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Princess Roxy

Since I was 10 I have had the privilege of living with dogs and I do mean privilege, their unconditional love, and it is love based on our interpretation, as the wonder of science has now shown us,  their energy, their antics and their loyalty are unlike any other relationship we have. The human/dog relationship has been around for centuries and there is no other interspecies relationship quite like it. We also know that dogs are good for therapy and happily accept the role of being the eyes of the blind and other helpful associations. For me it has been about affection and fun.

My first dog was a Husky named, Happy. He was a retired sled dog from my grandfather, Joe Leclerc, who was a renowned and awarded musher delivering packages and mail to remote communities in Northern Manitoba. I don’t remember Happy but I have seen pictures of him and heard tales of his devotion to me as a toddler. Like my grandfather, we also lived in a remote area and he was my guide, baby sitter, protector. He followed me around and would alert my parents if I was venturing too far or would herd me back to a safe area of the yard. When I was present he was tough and assertive but if I was not there he was docile, even allowing other dogs and critters to steal his food.

Granpa Joe

Granpa Joe

Our second dog was a mutt who looked like he was half Beagle and half Golden Labrador and I thank my sister for bringing him into our lives. While my mother was grocery shopping, my sister would often go next door to the pet shop and look at the animals. Frequently she would drag my mother in and point out a particularly cute animal. My mother would say the same thing, “Yea, it’s cute, ok, let’s go home now.” On one particular occasion my mother’s response was different- she hesitated and looked at the puppy just a little longer and even allowed us to pick it up and pet it. “He really is cute......” she said. We knew she was hooked, then we just had to work on Dad. When we got home we excitedly told my dad about the puppy and when he looked at my mom, she told him, “Yea, this one is really cute...” Ok, dad said, let’s go have a look and of course we brought him home.

There is one sad aspect of living with dogs, we almost always out live them but I will not dwell on that here. I have had the joy of sharing my life with Happy, Sam, Tasha the Wonder Dog, Molly, Baby, Jack, Sophie, and now Heidi and Gracie who are still taking me on their adventures. Baby was a particularly remarkable dog and as she grew her name evolved to just, ‘Baddog’ because, well:

bad things

Our family considers her to be our version of the ‘Tale of Two Dogs’; she was the worst of dogs and she was the best of dogs. Baddog did only one thing; whatever she wanted. There was no fence that could contain her despite our numerous attempts. We thought a 3 foot deep wall of blackberry bushes would be enough. No. We tried regular wire fence. No. We progressed to an electric fence. Still no, she was willing to take the hit. At the end of her life she had missing and broken teeth and one reason for that was her escape to freedom by biting through a chain link fence. True story. We have pictures. Finally we realized the best thing was to let her come and go, she never went far, just enough to make sure we understood who was the owner and who was the pet. We live in a rural area so we did not have to worry about neighbors being bothered by her adventures. One evening I awoke to the distinct smell of skunk, a smell that permeates everything within a mile at least. We ventured out in our pajamas and flashlights to determine the location and sure enough our lights found Baddog with a dead skunk in her jaw, she waggled it once or twice and laid it on the ground, awaiting her reward and accolades for, “What a fantastic job you did! Thank you for saving us from the skunk!” Instead she was whisked into the bath tub and bathed repeatedly. She also had a couple of pins in her front paw due to a disagreement she had with a Rottweiler- she believed to the end of her days that she won that debate. We have a vet bill that disputes her claim. She also had a plastic hip, the result of her race with a car while we were visiting friends. Did that stop her from barking at or chasing cars in the future? No, of course not. As I said, she did what she wanted. You might think this would not have endeared her to us but no, it made us love her all the more. Were we in an emotionally abusive relationship with her? Perhaps, but if you had been there when she walked up to you, her head down in modest apology, wagging not just her tail, but her entire behind, I’m sure you would have embraced her as we did. How we loved her! My mother was concerned about having such a zany dog around when my grandson was born. She worried that Baddog may bite the baby. She had no need to worry. One afternoon Baddog was napping on the couch (a dog bed was ok for other dogs but she preferred the couch, thank you) my grandson, 6 months old at the time leaned over and bit her with his 2 teeth. She lifted her head, slightly opened one eye, licked her jowls, and looked at him as if to say, “Really? Was that necessary?” and then went back to her nap.

sit dog

Baddog doing what she wanted.

During the era of Baddog’s reign we also had Sophie and Big Jack. Jack was a black Great Dane and her inner conscience, “Are you sure we should do this? The humans might not like it.” She paid him no mind, instead she would attempt to entice him into her escapades. We knew because he would come into the house in a hurry to alert us of her departure.

posse

Baddog and her posse, Jack and Sophie plotting to take over the world.

Sadly the Posse is in heaven because All Dogs Go To Heaven but we are still able to laugh and remember their antics. By the way if you want a gentle, trustworthy, easy to train, lovable dog, I suggest a Great Dane. Never have I lived with such a gentle being, his only flaw was that he believed he was a lap dog. He would diligently bark from the back of the house to alert of us of someone at the front door. “You should go check that out, I’ll keep things safe back here.”

Today I have the delight of sharing my life with Gracie and Heidi. If I have learned anything in all these years, it is that dogs are individuals just as humans are and each one has their own character and personality. Gracie is a social butterfly who eagerly greets people, wagging her little puff tail. Heidi is a loner who prefers solace and demands long hikes which is a good thing because it gets me outside, except she doesn’t care if it’s raining or snowing as I do.  Heidi excels at fishing and has caught many live fish right from a stream or lake. She seems aloof yet when one of us is gone she waits patiently by the door until we return. Gracie insists that the pack stay together and if she cannot see all of us in sight she will run back and forth trying to herd us together until we are a close knit group again. She worries. Don’t let her cute demeanor fool, she is a food ninja and will steal your food while you look away for even a moment. “You don’t expect me to exist on kibble do you?”

snowday

Gracie, the Ninja and Heidi the Fisher Dog

My children share my love of dogs and during family gatherings dogs are invited and we usually have 7 dogs roaming around the house and yard. So far arguments between the dogs have been few and short, it fascinates me to watch their behavior in a large group, the pecking and order and hierarchy are established immediately and territories are defined without visible lines.

charlie no good

Grandpup, Charlie No Good (because he is ussualy up to no good).

alfie and Phoebe

Grandpups, Alfie and Phoebe learning the basic rule of sharing.

I cannot imagine a life without a dog, despite their crazy behavior, numerous chewed shoes, shredded pillows (amazing how far feathers travel when released from a pillow case), and even a chewed couch (still not happy about that one) I will always have a 4 legged furry companion to walk with me, sleep with me (yes, right on the bed), listen to me, and play with me. They remind me to be kind to other creatures, encourage me to remain curious, coach me into activity, inspire me to view the world through a different lens and take joy in simple pleasures.

(I like cats too but that's a nother story.)

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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