A Free Dog Story: Life with My Old Dog
The Benefits of Dog Ownership
As I begin to write, a soft, graying head leans lovingly against my stomach and a tail beats an even rhythm against the computer printer.
There is nothing to compare with the grace, beauty and loyalty of an old dog.
For 12 years, my terrier mix, Razz, has been my faithful companion. He came to me at eight weeks old, filled with fleas and worms - a victim of a heartless and cold sub-human who left him and his two sisters to die on a highway near Oklahoma City. Found by a good Samaritan, I purchased him for six dollars, and my return on the dollar has been immeasurable. I soon discovered his intelligence was beyond compare. He learned quickly and became an indispensable part of my life.
In the lonely days after college before I found friends and a mate, I only had Razz. I would come home from my new job as a newspaper reporter in a small Southeast Kansas town to a furry, six-month old puppy who was so excited to see me that it seemed his skin wouldn't be able to contain his exuberance. In the evening, he would sit quietly and listen to my stories of the day. We would spend weekends together traipsing through the countryside, learning about our new surroundings.
As time passed in the small town, I developed friends. One of these friends became very interested in me. This friend couldn't have animals in his apartment, and he often came over to my apartment with the expressed purpose of petting and playing with my dog. The fact was, he was using my dog to spend time with me. As friends, we spent hours together, the three of us, strolling down the sidewalks of the town, getting to know each other.
Soon, the three of us became four with the addition of a cat, and after a wedding ceremony, we all lived happily together in that Southeast Kansas town. We learned that Razz was an excellent watch dog and mouser. We still spent leisure time with our dog, walking through the fields and dirt roads near our rented country home.
Then Razz and the cat moved with us to Kansas City and a new life. Three years later, a move to Massachusetts taught me that my dog detests snow. Three years after that, a move back to a rural Southeast Kansas town gave my dog the chance to again enjoy the country. Then another move back to Kansas City. And then later, a move back to Oklahoma City to complete a full circle for Razz. This should be the last move for our widely traveled terrier mix.
As is the way with all animals, age is beginning to show in the old pup. This is very distressing. My dog has seen me through times of loneliness and times of celebration. He has never failed to be the companion, the protector, the friend. And I am all too aware of the limits of his lifespan slowly creeping upon me.
Although puppies are irresistibly cute, I think the joy of ownership of a dog is at its peak when a dog is past his "prime." An old dog has an innate understanding of his owners. I hardly have to voice commands to our terrier anymore. He automatically knows my desires for his behavior. And he can read my moods, knowing exactly how to comfort when I am in physical or emotional distress. He knows the rules of the house, and how they are best obeyed. He knows how to look endearing to get the most attention. He knows how best to sit when cuddling next to me for a time of hugs.
In short, he has learned over 12 years how best to be my dog. And the thought of my future loss is almost beyond bearing.
So, after consultation with his veterinarian, I have decided to find Razz a sister - a little terrier to follow in the footsteps of her big brother. To learn from him, and perhaps gather, in her own way, some of his wisdom from his lifetime of learning.
I do not expect the new pup to be a Razz copy. No one can heap such expectations upon another living thing. She will take my heart with her own ways and her own personality. Still, I do hope she can learn from her brother a few of the tricks of the trade.
And someday, when she is old, she can instill in yet another puppy some of the skills taught to her by the master - Razz - on how best to be my dog.