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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Bone for the Holidays

Seasons Greetings Friends, As a child, I never had a dog. My parents insisted animals belonged someplace other than the inside of a house. Most of the people in my Calico Lane neighborhood didn't have pets either. In the late 1970s, my first dog was Jodi, a short-haired St. Bernard. During those four years, I didn't learn much about dogs other than big dogs have big poops and St. Bernards drool a lot. However, when I was in a dark mood, Jodi would sit next to me on the back porch steps and I'd tell her all about my sorrows. Back then, she was my best friend and I didn't know it. When Eileen was a teenager, her family had a mixed breed named Snoopy. Much later, Eileen was gifted a Bichon puppy that she named Rocky. When I met Eileen, Rocky was already quite old, but he accepted me. He would sneak up behind me and let out a sharp, loud WOOF that would send me to the ceiling. He was a great camper and loved snuggling in my sleeping bag. Rocky moved with us to Colorado in 2000 and lived another two years. His sixteen years were filled with fun outdoor activities and good health. He's buried under the Aspen tree in our yard in Poncha Springs with the backdrop of Mt. Shavano. It wasn't long before Eileen and I rescued a 3-year-old Australian Shepherd (who we named Jake). Jake was a working dog who had most likely fallen from the back of a rancher's truck and eventually found his way to Salida's no-kill shelter. There was something about the way Jake looked at us, as if pleading "help me." He was timid and shell-shocked and spent the first few months hiding in the corner of our den. Eventually though, with patience and training, his 'old soul' self became a wonderful addition to our household. Jake loved car rides and mountain hikes and was gentle with children and the elderly, as if he could sense their vulnerability. His younger days as a ranch dog shone through at night when he preferred to stay out late and keep an eye on the livestock in the pasture behind our house. Dogs 'pick their person,' and Jake became Eileen's dog most of the time. He tolerated me in the loving way dogs do with other humans in the home. A couple of years later, at a property Eileen was appraising, a young Border Collie with the same pleading eyes followed her around the house. Eileen said to the owner, "If you ever want to rehome that dog, call me." A few years later when the Border Collie, named Arrow, was about seven, Eileen got the call: "Do you still want my dog?" We decided we were a one-dog family. But before summer's end, Arrow's owner called again, begging that we take her. Arrow came for a playdate with Jake and once she accepted Jake as Alpha, she fell into place and we became a four-pack household -- with eight times the work! Arrow was a fence jumper, a squirrel and deer chaser, and she didn't get along with children. She was aggressive around other dogs and some people. It took a year of constant training and working with her, and although she remained an unpredictable bitch (and we kept vigilant) she made us laugh and protected us. She attached to me and tolerated Eileen. Jake and Arrow were buddies and crossed the rainbow bridge in 2015. Arrow first, in January, and then Jake -- who we believe died of a broken heart -- six months later. Both were about fifteen years old. We never stopped loving and missing them. Their ashes are in matching tins and will be combined with our ashes and tossed to the winds when that time comes. It's been a long eight years without a dog in our house. Although we talked about 'another dog,' the reality is we are in our 70s and lack the energy (and possibly the years) to tackle a puppy-to-adulthood commitment. An older dog -- at least one who is housebroken -- would be best. Most older dogs, at least those locally who need rescuing, are large breeds. After dealing with the St. Bernard and 70-pound Jake and 50-pound Arrow, we decided to keep our eyes open for an older and smaller dog.

A month ago we visited the Olympia Animal Shelter on Marvin Way and met Seuss (name given by the shelter), a twenty-pound mixed breed. No one knows her history or from where she came. She has the same pleading eyes as Jake and Arrow. We re-named her Suzy. She's food-motivated, and so answers to that name as long as there's a treat involved. Suzy looks to be a small mixed breed with a Doberman bark. Best guess is that she's roughly 9 years old, showing some grey and missing some teeth. Her front right paw is a bit wonky, but it doesn't slow her down on her daily zooms around the backyard and she walks at our pace on the leather leash that once belonged to Jake. She's adorable, especially when she puts herself to bed at night atop Arrow's Spiderman comforter. She loves belly rubs and car rides and seems to have some of the quirks and traits our other dogs had, plus a great deal of her own! As we step over chew toys and around dog beds, we remind ourselves not to fall! For however long we have Suzy, she'll be loved and cared for. And, yes, Suzy will probably receive a gift-wrapped bone for the holidays! Wishing you and yours a peaceful winter season!

Cheers, Judy

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