My spitz, Puff, had died of a car accident a while earlier, and I would casually read ads for homes for dogs, but this one really hit my heart. Teachers who lived nearby all summer in this rural area were about to return to work in the fall, but they wanted to find homes for strays they had been feeding first. A neighboring farmer had the parents, but on a farm only productive pets are kept; the rest are left to find their way in the wild. I was crazy for an Old English Sheepdog, but they were very expensive. I knew I would leave the teacher’s house with a dog, so I grabbed a coupon and went to the grocery store before going to see the dogs. The coupon was for Kibbles & Bits dog food. With the two kids and the dog food, I ventured out to meet my new pet. All the while the chant from advertising was running through my head … “Kibbles and bits, kibbles and bits, we’re gonna get us some kibbles and bits…” When I spied the one I wanted, I just had to name him Kibbles.
Kibbles was called an American Sheepdog. Maybe American because he was really a mutt. He was as sweet as a dog could be, and the mainstay of our family when we were three. He loved to play with kids and was very affectionate and obedient. As you talked to Kibbles his ears would go down, out or up, as if he was relaying your conversation in semaphor, as his head tilted one way and another.
I knew that English sheepdogs were sheared in the summer, but I didn’t know why, since dogs do not sweat through their skin. I called my father, who raised hunting dogs, and he didn’t know. So I called the vet – but she didn’t know either. So I decided that I would not shear him the first year. I soon learned why it’s done! Sheepdogs of any type have two coats – the upper layer is long, silky fur. Under that is a downy fur. In the spring these dogs shed, but because the downy fur is curly, it tangles, and if left alone the dog develops a shell of matted fur – shed fur entangled with new fur. It’s impossible to comb it out; your only recourse is to cut it off.
I had given Kibbles a foam doll my daughter had outgrown. It was wrapped in a very thin cotton. Kibbles kept this doll with him whenever he was out on his run – but he never chewed through it as he would with other toys. That was his baby.
When I had a spinal fusion, I was in a lot of pain and bedridden for many weeks. During the day, when the children were at school, I would avoid taking pain pills, for fear of addiction (or running out). So I would be alone, hurting, and staring at the ceiling feeling sorry for myself. If the cat jumped on the bed I would see stars. Kibbles seemed to be aware that I needed loving, and would crawl up onto the bed without causing pain and lay along my side. I would snuggle into his fur while he let me cry it out.
When my friends Annette and Dave would visit, they would bring their dog Missy. The two dogs would spend hours chasing each other in a circle — kitchen to dining room, through living room to kitchen.
When he was about ten years old, I started finding small puddles of vomit and phlegm behind furniture. And Kibbles had not been acting very vibrant. A visit to the vet confirmed cancer and he had to be put to sleep. I sorely missed Kibbles, wore his collar wrapped around my wrist to keep him near, and considered not getting another dog.