For The Love of Dogs

When our Cocker Spaniel Brody died, my husband George was inconsolable.

Brody was a very gentle, very loving companion dog with big, warm brown eyes and a golden, curly coat that almost always looked mussed up – like an old suit that needed a good pressing.  If Brody was a human, you’d be suggesting to him that he might like to run a brush through his “do” before he went out.

But the plain fact of the matter was, Brody didn’t care what he looked like.  The only thing he cared about was that George was by his side.  You see, someone had abandoned Brody at our local animal shelter, and George was the one who rescued him by bringing him home to us. 

To Brody, that meant he owed George – in spades.  And he spent the rest of his days repaying his debt by loving George with all of his little canine heart. George, in return, loved him back by lavishing on him more attention than any little furry, four-legged critter could possibly hope for.

When the day came that Brody was losing control of his bodily functions, George took him to our veterinarian and listened with a heavy heart to the advice that for the dog’s sake, Brody should be put down.

Shaken and clearly distraught that night at supper, my husband vowed, “That’s it – no more dogs.”  It was just too difficult to part with the wonderful, unconditional love that a good companion animal can provide.

I looked at the Resident Dog Whisperer with an expression that said, “You without a dog?  That’s like a world without Ford, GM and Chrysler.”  It just couldn’t be imagined.

As each subsequent day passed, our house was strangely quiet.  No dog greeted us at the door when we came home.  No dog curled up beside us each night as we watched TV.  I scanned my husband’s face for a clue as to how long this situation would play out.

But George was adamant. No more dogs.  No more heartache.  He was more stoic than a Scottish clansman in a kilt on a windy, chilly day.

Two weeks later, I had just about decided that my husband was over the trauma of losing Brody, when he strode through the door of our humble abode with renewed vigour, a spring in his step and a smile on his face.

“Where were you today?” I asked him casually.  “I called from work and you didn’t answer.”

“I won’t tell you,” he said, coyly.  “I’ll show you.”  He disappeared into the garage and came back   In his arms was a little black and white dog, part terrier, part border collie, with the cutest little curl in his tail, and a coat that looked like it needed a good brushing.

“I got him at the animal shelter,” George stated proudly.  “He needed me.”

Mr. Fix It

It’s amazing what my husband can fix.

Of course, George has always been mechanically minded.  Owning and operating an automobile repair business for thirty some-odd years might have had something to do with it.

His motto has always been, if it’s broke, try fixing it first – and over the years, he’s saved us more money than a Conservative minority government in a recession. Take, for example his golf cart.

Now, if anyone loves golf and golf paraphernalia, it’s George.  His clubs and cart are the tools that allow him to stride up and down those fairways with reckless abandon, thoroughly enjoying the pure rush of adrenaline he gets from making a “good shot”.   In fact, George would cancel life saving surgery if one of his golf buddies suggested that they could squeeze in 18 holes that day.

So when his aging golf cart gave up the ghost, he knew it was time to take serious action. 

I should tell you, though, that this cart had been through some pretty major surgery of its own in recent years.  One wheel had fallen off, and George replaced it with another – never mind that it didn’t match the first.  When subsequent parts and pieces broke, he duct taped them together in such a way that even Red Green would have been proud.

But even repairs have a life expectancy, and George came to the conclusion that he may have to replace this cart.  So off he went in search of the perfect club caddy.

One day when I got home from work, he announced, “I got myself a new golf cart,” proudly indicating the Bag Boy in the corner of the garage.  Fully expecting him to tell me he had driven to Golf Town, or to the local Canadian Tire, to find his purchase, I began mentally tallying up the “hit” our bank account must have taken that day.  Naturally, no brand name cart was going to come in at anything under a cool “C-note”.

“I went to the used sports equipment store downtown and paid 10 bucks for it,” he beamed with enthusiasm. “Ten bucks?”, I repeated incredulously. “How did you get away with only paying ten bucks for a Bag Boy?”

“It was broken,” he said, with that wicked, self-satisfied grin.  “And I fixed it.”

There should be a Nobel Prize for Recycling. Something named “Better Living Through Repairing.”

If there was, he’d win it. 

Waldo The Magnificent

Our dog Waldo is one of the world’s greatest communicators.  And he knows it.

In canine parlance, he can rival some of history’s best speakers – Sir Winston Churchill, President Abraham Lincoln, even Fidel Castro with his long-winded public oratories.

Simply put, Waldo has the doggie equivalent of “the gift of the gab” and he can get his point across faster than he can chase the neighbour’s cat right out of our backyard.

What I should tell you about Waldo is that he is slightly neurotic.  Not only are his nerves a bit frayed from time to time, but he has a really bad case of chronic anxiety disorder.

And for good reason.

You see, Waldo was a rescue dog, meaning he was rescued from a bad situation by the kind folks at the local animal shelter.  A Good Samaritan found him in a densely wooded area, badly mauled by some type of wildlife, bleeding and barely breathing.  Luckily, he was nursed back to health in the offices of the SPCA until my husband George showed up to adopt him.

It took Waldo several years and untold hours of George’s patient love and attention before the wild look of fear in his eyes was replaced by a wide-eyed softness, indicating that he had at last regained some trust in and affection for, anyone or anything. 

Today he ranks right up there as one of the best dogs we have ever owned.  But if he doesn’t get out for his ritual evening walk, he takes it upon himself to tell us, quite plainly, that he is perturbed.

When he sees us settling into our easy chairs in front of the TV in the evening, after the dinner dishes are cleared away, he takes it as his cue for action.

Ears pricked, tail wagging, he paces back and forth at the front door.  Then he plops his haunches right up against the door, all the while giving us the “death stare”.

If that doesn’t work, he sits directly in front of the TV facing us so we cannot mistake the fact that he wants our undivided attention (not to mention he really louses up our view of  Peter Mansbridge trying to deliver  the evening news on “The National”.)

Occasionally, George and I will ignore this bit of canine grandstanding – but we do this at our peril. 

Ratcheting up his tactics, Waldo scampers over to us and begins what looks like an old fashioned minuet.  He swiftly approaches, stops and goes down on his front paws in what I call his “begging stance”.  Then he backs away a few feet towards the door, then down on his front paws again, rear end up, tail slowly waving back and forth.

His message is becoming increasingly clear.

Finally, in the face of impending defeat, he gets really adamant.  He bounds right into my lap, front paws pinning me down at my shoulders, his tongue licking my face with the urgency of a paramedic performing CPR.

In a single leap, he’s back at the door, a look of expectancy and excitement in those little doggie peepers.

It’s enough to make anyone cave.