We grew up hearing stories about dogs and their incomparable loyalty. Didn’t you? The whole world seems to agree that among all four legged friends, and even among some two legged ones, dogs are animals you can most count on to be trusting and reliable; to be at your side in any circumstance, to be supportive and dependable in times of sadness or trouble.
So why are all the dogs in my life examples of the adage, “Never believe everything you hear.” And I don’t. Not any more.
My dog history begins with a Lhasa Apso we named Chang Tang. What a charmer. Lovely, shiny, long silky fur, bright happy eyes and a sweet disposition. He was our first pet.
But nobody told us the facts of life regarding male dogs. What a traumatic way to learn! From a sweet, innocent angelic puppy he developed into a full grown maniacal sex fiend. The little beast started humping everything in sight. Even my poor old grandmother.
“Help; get this thing off me”, she shrieked, at the shock of finding a small furry animal wrapped around her leg, clenching it and holding on tight in a life or death grip.
Not only were human legs targets, but every pillow and bolster was in danger of being compromised when Chang Tang entered a room. The sight of him eventually gave us feelings of total revulsion, so when my parents visited, saw the situation and said,
“Let us take Chang Tang home. We’ll be happy to have him live with us.”
“Oh, thank you. That would be the perfect solution”.
They were happy, he was happy, the children were overjoyed, and we were free of him without guilt. That ended the experience with our first dog.
We were not deterred from the Man’s Best Friend fairy tale, so we decided to try again. A beautiful Gordon Setter became available from a Breeder in Pennsylvania.
“He was the pick of the litter”, they said. “Our daughter wanted us to keep him as her own pet, and that’s why we haven’t sold him.”
So why are they selling him now?
That question entered my mind, and I should have been more suspicious, but our family took a drive to see him.
“Isn’t he beautiful”, was everyone’s comment.
He looked regal, sophisticated, and mature. He romped around and played games. The children loved throwing balls and sticks, and loved Cody’s passion to bring the objects back. He never seemed to tire of running. That’s an understatement and that turned out to be his tragic flaw.
We discovered, once we were home with him, that Cody’s number one passion was running. Every time the doorbell rang he zoomed ahead to win the door answering race. He was the first one there every time.
The nanosecond anyone opened the door he bolted out of the house with the speed of a Masserati racing a Ferrari. Then he disappeared.
How many times did I drop everything and jump into the car on a dog-recovery mission? It was funny at the beginning, but after months of this routine I became phobic at the sound of a doorbell. The humor in Cody’s behavior was quickly and terminally strained.
“I’m afraid”, I told my husband, “That he is not happy living in our small one family house. His sophistication demands a larger home in the style of a Newport ‘summer cottage’.”
The breeder agreed to let us return him. Cody would be much happier on their spacious Pennsylvania farm, and their daughter would be pleased to have him back. Farewell, second dog.
One fine spring afternoon we drove up to West Point to visit some friends. We had dinner with them at the officer’s club and were introduced to Colonel Keyes. The colonel was preparing to leave for a post in Korea.
“Koreans eat dog meat,” said Colonel Keyes, so we can’t bring our dog with us. Come over to our quarters and meet him”, Colonel Keyes says.
We do, and are introduced to Limey, an Old English Sheepdog. With fur cascading over his face and long, soft, fluffy fur everywhere else he is irresistible. He seems a bit subdued, which is a welcome change after living with the frantic creature we lived with one dog ago. Limey comes home with us that day.
All is going well, when we hear a ferocious growl coming from downstairs in the playroom.
“What happened?” I scream as we run downstairs. There in the playroom we find our two young daughters cowering in a corner.
“We were playing with Limey, and I guess he got tired of the game. Then he got really mad and started growling,” the frightened little girls say.
“Did you ask the Keyes’ whether Limey likes children?” my husband asks.
“I just assumed all dogs liked children.”
But the Colonel and his wife raised him in an adult household. Limey was not accustomed to small children prying, prodding and poking him. Dog number three’s furlough ended with us, and he shipped out to West Point. The Keyes’ would have to find him a child-free stateside home.
After our dismal track record we have a talk and decide to take a break from dog-ownership for a while.
What constitutes a break? I don’t know for certain, but years later we are still on that break.