Last week, I asked my readers what they wanted me to talk about in this column, and got a wide variety of responses. I’m going to take them all seriously, even the first one:
“More dogs and puppies.”
Very well. Funkel Blue Sen, this one’s for you.
I grew up in a “dog house” – in my family, we had dogs for as long as I can remember. While there was a husky and a samoyed in the mix at least once, most of these were keeshonds (pictured above – not one of ours). Keeshonds are sweet and super intelligent – one of them even learned how to open the gate to their “dog run,” necessitating the need for a lock. She never did crack the code.
Historically, they served as barge dogs in the Netherlands, and are great with kids. They’re basically big huggable teddy bears – as a medium-sized dog, they are perfect for hugging. They also have a particular grin when they are having fun – mom always called it the “keesie grin.”
But we’ll come back to keeshonds in a minute.
My first dog was not a keesie – she was a dachshund / poodle mix, which basically meant she was a largish dark brown dachshund. Her name was Nippy – genius name, because she nipped at me once – and she was with me everywhere I went when I was home. She even slept in my bed with me at night, keeping the monsters at bay.
One day, she found her way out of the yard, and we never saw her again. I like to believe she had an explorer’s soul and yearned to see the world. It’s better to think of her as a world traveler than coyote food.
Nippy had no concept of her diminutive size. She was convinced she was as big (or maybe bigger) as the keeshonds around her, and made them believe it too. I have to think that if she’d ever gotten into a confrontation with a coyote – or maybe even a mountain lion, she wouldn’t have been the one to turn tail and run.
When we lost her, my mom let me keep one of our new keeshond pups. She bred them for show – she had a number of champion dogs back in those days – and Summer was a little too big for a “standard” keeshond. But with her size came a big heart, and she was the most lovable pet I ever had. When I came home from school she would race over to greet me.
I still remember the time my friend Shellie and I took her hiking, got lost in the woods, and finally made it back to camp, Summer’s long curly tail unraveled and dragging in the dirt behind her.
When I left for California, Summer stayed home with my mom in Tucson – I had no place for her in my new life and small apartment. I saw her a couple more times when I came back to Tucson for a visit, but eventually she passed on, as dogs always do, and I wasn’t there to see her off. It still breaks my heart when I think about it.
Mark and I don’t have any pets. He loves dogs too, but he’s allergic to the dander, so we’ve never had any of our own.
I do miss them. Their simple loyalty, the love given without reservation. And when I have the chance, I enjoy spending time with other people’s pets.
Will I ever have a dog again? Who knows how the world will turn. But there will never be another Nippy, or another Summer.