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I Don’t Have Dogs Anymore

November 20, 2018

If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.
– President Truman

Dog days

Gone to the dogs

The problem with dogs is not that they love us so much. It’s that they leave us so early. I don’t know if the 7:1 ratio for dog years to human years is accurate. But, we tend to outlive our dogs. Sometimes, it’s almost too much to bear.

I had a dog when I was a kid. I had several dogs over the years. I remember when I was about five years old, we lived in Spokane, Washington at the base of a very steep hill. The road was pretty busy. It was Green Street.

In the winter we would sit in our living room and watch the cars (mostly) unsuccessfully attempt to power up the hill. They often came back down sideways. I have no idea how many wrecked.

In the summer, my parents were naturally worried about their young kids playing in the street. We had strict instructions to not go in the street under any circumstances.

Our dog didn’t understand that rule. fifty years later, I remember the terror at him dashing out into the street. We remained glued to the sidewalk, but shouted encouragement to the poor dog. He continued dashing across the two lanes of traffice headed up the hill. He paused briefly in the middle and we pleaded with him to come back. Instead he sprinted for the opposite side, dodging the cars coming down the hill.

He finally made it safe to the opposite side. We shouted at him to stay there. He was a confused dog, and, I was only five. He decided that he didn’t much care for life on the other side of the street. He started to retrace his steps. He never saw the car that hit him. I’m not sure the driver saw him either.

When I was a teenager, we lived in Olympia, Washington. I had a dog named Tuffy. Okay, it wasn’t a very good name, as far as outstanding dog names. He was a Golden Retriever mix. And he was my dog.

My dog got sick. He had a skin disease. We treated it for over a year. We tried baths. We tried brewers yeast on his food. But, finally, it got to the point that we needed to end it. He couldn’t walk down the hallway without stopping to scratch at what had become open wounds.

As I said, he was my dog.

I took him to the Humane Society. Even at his worst he was still a good dog. He loved me. He trusted me. He dutifully followed me into the shelter. I had created a leash of woven baling twine. Some of the strands were orange. Some were yellow, similar to the color of his coat. I handed him over to the attendant, who took a firm grip on his collar. I removed the handwoven leash and turned to go. I can still hear his confused bark.

It haunts me.

Despite growing up on a farm, my lovely wife is allergic to dogs. That’s why it was such an amazing gift when she offered to bring a dog into our little family of her, me and our two young daughters.

We attempted to be responsible dog buyers. We “met the parents.” The mother was a black lab. The father was about 80 lbs and jet black, but had the coat similar to a Golden Retriever. There is a breed known as a Flat-coat Retriever that matched the father’s description.

The father’s description also matched, although we didn’t realize it until later, that of an immature Newfoundland. We realized that about the time he topped 100 lbs at 8 months old. He ended up about 110 lbs and he was my dog. His name was Sam.

Sam, was a gentle dog, as Newfies typically are. He was good with the kids. He was a happy dog. And then Sam got sick. He started losing his hair. The vet diagnosed it as a thyroid problem. It’s not uncommon in large dogs. We got a perscription and he started to get better.

And then one day he snapped at my young daughter, one of the side effects of the medicine. The two daughters together weighed less than the dog. It was a hard decision, but the decision was never in doubt. We took him to the vet and asked her to find a home for him. He really was a good dog. And I have hopes that someone adopted him and he lived out his life in a happy home.

He’s no doubt dead by now. It was over 20 years ago.

I don’t have dogs anymore. I have a few fish, but you don’t get attached to fish. You expect fish to die.

It’s devastating to lose those you get attached to. I envy those who have dogs. Who can willingly take on the love of a dog knowing they will outlive their faithful companions.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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