Family Dogs through the Decades

Someone once said that whoever created dogs didn’t like mankind because their lifetime is so much shorter than humans. My wife, always positive, however pointed out that it gives us the wonderful experience of many different friends. Such has been our story through the decades with our family dogs.

Our first dog was Bear, an appropriate name for the 105-pound mix breed of husky, shepherd, and yellow lab. We got Bear in his first year of life from an owner that was terminally ill and could not care for him. Bear in turn cared for us by offering us his devotion and protection. If we were home, and the visitor was friendly, the tail wagged and Bear smiled. However, if we were not home, no one was allowed on the premises. Unfortunately, this did have its downside, and even trash collection was prohibited. After several weeks, we realized that the trash storage and Bear’s domicile had to be in separate locations.

Bear was of the size that while standing he could put his head on the kitchen table. Of course, he wasn’t allowed to do so, nor was he allowed on the furniture, and certainly not on the bed. Eventually Bear grew old and left us. He is now undoubtedly guarding the gates of doggie heaven, wherever that may be.

Family life without a dog was not possible for me, so the day I took early retirement, and the week before I got totally bored and started a new career, I visited the local humane society pet hotel. There I met Brandy, a sweet 50 pound, mostly black, long-haired, 6 month old mixed breed who had already been abused in her short life. How anyone could abuse Brandy should have had Bear to contend with. Anyway, I called my wife and said I was getting a dog. She replied not without my approval. I told her to hurry because they could not hold her for me. So Brandy and I waited anxiously for my wife’s arrival hiding in a back room.

At first Brandy was very shy, but through our love and continued encouragement she became a devoted member of the family. Unlike Bear, whose chewing conquests in his first six months with us included a dining room table leg, the controls of the grill, and the entire lid of a plastic garbage can and only ended after we got him a rawhide chew toy the size of a deer’s hind quarter, Brandy never chewed anything. Even our leather goods were safe wherever they were left.

At first, now being more experience dog owners, we tried the crate training technique on Brandy. She willingly adapted to her new home, uncomplainingly staying in her crate at night and when we were gone. However, she was so well behaved in the house, that after the first week, she had the run of the house 24X7, and after the second week, the crate went into storage in the basement.

Of course, Brandy was not allowed on the furniture or the bed either. Well at least not for several years. However, since it was impossible to keep the cats off the furniture, I felt it wasn’t fair that the dog couldn’t have the same privilege, especially when my wife wasn’t around. However, wives seem to be either omniscient, or very observant of the long black hair on the couch. Anyway, Brandy eventually kept us company on the furniture as our reading companion and watching Lassie reruns. Before she left us, she became the hero in a book being written about our verbose cat named Rosie, and her rescue from a fox.

Our next adopted family member was Aries, a 2 ½ year old shepherd Bernese Mountain dog mix who size-wise is between Bear and Brandy. At first, Aries seemed shy, almost dull in personality, but once he got used to his surroundings and new family, his unique personality became apparent. One of his favorite activities if he can’t get someone to toss a tennis ball for him, is to carry it to the top of the stairs, set it down, push it over the first stair with his nose, intently watch it bounce down the stairs with the amazement of a child seeing their first snow, then run down the stairs, pick it up, and carry it back upstairs repeating the entire process.

What about the furniture and bed rules you might ask? My wife recently injured her knee and occasionally hobbles around the house on crutches. However, our bed now has an old cover for Aries who keeps her company while she waits for the scheduled surgery. So much for the decades of rules!

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