Monday, November 22, 2010

Dog Daze

Me and Junior, one of our multitude of pups

I'm going to come right out and say it: I'm kind of not a dog person. 

I know, I know, everyone's going to be, like, "WHAT?!  How can you say that?!  Dogs are awesome!"  I KNOW they are awesome, I just can't help it.  I'm just not that into dogs. 

To boot, we we even have a dog, Buddy, but he's really more like my husband's.  Poor Buddy.  I barely give him the time of day.  That coupled with the fact that our 3-year-old Teddy tries to saddle him and ride him like a horse, Buddy's a little tortured.

OK, but here's WHY I'm not a dog person:  I grew up with parents who are total dog fanatics with a capital F, and I think over the course of my life I just got a little doggied out.   First of all, for some reason at least one of the dogs always wanted to sleep with me in MY twin bed (Maybe they liked the challenge, knowing I wasn't that interested in them?).  This led to the frustrating fact that I was never able to fully stretch out my legs while I slept until I went to college.  Not only was this incredibly uncomfortable, but fairly noisy too with all that licking of their private parts (Why do they DO that???).  That sound still reverberates in my head from time to time and it haunts me.

To help you fully grasp my twisted relationship with dogs, here's a rainbow list of canines that slowly but surely took over my childhood and teenage years:

Rufus -- A giant scraggly English sheepdog that, after one day in our household, attacked me and tried to eat me alive.  I was two.

Henry -- A brown, very solid looking dachsund with a superiority complex (I must interject here.  My mother is OBSESSED with dachsunds.  We had one in our house at all times, we even tried to breed one.  Have you ever experienced that?  It's absolutely disgusting!).  When I was about five I peered under the coffee table at Henry and he snapped at me in a manner that said, "Mind your own beeswax, kid!" Regardless, my mom and Henry were totally attached at the hip.  It would have been Freudian if Henry had been her son and not a dog.

Junior -- Perhaps the sweetest, yet most neurotic dog we ever owned.  Junior was a grayish-whitish mutt with that really soft long hair that always had about 17 burrs tangled in it.  Trying to get the burrs out was just a giant exercise in frustration.  We would disentangle one from his fluff and four more would crop up.  Poor Junior.  He was so insecure that you moment you went to pet him he would instantly roll over and expose his Carotid artery in submission. 

David -- This is a really weird story.  We got David because he was tied to a tree outside my elementary school, and in the middle of carpool line, my mother bolted out of her car (carpool, schmarpool!) and went over to pet this lonely looking brown and white German Shorthaired Pointer.  The principal, whose name was also David (no last names here), ran out of his office and begged my mother to take the abandoned dog home.  Turns out David (the dog, not the principal) was friendly and kind, and could leap over 5-foot high fences like nodoggy's business.  But here's the weird part: one year later Principal David, who we had named the dog for as you may have figured out by now, was arrested not once, but TWICE for exposing himself to unsuspecting pedestrians in public restrooms.  The first time he got off (no pun intended!) by saying he had a war injury that forced him to expose his penis to air before peeing. (!)  The second time....well, that was that.  Principal no longer.  Needless to say, we all tried to move beyond the fact that our dog had been named for a reprobate, and none of us ever spoke of it again.

Reggie/Riley -- These were actually two dachsunds that have melded into one gelatinous memory in my mind.  Not only did Reggie and Riley look the same (brown, short-haired), but they had the same exact personality, which was snappy, annoying and standoffish.  Reggie ran away to a neighbors house and Riley was run over by a car.  Neither of these incidents seemed to upset any of us very much.

Eloise -- ANOTHER dachsund, but this one was mostly black with just a tiny bit of brown at her paws.  Unlike Reggie and Riley, Eloise was graceful and elegant.  She was truly my mother's dog. and the two of them even looked like sisters in a weird way.   Aside from one incident where she gnawed at one of our pet bunny's feet like chew-eez, Eloise was a gentle soul and she lived a long and happy life.

Lulu -- Probably the strangest looking dog we ever had, Lulu was small and white with triangular ears, two different color eyes and no tail.  Incidentally, her tail was run over by the pickup truck she fell off of.  My mother had been driving behind the pickup truck when this happened, scooped up Lulu and saved her life.  Gotta hand it to my mom, she is an absolute SAINT in this way!  No doggy left behind!  Anyway, Lulu was sweet, affectionate, and forever grateful to my parents for rescuing her.

Brando -- This big guy was another rescue mutt, although Brando was saved from my parents' ranch where he was suffering from total neglect.  A German Shepherd mix, he was completely starved for food, water, and attention.  Of course my parents whipped right in, took Brando home and never looked back.  Unlike the dachsunds, Brando was really my father's dog.  He followed my dad EVERYwhere and the two were like Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers: they took long car rides together, shared meals together, drank lattes get the picture.  Brando lived a long and beautiful life, and to this day, the only time I have ever seen my father cry was the day Brando was put to sleep.  Talk about gut wrenching.

Kola -- last, but not least, in my family history of dogs was our pure-bred pit bull, Kola.  My brother, Andy, had actually bought Kola during one of his manic moments, and subsequently bequeathed the beast to my parents.  Yes, Kola was huge and strong, but also very gentle and shockingly smart.  Sometimes I would talk to Kola as if she was human, and I swear she would understand every word I was saying.  It was like having a giant four-legged therapist, only better than a therapist because she didn't charge.  Kola was really both of my parents' dog and she lived so long she even was alive when my children were born.  Teddy, a natural dog lover, even spooned with her a couple of times, although I had to nip this in the bud when thay started sharing pacifiers.

So I suppose with this exercise of running through my childhood canines, I have learned that, although I may not be an inherent dog lover, each and every one of our dogs played an important role in my growing up.  There were some golden pups, some ne'er-do-wells, some neurotics, and, of course, some bitches (which was actually quite a nightmare when my hormones kicked in during my teenage years -- between me, my, mother, and the female dogs, the bitch energy in our household was terrifying!). 

But the real heros in all this are my parents, who saved countless dogs, raised them like they were their own blood, and loved them with their heart and soul.  They are unbelievably giving of themselves in this way, and I yearn to give back to something as fervently. And truthfully, you know, I suppose I should probably learn from their example and go downstairs and pet Buddy RIGHT NOW. 

Or then again, maybe later.


  1. Sarah, you are so cute. I can see Junior's burrs all the way here in N.C.! Great read!

  2. As I read your post, two of my dogs are barking at the Gas Co. man outside, and one of my dogs is at the doctor getting his blood taken because it seems he has an expensive but very treatable disease that is going to involve giving him yet another pill daily (he already gets 4 pills per day). Oh yes, I was raised by animal people.
    Did I ever tell you that when I was married and was settled into a new apartment, your mother told me that it was my duty to rescue 2 cats. She took me to the Humane Society in Ojai, which started me on my journey of animals constantly flowing through my life.

  3. I enjoyed that post, but cringed a little reading about Principal David.