I’ve been having a really bad time this week. I had to make the decision, on very short notice, to put my dog to sleep. Sunday, she was fine and by ten in the morning Monday she was gone. In a way, I’m happy that it happened so quickly, because I wouldn’t have wanted to watch her waste away. But in another, much bigger way, I wish she could have outlived me.
Her name was Dingo, and she just turned nineteen at the beginning of September. She was with me her whole life, since I was ten years old and since she was a little bitty puppy. Nineteen years is a really long time, especially for a bigger dog, but still not enough.
Before Dingo, I was a cat person. I was ten years old and had saved my money, which was very hard to come by, let me tell you, specifically for a cat. My mom took me to the humane society that day, and all they had was a very grumpy, very old tom cat. He was not for me. So she suggested that we go look at the puppies. I did not want a puppy. We’re just going to look at them was her response.
While we were in the room where the puppies were, looking at a bunch of normal yipping little brown puppies (insert a ten year old’s eye roll here…), we heard a very loud baying. We looked around, but didn’t see where this baying came from. So we went back to looking at annoying, yipping brown puppies. And we heard it again: Bowowowowow. (If you’ve ever heard a hound baying, you know how loud it can be.) We looked up, and in a small cage by itself, a little black puppy with a white chest and white paws was sitting there calmly looking at us. And as we were saying that there was no way that big sound came from that tiny puppy, the puppy did it again! And the conversation, as I recall it, went something to the effect of: “Mom, I want to hold that dog.” “But you don’t like dogs.” “I know, I just want to hold it.” So, we got her out of the cage, (she was the most calm dog I have ever seen, even as a puppy, she always seemed to be in this very enlightened zen state of being…) and she put one paw on my left shoulder, and one paw on my right shoulder, and licked my chin one time. “Mom, I want this dog.” “But you don’t like dogs.” “I like THIS dog.” And after much finagling, and promises and practically swearing on my sweet innocent soul that I would be the best child in the universe bar none if I could just get this dog, I was granted permission. For all of the rest of her life, Dingo never once bayed like that again. She was the dog that was meant for me to love and she knew it from the beginning.
Dingo turned out to be the best dog in the entire world, I don’t care if your dog speaks two languages and rescues old people from fires and helps deliver meals to the homeless on the weekends, my dog still beats yours, hands down.
She was part lab, part blue tick coon hound.
She liked to dig, and she could dig a hole straight down into the ground so far that all you could see was her back legs and her tail…I have literally had to pull her out of one of her holes because she dug such a deep and narrow hole that she couldn’t get back out again…
She hated being wet…if it was raining and you let her out to go to the bathroom, she would look at the rain, look at you, sigh deeply in disgust and high step a few feet into the yard and when she was done, all you saw was a black streak running for the door while shaking water off at the same time.
When she was a puppy, she went to the bathroom in the house one time. From that one time on, she would go to the door, walk back to you, and using her nose, jab you in the leg as hard as she could…as she got older, I consistently had bruises on my thigh and at this point, probably calluses from being told that she had to pee. And she would never go to the bathroom if she thought you were looking at her…she was a lady.
One time, she ate an entire bag of Hershey Kisses that had been left on the coffee table by the genius I live with. So we rushed her to the vet. What the vet does, if something like this happens to your dog in the future, is to put hydrogen peroxide in a syringe (without the needle on it), and force the dog to drink it. (It tastes gross, by the way, they really DO NOT want to drink it…) When the peroxide hits the dog’s stomach, it instantly starts to foam up and all that expanding makes the dog throw up. That being said, we force fed Dingo almost two bottles of peroxide…and waited…for about fifteen minutes…and nothing. The vet said just to take her home and watch her, and so we started walking to the car. As soon as her back foot was off of the vet clinic porch, she threw up everywhere! Oh, so much barf…so much sparkly, tin foil filled barf. She had held it in! She refused to barf inside! She was a lady.
Dingo never really did anything bad, with one exception. When Dingo felt I had left her alone for too long, say I went to spend the night at a friend’s house as a kid, or had to work overtime as an adult, she would find a pair of my shoes, and chew ONE shoe…to the point that it was not recognizable as a shoe any longer. Always my shoe…always only one shoe…it was as if she was saying “see that, you used to have two of those…but you chose poorly, and now there’s only one…perhaps you’ll remember that next time…” She was a vindictive lady.
I would like to say that I taught Dingo a few tricks, but really I think Dingo taught herself and did them at my request to make me feel good about myself. She could lay down, sit, “sit pretty” (sit on her back legs with her front legs in the air…I think other people call it begging…Dingo was a lady…she would never beg…she would only “sit pretty”) and stand up on her back legs. She would also shake paws, and if you said “other paw” she would offer you her other paw…as many times as you said “other paw”, she would give you the other paw. She was a patient lady.
She was also, in my brother’s affectionate words, a food whore. Not selfish, or greedy, or snatchy…but a food whore, never-the-less. My brother would smile at reading that. Dingo was a lady…and food whore.
Growing up, I didn’t have a good childhood, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I didn’t have a lot of anything, but Dingo was always there for me. When I had was sick or sad or cold, she would jump up in my bed and lay right beside me with her head on my pillow and only get up when I did. When I was happy, she would wag her tail and be happy too. When I was nineteen and had my gull bladder out, she laid beside my bed and watched me and would whine just a little when I was hurting.
I brought Dingo home, and buried her in my yard next to the woods she loved to sniff in. I buried one of my shoes with her, because I don’t know how long we’ll be in different places, and she might need that shoe to let me know it was too long.
Any goodness or kindness or compassion that I have in my heart, I truly believe I learned it from Dingo.
She was my best and dearest friend. I love her more than many things, most humans included, in this world.
In honor of Dingo, please give your dogs or cat or whatever pet you may have…even if it’s just your dumb spouse/significant other…a big hug, and as many treats as they want tonight. I will leave you with the words of Marty Hale and the knowledge that your pet and/or significant other will never be quite as good or near as special as my Dingo was:
A Boy and His Dog
By Marty Hale
I want my boy to have a dog
Or maybe two or three.
He’ll learn from them much easier
Than he will learn from me.
A dog will teach him how to love
And bear no grudge or hate,
I’m not so good at that myself
But a dog will do it straight.
There never yet has been a dog
That learned to double-cross,
Not catered to you when you won
Then dropped you when you lost.
I want my boy to have a dog
To be his pal and friend,
So he will learn that friendship
Is faithful to the end.