he began to slide. I caught him just as he was hanging, suspended by his collar and leash, down her back. Once on the ground he was full of energy, dancing around and getting attention.
She told me he’d been exhausted moments earlier and she’d had to carry him in order to make it home. As she walked away I heard her say ‘If you’re so full of piss and vinegar, you can just walk, mister.’
That reminded me of two very old, fat dogs my parents had. I would take Jello and Moose for walks and they did fine going, but as soon as I turned around and they realized the walk was over, they would collapse. I’d end up walking home with one sausage under each arm. They never did lose weight.
There was the terrified dog in the woods that several of us spent weeks hiking food to before it trusted us enough to follow us out.
There were the two Border Collies sitting on the side of the road in the pouring rain, next to a fifty-pound bag of dog food, patiently waiting for someone, anyone, to explain why their person had just dumped them in the middle of the woods. We found a home for them.
There was the terrified dog hiding under our cabin. When we showed up, she charged out with full body wiggles, and you could almost hear her shouting ‘Hello! I’m yours!’. She joyfully lived with friends for many years.
I remember an ancient, fossilized Yorkie with no teeth and collapsed joints so it walked on its elbows rather than paws. His owner was an elderly woman who had been in a car accident. We were on the fire department and the old thing was under the car when we arrived. He went home with us until the family came to get him, and in spite of being old and smelly and decrepit, he was happy and sweet. He was so well-preserved he’s probably still around.
So many, many dogs have been in our lives. Some staying, some just passing through. I could easily continue on with these stories. Dogs uncouth, misbehaving, disobedient, peeing on stuff, shedding on everything, barking, pulling on leashes, rolling in dead salmon, eating nasty stuff, farting with blissful disregard, scratching, licking themselves in private areas in public places…I keep saying ‘no more!’.
But…life would be so dull without them.