A Tribute to My Dog, Isaac
Let me begin this tribute by saying that my dog, Isaac, is still alive and relatively well as I write this. However, he'll be 14 on October 10, if he lives that long, and he is on twice-daily medication for congestive heart failure. He seems to be feeling well, all things considered, but I want to write this tribute now because I don't think I'll be able to once I lose him. Even now, it's difficult.
Isaac came into my life when he was 10 weeks old and I was 26. It was four days before Christmas, and my sister and I were out shopping. We stopped by the pet store just to look. I'd been thinking of getting a dog, but wasn't planning on making this the day. I was newly separated from my husband and living alone for the first time in my life. My apartment was small, but I craved companionship.
My sister and I stopped at an open-topped cage with several puppies inside. A Boston Terrier, one of the breeds I was considering, was leaping up to be petted; in his efforts to be noticed, he was trampling all over another puppy in the cage, a tiny, miserable-looking Pekingese. I picked up the Pekingese to give him a few moments' respite; he leaned his head back until I cradled him in my arms like a baby. That three-and-a-half pound furball was Isaac.
I took Isaac to my parents' house to make the introductions. My mom instantly fell in love with him. "He'll love everybody," she said, as Isaac took turns licking my family. "But he'll love you the best." I drove home with Isaac curled against me, his face in my neck.
True to my mom's prophecy, Isaac really does love me the best. He is an extremely sweet-natured dog and loves to meet new people, but he wants me around all the time. Unlike other dogs, he's not pushy about sitting in my lap or being petted; he's content to sit near me. He's had some tough times when I went out of town and left him at my parents' house; sometimes, they reported, he just lay in the front hall and watched the door each night, waiting to hear my key in the lock.
In many ways, I don't do well without Isaac either. He provides comfort, stability, and of course, the unconditional love for which dogs are famous. I'm not sure how I would have gotten through either of my divorces without him. My life was made better just by knowing I could come home from my trips throughout the US and to India, pick him up from my parents, and really be at home again. Given our nearly 14 years together, Isaac has been with me for well over half of my adult life. I'm know I'm extremely lucky to have had him this long, but the future loses some of its glow when I picture life without him.
I promised myself I wouldn't glamorize Isaac; it does him such a disservice because it leaves out some of his personality quirks. When I brought Isaac home from the pet store, his shy, retiring personality evaporated rather quickly. He began doing typical puppy things - chewing the hair off one of my collectible dolls, peeing in corners even when we'd just been outside for a walk, and tearing up rolls of toilet paper, which he tossed all over the apartment, when I left him home alone. When I moved to a new apartment the following summer, he chewed up the bottom of a wooden door so badly that I lost my security deposit. Isaac has no fear of the unknown and has run away from me numerous times when he slipped his collar or sneaked out the door during a party; when he was younger, he delighted in standing still while he watched me approach, then leaping out of reach just in the nick of time. Of course, he managed to do all these things so endearingly that I usually ended up laughing.
Isaac isn't aggressive towards humans, but he is stubborn. He has always hated baths and holds a grudge for hours after I give him one. He fights me on his medications almost every day (it's one of the ways I gauge how well he is feeling, since he doesn't fight when he feels bad), and I occasionally find a pill on the floor that he somehow managed to choke up behind my back. He is obsessed with licking things - his paws, my leg, the floor. He hates other dogs and will launch himself at passing canines, even when they are just walking placidly with their owners and even when they are much larger than him. This has embarrassed me numerous times as it necessitates me picking Isaac up and walking in the opposite direction, with Isaac barking and scratching my arms to ribbons as he tries frantically to escape.
Isaac usually comports himself with a certain dignity that we all find amusing. If he doesn't want to listen to someone, he doesn't leave the room, but he won't look at them. My dad has amused himself many time by trying to move into Isaac's range of vision when Isaac was bent on ignoring him. Isaac hates dancing (or at least my dancing) and he will leave the room for that; he also takes off if I laugh loudly or yell. However, when I get sick or when he sees me crying, he won't leave my side. Like many other dogs, he's sensitive to people's moods and offers comfort by simply maintaining a presence when times are tough.
Isaac's unique personality is one of the reasons I love him so much; no matter what's going on, he's always being himself. He is genuine and sincere in a way that humans can't be. Our trust in one another is absolute because he can't see me as anyone other than myself either. In his twilight years, he sleeps more, but he still has the spark that makes him Isaac. I watch him carefully for signs of distress; no matter how difficult it might be, I owe it to him to make sure he doesn't suffer. I've already told him how wonderful he is, how great a friend he's been to me, and assured him that he doesn't have to hang around for my sake if he knows it's time to go. I want him to feel free to be himself and make the journey on his terms, as much as that's possible. My goal is to be as faithful a companion to Isaac as he has been to me.