Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. That’s a truism any dog lover could identify with. I borrowed it from Marley & Me, an Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston movie that my daughter and I saw yesterday. The movie, of course, brought to mind all sorts of memories from a lifetime with dogs. Again! I had done the same thing reading the John Grogan book. I wrote a book review back then, but what follows is the tribute to my own dog that I wrote in my library’s blog the day I finished the book. I hope you don’t mind the reprint.
I don’t own a dog but I keep dog treats in my car’s glove compartment. It’s been that way for more than seven years. No, it’s not a quirky snack habit of mine. You see, I “have” a dog, but she lives with my ex now.
We were on a camping trip with our two oldest daughters back in the early nineties when a little girl who lived nearby wandered through the campground seeking homes for a whole litter of puppies. We all fell in love with one particular pup and agreed to take it home when we packed up the next day. Trouble is, the dog we fell in love with had wandered off into the girl’s big rural back yard and couldn’t be found when we came by.
Plan B: We took Freckles home instead.
Freckles is a little springer spaniel that never quite outgrew puppy-size. She must have some other mutt mix in her because her front legs and hind legs seem to have come out of different dog construction kits. She kind of runs toward you sideways, back paws overtaking the front. She’s the first dog I ever owned that needed a haircut for her ears. She never quite got the hang of her bladder’s ‘off’ switch either. But she was our dog and we loved her.
She loved us, too, and hated being alone. We left her behind suddenly the night Emily was born, for instance. I came home from the hospital to check on her the next morning and discovered that the carpet and half the door frame was clawed or chewed off. She either desperately wanted out to find us or she was revealing that her non-spaniel half was beaver.
Fast forward past the divorce. My ex and I are on good terms. I didn’t want Freckles to forget me, so I made a point to always have dog treats in my car whenever I visited or exchanged kids. It worked. Now years later, Freckles and Lady (a newer dog that never knew me as anything other than that big guy who always has dogs treats when the door opens) still get excited when I show up.
A few weeks ago my ex-wife told me that Freckles wasn’t doing well and probably wouldn’t make it far into the new year, if at all. I haven’t had much to do with Freckles for quite a while, but haven’t had another dog since. I still claim Freckles as mine. Is that wrong? There has always been a dog or two in my life. The paperboy delivered Clyde to us when I was four. Bonnie strayed into our yard soon after. We adopted Duffy in my teens, Jenny and Dobie a bit later, and finally Freckles.
I haven’t seen her much lately, but her loss will still be felt. Emily, now twelve, gathered Freckles and Lady and went with me to the off-leash dog park in Lakewood this summer. It was surely the last outing with “my” dog.
I suppose you expected me to start talking about a book I just read. That’s what I intended when I started this entry: A book about a dog. Someone else‘s beloved dog. But that got me thinking about my dog and the inevitable sad news. If you’ve ever had a dog, I’m sure you understand. You’re probably retrieving some personal memory yourself. I’ll tell you about the book next time.
See ya, Freckles. Now I’ll be keeping dog treats in my glove compartment so I don’t forget you.
Post-script: Freckles died shortly after I wrote that. But today, after the movie, I drove Emily home and gave dog treats to Lady to Zoey. Yes, I still keep a stash in the glove box.