J. Alfred Prufrock may have measured out his life with coffee spoons, but I measure mine with dogs. And since I’ve been an adult, big dogs.
Well, at 20, I thought 20 was an adult. Now I see it differently, but I was 20 when Trigger commandeered my life. I thought I wanted a boy German Shepherd, but she thought otherwise. The only puppy in the litter with her ears up, she was talkative, persistent — she kept dragging my purse away — and precious. So home with me in my yellow VW bug she came. When I got married way too young, she became the family dog, a role she took ever so seriously after the children were born.
Some people fretted about having a German Shepherd around babies. Please. She was the best guardian and Katie-Nana you could ever ask for. Her name was Ben’s first word. She was a fine singer — loved an audience — and a beauty. She represents the last of my girlhood and my children’s early lives. When we had to have her put down a month before her 12th birthday, part of my heart died with her, until she resurrected it with her presence, for that’s where she lives.
Trigger used to recline in my then-husband’s recliner. She learned to push it back on her own, and there was no gate she couldn’t open. I love her still.
When Trig was 10, we decided to take in a neglected tiny puppy — the children had never experienced having one, and Trigger needed an annoyance to keep her joints loose (she had terrible arthritis by then). So Trudy, the black-and-white daughter of a chow and a who-knows-what joined our family. She was just about the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen and grew into a fashionably spotted mystery dog who pointed at birds. And caught them. She was fast as greased lightning and could climb the fence like a monkey. (But she never learned to open a gate.)
Trudy (named in part for my father’s mother, Gertrude, who was Trudie in her youth) was a mid-sized dog, 47 pounds at her top weight, and became the best running partner a young mom could have. Trudy lived to a ripe old 16 years and 3 months, at which time she had a major stroke, but didn’t die. She also had to be put down — the vet said her heart was incredibly strong. Mine was incredibly broken, and I had to make the My Dog Skip call to my kids, who were both in the navy and living in Hawaii. She’d been deaf and having mini-strokes for several years, but losing her was — well, I took a death in the family day from work at the newspaper and people, including the editor, called and e-mailed their condolences.
(Speaking of My Dog Skip, I cried myself sick when I saw it, long before Trudy went down. I’ve read, sob, Marley and Me, but I won’t watch it. Never, ever, ever.)
I was single, but, fortunately, not alone. I had Toby the wonder dog. She’d been Liz’s 16th birthday present from my sister, the one puppy from a litter of German Shepherds who happened to have a chow for a dad. She was a 5-pound black furball when we got her and topped out at 92 pounds — girlfriend loved to eat and weight was a battle. Trudy was 10 — and annoyed as heck when Toby came to the family, but she grew to love her.
Toby was, well, you had to know her. She could open any gate, but if it was locked, she’d go under, over and, once, literally through a fence. (She was scared of thunder and I wasn’t home. It was before the doggy-door days.) She talked at the top of her lungs and loved fiercely. But at the vet (after being mistreated one time by someone who shouldn’t have been anywhere near big dogs), she became Cujo. We had to knock her out to get a check up for years, and three times I was advised to put that black beauty down, until we met Dr. Tim Paladino. Toby loved Dr. Tim.
My husband, John, and I met in the Toby years, and she loved him from the beginning. She’d sit at the door and watch for him when we were courting, and it was pointless to tell her he wan’t coming over. She’d wait at the door until 9 or 10 on those nights. And she could hear his car from a half-mile away.
She also loved Jude like nobody’s business and he loved her back. Toby — Cujo dog — would let Jude use her tail to pull himself up when he was learning to walk. We were lucky enough to have that girl until the October before she’d have been 14 on January 10. She’d been deaf for a couple of years and didn’t hear the pit bull who came flying off a porch — broke a chain — to attack her. She survived surgery and 35 staples in her right front shoulder and leg, but she was never the same. The day her back legs finally went out from under her, Dr. Tim made a house call. She died with her head in my lap.
Tess, aka Barbie, named for Tess of the D’Urbervilles, grieved her sister mightily. But she and little sister Zuzu will have to wait for another post.