I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss my dog.
As mentioned yesterday, I’m in Arizona, and have been for a week, joining my brother and sister to help get my father settled in a place where he can get the care he needs.
Even though among loved ones, I’m pining for my significant other. Circumstances required Ace — a seasoned traveler — stay home for this trip, and this eight-day separation is the second longest in our seven years together.
It’s an empty feeling, not having him there when I wake up, or when I call his name (which I’ve only done about twice).
Fortunately for me, I have Roscoe, a yellow lab, to help fill the void. Meanwhile Roscoe’s owner, James has Ace.
Here’s how all this came to be — how we ended up in the company of each others dogs.
James, my brother’s partner, lived in Arizona but recently started working in Winston-Salem, N.C., where I currently reside. My brother, and their dog Roscoe, a yellow lab, haven’t made the move yet and are still in the Phoenix area.
Last week, when my presence in Arizona was required, James agreed to care for Ace while I was away. I, planning on staying with my brother, agreed to lavish Roscoe with attention, and — against James’s advice — give him at least one walk.
James ended up with the more labor intensive duty, between the feedings and the walks Ace demands. I don’t have to feed Roscoe (my brother does that), and one walk convinced me, and my shoulder, that Roscoe was more of an in-the-house, backyard kind of dog.
For Roscoe, it was just a matter of supplying treats and snuggling, and it was only a few days before it hit me that I had it backwards — James and I are not taking care of each other’s dogs, each other’s dogs are taking care of us.
James, who has been missing his dog something fierce since moving to North Carolina, seems to be enjoying Ace’s company. He posted the photo of him above on Facebook the other day, along with the words: “Thanks to Ace to keep me warm at night. I am dog-sitting Ace and he is such a wonderful boy!”
As Ace attends to James needs, Roscoe attends to mine.
The first few nights, he joined me on my floor mat, dividing his time between sleeping with me and my brother.
But when I got hit by a three-day bug, Roscoe turned it up a notch. He stayed by my side all night. He followed me to the bathroom — a frequent destination for a while there — waiting patiently outside the door for me to exit. He was at my side whenever I got up, generally carrying either his bone or a pillow in his mouth, tail wagging away.
He’s a totally different dog than Ace — a little more goofy, a little less needy, but equipped, it seems, with all the same sensors of human need.
Unlike Ace, who doesn’t like to get nudged in his sleep, Roscoe tolerates anything. A few times I woke up with both my legs atop him. He woke me up a few times sniffing my face, and a few more times by biting his toenails. Roscoe probably spends a couple of hours a day grooming his claws, and it can be a noisy affair.
But it was a small price to pay for all the attention he bestowed on me.
I was reminded, while scratching Roscoe’s big floppy ears, of the old Stephen Stills song, which had nothing to do with dogs at all: And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.
The lyrics always struck me as a tad slutty, but then that was probably just my dirty-minded interpetration. Maybe I never really understood it.
Dogs, on the other hand, totally get it.
(Photos: Ace photo by James Wong; Roscoe photo by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 29th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, arizona, away, dogs, home, lab, labrador retriever, pets, roscoe, senses, separation, travels with ace, trip, void, yellow lab
As irreplaceable as dogs are — and Charlie Powell considered his childhood dog, Poochie, just that — the best thing to do when you lose one is to fairly quickly get another.
Powell, senior public-information officer for Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, learned that lesson the hard way, letting 30 dogless years elapse after Poochie died.
In a haunting, inspiring and pretty darned wise essay in last week’s Seattle Times, Powell told the story of Poochie, the Boston terrier who was his first dog.
“My mother often said she thought I would pet his head bald with my right hand while sucking a bottle held in my left. She also said Poochie had no problem with that.”
After accompanying Powell through much of his childhood, the day came that Poochie, achy and elderly, had to be put down. Powell recalls the trip to the vet, and going with his father to bury Poochie near Lake Mead in Nevada.
Traumatic as that might have been for a 10-year-old, it got worse. When he and his father, on a fishing trip, later returned to the site where they’d laid Poochie to rest, they found the grave desecrated.
“There was trash around his grave where people had partied. There was a blackened fire ring where we buried him with the burned hinges and the hasp laying there. When I looked up, I saw his partially charred body hung by the neck from a limb with the wire we used to close the box…”
The impact of that, somewhat understandably, would last 30 years.
“For me, the memory of what happened was more like a featureless wall that one is unable to scale. I think I coped with this mainly by becoming ambivalent to dogs — all dogs.”
His family got other dogs, he writes, “but I was never close to any of them. I just never wanted to be that close to a dog again.” Even while working at Washington State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and for the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, he had no desire — at least not that he was aware of – to have a dog of his own.
Then one day his wife went to a dog show, and — though he’d never mentioned Poochie to her — fell in love with Boston terriers, to the point she ordered one from a breeder, and asked her husband to pick up the dog, a brindle-colored male named ”Buster.”
“My mind raced. I fretted all week. How could I get another dog? What if his fate turned out to be worse than Poochie’s? Did my wife expect me to “replace” Poochie? Of course that was unfair to her; she knew nothing of Poochie. So I decided I needed to keep the wall up for the time being.”
We all know how good dogs are at knocking such walls down, and that’s what Buster did.
“Buster blossomed into a well-mannered young man that wormed his velvety head into my heart.
“Part of what I had avoided since Poochie died was eye contact with other dogs. But just try and avoid eye contact with a Boston terrier in your house, those two orbs that stick out on the corners of a cube-shaped head. It’s impossible.”
Powell would go on to feature Buster regularly in vet school publications, and he once brought him along to a Washington State Veterinary Medical Association meeting, where “he sat in the conference room next to me wearing his WSU bow tie as if he were deliberating.”
As Powell notes Buster wasn’t Poochie — and it would be wrong to have expected him to be. When one dog dies, and you get another, the new one isn’t a replacement, and isn’t just a painkiller. He or she is unique — another chance to enjoy the magic of the species, another chance, for a dog lover, for love.
“Between Poochie and Buster was a long time to stay silent and deny myself the joy of another dog,” Powell wrote. “With Buster’s passing, I realized that I had shortchanged myself for a long time for no good reason. The very thing I thought I was protecting myself from — life with another dog — turned out to be the best thing for me.”
(Editor’s note: After the death of Buster, Powell adopted another Boston terrier, this one a blind and deaf 13-year-old rescue. Her name is CeCe.)
(Photos: Poochie and Powell in 1961, courtesy of Charlie Powell; Buster in a vet school post card, by Henry Moore Jr. / BCU/WSU)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, boston terriers, buster, charlie powell, coping, death, dog, dogless, doglessness, dogs, grief, mourning, new dog, pets, poochie, replacement, school, veterinary, void, walls, washington state university
A dog friend we told you about during our travels was put down last week, at precisely 1:45 a.m. on Friday, after some long goodbyes from his family — George and Kathleen, who bid him farewell at the vet’s office in Virginia, and their daughter Elizabeth, who had a final talk with him via cellphone from California.
Puck was six weeks shy of turning 18.
Blind and deaf for the past two years, with one eye surgically removed, and diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Puck persevered — and did so with dignity, despite the diapers he wore and the daily shots he had to receive.
After months of wondering how they would know when it was time, they knew it was time.
The veterinary staff sent them to a room where they could say their goodbyes. They hugged him, cried a lot, and fed him turkey breast. He wagged his tail. They placed a call to their daughter in California and held the cell phone to Puck’s ear as she said goodbye.
Elizabeth was 7 when they got Puck, and she came up with the name — as in pucker up — because he liked to kiss. She’s 24 now.
A neighbor offered them the dog back then, describing the pup as a poodle. He didn’t look much like a poodle at all. That didn’t matter. They raised and taught Puck, and when he grew old, he, as dogs will do, taught them a thing or two, by example.
Puck was toted upstairs every night, carried downstairs every morning. Despite all his medical issues, the suspected strokes, the epilepsy, Puck was a stoic little guy. He never whined.
Despite all the inconveniences, the diapers, the shots, the veterinary bills, neither did Kathleen and George.
Near the end, Puck didn’t do much more than eat, sleep and cuddle.
Still, George noted, “It’s amazing the void there is now that he’s gone.”
Rest in peace, Puck.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aging dogs, america, animals, dead, death, dogs, dying, elderly dogs, goodbye, grieving, illness, in memory, medicine, mixed breed, old dogs, pets, poodle, puck, road trip, saying goodbye, terrier, travels with ace, veterinary, void
Ace and I will be appearing at the Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem this week for a group discussion following the showing of the animated movie, “My Dog Tulip,” based on J.R. Ackerley’s memoir of his relationship with his dog.
I’ll also be talking about, selling and signing my new book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
If you’re wondering what the human-dog bond, or a memoir about that, have in common with cloning, the answer is:
For, in addition to the profits foreseen by entrepreneurs, it was that bond – tighter-than-ever as the 21st Century arrived– that sparked the attempt to clone dogs, prompted customers to sign up for it and led to the emergence of a fledgling, and highly questionable, pet cloning industry.
And what, after all, is a dog clone but a living, breathing, laboratory re-creation of the past — a memoir you can pet?
The first dog whose cloning was attempted by U.S. scientists, in fact, was a border collie mix who belonged to — you guessed it — a memoir writer. Missy, as it turned out, wasn’t the first dog cloned. South Korean scientists accomplished that first with an Afghan hound, whose clone would be named Snuppy. But Missy was eventually cloned — more than five times.
Cloning wasn’t available in J.R. Ackerley’s day (the British writer died in 1967), but given the love he expressed for his German shepherd, given his many unsuccesful attempts to breed her to another purebred “Alsatian,” given the void she filled in his life and the one her passing left in it, he might have considered it, if it had been.
“Tulip,” whose real name was Queenie — publishers opted to change it, fearing its gay connotations might be too titillating for stuffy old 1950′s England – spent 14 years with Ackerley, and according to some accounts he never quite got over her death.
“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer,” he says in the book, written while she was still alive.
The movie — though, like the book, it doesn’t shy away from dogs’ bodily functions — is charming and charmingly animated, drawn and directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, and narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley. It also features the voices of Isabella Rossellini and Lynn Redgrave.
It tells the story of a man who, having all but given up on finding an “ideal friend” in the human world, finds one in a canine — the first dog he’s had in his life.
I’ll be leaving my ideal friend home tonight, but Ace, if he feels up to it, is scheduled to join me at the theater Wednesday night.
The movie starts at 8 p.m., both nights, with the discussion following. The Aperture Cinema is at 311 W. 4th St. in downtown Winston-Salem.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, alsatian, animals, aperture, bond, book, book signing, cinema, cloning, dog, dog inc., dogs, friends, german shepherd, human, ideal friend, jr ackerley, loss, love, man's best friend, memoirs, missy, my dog tulip, north carolina, pets, queenie, snuppy, tulip, unconditional, void, winston-salem