Thursday, February 19, 2009

About A Dog

This dog. The alpha female of our pack of five pets. The one we call 'police dog' or 'fatty tuna.' The one who will gently hump even the most decrepit of cats, (like a past feline resident named Spike), because, well, it's empowering to her. This dog is named Sydney, though when I adopted her she was called Cassie. There's no telling what she was called before that when she was found chasing cattle on a ranch in rural Oklahoma; before the kind veterinarian recognized that she would be shot and killed if she didn't rescue her. (make note that many years later we'd find that she still has some buckshot in the space between her flesh and her ribcage)
The vet let her sleep in her bed for an entire month before a space was available at the no-kill shelter in the town where I went to college.

I'd tragically witnessed my last rescue dog die in front of me after choking on a discarded piece of deer carcass. It was 3 in the morning, and by 3 the next afternoon, I'd adopted Sydney to fill the void I already felt in my heart, and to help quell the loneliness that had staked out in my being from living alone, feeling like my parents had abandoned me by retiring and moving halfway across the country, and the phase of self-seeking that had followed leaving me thin, tired and confused.

But also at this time I'd recently begun a relationship with the other half. He had just graduated from college and was living at home trying to figure out that next step to being a grownup. My heart was on the mend, and little did I know that this new dog would help mend it even more. The other half was in a really bad jet ski accident and I would drive the three hours to his parents' house to visit him in between summer school classes. I told him that I'd adopted this new dog and asked if I could bring her with me. I warned him that she wasn't very cute; that her skin showed pink in patches, and she was a bit on the skinny side. I was worried he'd think my quick decision to adopt a new dog after the death of the last one had resulted in poor choosing. I needn't have worried...the two hit it off immediately, and Syd showed us her uncanny ability to help those in need. I wish I had the photo to share with you of the two of them on that first visit. She never left his side; the two of them looking a bit bedraggled and sickly. It was clear that she was 'his dog' after that.

Fast forward nine years to when my niece was visiting us. She had recently shown signs of epilepsy and her seizures were not yet under control. On more than a few occasions, Syd would put her entire body before my niece--when they were walking down the stairs or playing in the gameroom--and sure enough, it was always right before she would have a seizure. It was truly amazing.

Fast forward two more years to our four-acre property in Austin. Most of the property was fenced in, so we felt comfortable allowing M to roam and play in the leaves; a favorite sensory activity of his. When we couldn't see him over the gentle curves of the land, we could say, 'Sydney, go find M,' and out she'd race to wherever he was sitting. She'd sit herself down in true cattle dog pose, approximately 10 feet from him and move to the exact same stance anytime he moved.
She still looks out for M in this way and will always backtrack on a trail if we are out of her sight on a hike. She does not have this same affinity for B, (!!) but because of her connection to M, we try to get past her faults.

This dog is a complete pain in the ass. She is way too smart for her own good, and I find that she often gets the best of me. She is stubborn. She doesn't come when called. (though in fairness, she is going deaf now) She steals the other dogs' food. She 'yells' at Daisy when Daisy crosses her. She eats cat poop. She snaps at me if I try to grab her to bring her inside when she does not want to. She sheds like no other dog I have ever had.

And yet, at the ripe, estimated age of fourteen years, I know that I will miss her when she is gone. And I am fairly certain that the stories we'll recant on her behalf will be rose-colored and 'Big Fish'-style; of the wonder dog that she was and all of the adventures she had.

And who knows...perhaps she'll even be the star of her own kids' book one day?


little miss mel said...

What a lovely pooch! I remember Syd from way back in the college days. :)

Sorry she's more of a biatch these days, but if her days are numbered, I guess you should cherish these annoying moments?

And the thought of her looking after M is just TOO CUTE TO BOOT. love, love, LOVE IT!

Anonymous said...

She sounds like a lovely, irritating dog. Is there any other kind?

Mandy said...

I love it and I think I love her, too! You're a wonderful writer!!!

Holly Nappi Collins said...

I loved your story... I love dogs too and I think they have special gifts next to being a pain in the a... I have two cats and they are just pain in the a...'s

Mama Deb said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies!
I've got two other dogs and two cats I could write gobs about too. But I think maybe I'll hold the pet stories down to a minimum :)