Rusty was his own undoing. A gorgeous Irish Setter, Rusty was large, and loud and rather dumb. He ran on a dog run in the back of our house that ended either in a shallow ravine or at the garage door. Many were the times we would watch Rusty chasing butterflies and run headlong into the garage door, feeling the house tremor under impact. Also, Rusty had a habit of absentmindedly flinging himself over the ravine. This is unquestionably bad as he would therefore be dangling from his collar, from his neck.
I remember my mother when Rusty came to live with us. "Charlie!" spitting out my father's name, accusing, flustered, angry, and ultimately resigned. It was as if she knew the dog would be short lived for our home. And of course, as mothers always are, she was right.
To be honest, I was ambivalent about Rusty and most animals for that fact. You hear those stories that people who are afraid of animals (as my mother is) raise children who adopt this fear. None of her children got that fear. In fact, two of three have animals now. At the time, I really didn't care if he was there or not.
But this isn't really about Rusty; it's about another dog that entered my life decades later; in fact when I was well into my 30s. Chewy is also a large, loud dog. But he also acts a little like a cat and he is old, in that bone weary sense. Chewy lives with us now and I am so glad. He unwittingly made me if not a dog lover than a dog sympathizer.
Chewy is a Rottweiler. He came into our extended family as a pup when my sister in law, a girl at the time, adopted him. She trained him well; as she lived with my in laws, so did Chewy. When my sister in law flew the coop, Chewy stayed behind. Chewy turned into my in law's dog. He was loyal and doting; he slept near or on the bed, he brought the mail, chased the squirrels and solicitors and other annoyances from the yard. He sits, shakes, high fives, lied down and loves. Oh, how he loves. (I still cannot believe I feel that way.)
Chewy was at her side when my mother in law passed away suddenly at their lake house, one of her favorite places. Chewy was at my father in law's side as he called family members to share the awful news. He was there when we gathered at the house to mourn and celebrate her. He was a stoic presence standing sentry next to my father in law who was otherwise surrounded by confusion, chaos and loss of meaning. I love Chewy for this and this alone.
But I love him for more reasons. Chewy stood by while my father in law met a fabulous woman and started a new phase of his life, married to her. And this is where he comes to live with us. As fantastic as she is, there was one thing she couldn't get over; it wasn't his size, or his bark (which is ever so rare), or even his toots which are immeasurably disgusting. It was her allergy to him.
So sweet is their love that neither knew what to do. She took weekly allergy injections; he wiped up hair and found supplements to put on Chewy's food to help with shedding. They tried every solution. She was miserable. And my daughter, the nine year old walking persuader cajoled us into taking him in.
Truth be told, we thought his tenure at our house would be short. He is 12 after all. His joints ache, he can't run as long as he used to, he tolerates our youngest wild kid. Chewy is as loyal to us as he was to them. He sleeps at the foot of the 5 year old's bed, he obeys the 9 year old as she gets the mail, he helps me corral them out the door for school, he barks at solicitors and squirrels alike.
I'm still not an animal lover; I rarely pet him (don't worry, he gets lots of love from others), I don't want him on my bed and I can't stand his breath. But I'm glad he came to us. He shows me things about my kids I didn't know were there. He demonstrates loyalty and love in a way many people have trouble comprehending. I know its sappy but I'm happy to know him.
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