December Dogs

A little thumbing down my Facebook screen this morning. Every ten or so pictures. In between Christmas lights, cookies, snow, and silly jokes, … these guys and gals. December dogs. I could’ve filled the screen with more. Additional canine poses and smiles were plenty as I saw one after another touted in various poses for all friends to see. Yes, December dogs for now, but furry huggles year-round.

The urge to show them is, happily, too great for most. I completely understand. If our Shopan was still alive today, I’d have him posing his stupid little self in front of my Samsung as well. We have oodles of pictures from years ago, of course. Silly ones. Serious ones. This, from a gallery we should have titled, “Sit there and just do it … please!” done over a decade ago, is why I still miss him:

He didn’t want to pose, nevertheless did it anyway because he was – at his heart – a good dog. Years removed from losing him, and six days away from Christmas, this is the 19th day of December, 2020. A year when all of us get up every day looking for the comforts in life, dogs certainly add a joy to what’s been subtracted from us. Even when they’re not here anymore, the memories are.

Shopan was not a nice puppy. Stubborn? Oh, there’s no subtlety in that word. He’d grimace and growl at the least suggestion of behavior modification. His idea of playing? …Well, there was no puppy play, really. Maybe we misunderstood the rules as first time human owners, I guess? He squatted like a girl when doing #1 which, to me, suggested a slight confusion in his boney brain. Why not lift a leg like a normal boy puppy would do? Dunno. Maybe he saw “XX” dogettes doing their thing and his “XY’s” never fully engaged?

To add to the Magic 8-ball of his life, the vet coded his lineage some weird tag opposite of what he ended up being: 1/3 shepherd colors, 1/3 collie bark, 1/3 Rottie head and fully all ours from the time we picked this little runt out of the litter at the humane shelter back in 1995. This all black little fur guy sat in a newspapered, cold corner of an impersonal pen, all by himself, probably picked on by his bigger sisters – the ones who were most certainly going to be chosen first. No wonder he had a chip on his shoulder. I would, too. We had no choice.

After a week or two, he was certainly ours. Pain in the ass that he was, we were committed to the daily tasks of dealing with him. He didn’t pick us up. We leaned over and plucked him out. We started to believe he scammed us and, uhm, plucked us over … if you get my drift. He didn’t, of course. Dogs don’t have that ability to think resentfully like us stupid humans. They’re go along to get along creatures. Shopan was scared, confused, probably hungry, tired, unsure of us and very, very young.

All of us weathered the puppy years. Adolescent ones, as he grew long legs and his torso elongated, began to see a settling down of his excitability. Full of energy but unable to have stamina, which was an enigma until later years – he played flying squirrel across and around all the furniture. Yes, our bad for allowing him to be a circus performer especially hoping on top of my father’s dining room table when visiting one fine day. As an aside, I found this to be absolutely the funniest, most highly amusing, uproariously tear-filled moment in my life, btw… You need to know my dad’s history with dogs, I guess, to understand. (He wore oven mitts and used spatula-prods while disciplining dogs – as the poor puppies hid under sofas). No human or animal was ever harmed. Dad loved all our pets. He was frustrated at their lack of respect for his rules … oh, and he was heartbroken, in his own way, when they died…

As I was when we had to take Shopan on his final trip to the vet. He and I bonded during his last years. I came home in the mid-afternoon hours most days and we spent some time together. These moments weren’t the crazy times similar to all the years prior. Unlike the trips in the car when he nervously paced back and forth, slicing his paw on the iced snow covering one winter, patiently seeing his way through an amateur Westminster Dog Show video production, protecting his owner while walking in the neighborhood one spring day, or getting a “conveyor belt” dog wash to fool his grandmother, these were simple half-hour snuggles. The moments I miss now. Silent breathe-in, breathe-out seconds when we connected our lives in a way that surpassed the stresses of my life and let him know I was there for him. A person, a being, a friend. Someone in the cage with him who understood.

We drove home with only his leash. His last moment here at the house was one paw resting on the bottom step as if to say, “Thank you.”. He had enough energy to squat near the steps one last time as his heart failed him. Still couldn’t lift his stupid leg. For a puppy-guy who lived 13 years, he did all right by us. He put up with our failings as owners and we put up with his headstrong you-chase-me ball game in the yard. I made him do silly games and he made me a better person. We were good for each other.

That’s what pets do. That’s why my friends post pictures of their furry loved ones – especially now, in December. A holiday month for most. We feel so connected to everyone including our pets. Goldfish, parrots, hamsters, caribou, snakes, … whatever fills your stocking. Hug them extra tight.

I have pictures of Shopan. For now and the distant future, this is my December dog I’ll remember for the remainder of a year when all seems to be a bit disjointed. Yes, I enjoy all the Facebook pictures. Yes, I certainly enjoy Chloe – the rather cantankerous puppy across the street who seems to enjoy upsetting me off my rocker lately. I have this ability with puppies. Go figure. Chloe, as was the case with Shopan, will eventually come around. All these little pelted pissers do … someday.

The someday is special. In the meantime, if you have a December dog, give ’em a hug for me. Don’t make that trip back from the vet, with leash in hand, regretting any connecting moments you didn’t embrace.

Show Me Chloe

Ok. Since you asked. Here she is once again.

This past July 3rd, I introduced you to Chloe, the puppy. She’s still scampering about in our neighbor’s yard, tethered to – in her happy, anxious mind – a rather annoyingly short lead. If not, every whim and whisper nature provides would have her half way to China by now. This is her world. Her “I see Doug and want to give him something to think about now” universe.

“U” see, I am not one of those whims and whispers, supposedly. Considering I’m only that one letter off of being a dog myself, you’d think Chloe and I should be can-do, man-dog sypaticos. I think we are. She … well, … may think so. At this point, I’m not so sure. The occasional side belly rub gives me some puppy-cred and the special ball toy we play with at times sheds wonderful light into our friendship, however, one rather annoying habit of hers strikes a sour note across my heartstrings.

Being my canine neighbor across our not so well traveled avenue, she stares uninterrupted at me with her sad, wanting eyes. Beautifully calm, still, unwavering, she sits a few blades of grass from the edge of a driveway no more than 40 or so paces from my five trips back and forth on my property – loading the van for a day ahead. I always see her out of the cautious corner of either eye, depending upon which way I walk … careful to not make direct contact with the beast-ette. It is a dangerous game we play, for I would be tempted to smile uncontrollably at her insistence that I immediately approach – abandoning all my business needs at the moment.

One of any intelligence should assume, when finishing the task of loading said van with time to spare, this barely-out-of-puppydom would then welcome the very person to whom such pleas were advanced, right?

Uhm, wrong. That sounded too abrasive, so let me phrase it another way: Chloe wants me to come across and play a few minutes with her, then doesn’t, then does, then doesn’t, then …. you get my point.

If she wasn’t so damn cute and petable, I wouldn’t play this dog and mouse, “who wants to be a schmoozer the least” game at 7:30 in the misty morning. She sits there with her little butt barely on the grass, leash extended to its full length, … and brown marble eyes staring across like arrows lasered on my heart knowing full well I have a blue racquetball somewhere. Ah, the little, round rubber morning ball. It isn’t me she wants at all …

So, I walk “casually” over, pacing my step as if approaching a sleeping bear. Chloe’s tail wags a bit left and right and her, now, slightly larger than puppy body still does not move. Then, I’m only five steps away, a few seconds later, when she abruptly jumps a high-dee-ho, her leash gives a sigh, and back to the porch she runs … taking a path of zig-zags and look backs as if to say, “Ha! … gotcha again! .. Ya big sucker!”

There is no licky-lapy, jump into my arms, nice to see you moment. No Lassie found me alive in a well revelation. She runs from me the very moment I reach down – extending my arms to caress the very compassion and love she so wonderfully extended to me only seconds earlier. I, somehow, got a version of the smelly anti-dog plague in the four-point-six seconds it took to cross the street; OR, perhaps Chloe is playing a game, as usual.

It IS a game. A big freakin’ game I get sucked into almost every morning. Why? Because I’m me … and you’re you … and you’d do exactly the same thing, so don’t judge me.🤣

The lure of cuteness overload is exhausting sometimes. Chloe is sweet. I’ll continue to dance the dance. After a few minutes of rah-rah back and forth, she will settle and we’ll have some quality time as I sit on the stoop on her front porch. Ball-bouncy and side-scratchy morning time, as afforded by my nice neighbors, are important to Chloe, I guess. After all, she’s only a dog and I can only pretend to know what goes on inside her fuzzy little noggin’.

As for my brain, well, it’ll never change much. In about 45 minutes, the pleasure sensors will trigger puppy chemicals once again as I carry heavy coolers out from my commercial kitchen to the van. She’ll be sitting there … staring at me. Geesh.

I’ll not resist. Can’t. Show me Chloe and I’m done with all self-control. The best way to start any morning … on her terms, of course.

The dance begins …