Being somewhat long of tooth, that is to say getting up there in years, I have had occasion to be fortunate in life to be the owner of a number of dogs. I know that there is a saying that a dog is man’s best friend; I guess that really depends on how much of a friend you are to the dog. I know that some dogs and men are hunting partners, and that’s about it. I know that to some folks their dog is nothing more than something they put up with and remove its waste and walk it, because, well, it’s the kid’s dog or the wife’s dog or the husband’s dog.
I was raised, as were many others of my day, that dogs stayed outside. They were fed rabbits and other game, as well as some table scraps, and their primary function was to alert you of intruders onto your property or to protect livestock. Years ago this view changed for me.
I came to own a small dog; the first small dog I had ever owned, a Jack Russell. She weighed about 1 pound when I got her; I could carry her in my coat pocket. When she was about 5 months old, I could not get away from her; she followed me everywhere I walked. She was always underfoot, and I have to admit that at times I got annoyed with her. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but realize that she did it because she just wanted to always be near me.
By eight months old, the energy burst hit. I had never in my life seen a dog so full of energy. She would run everywhere she went, and at the end of the day when most dogs were laying around, she would be running figure eights on the living room floor. Yep, she was the first dog I ever brought into my house, because she was so small I knew an owl or coyote or even a large cat could make a meal out of her.
When she was one year old, she could jump an easy 4 feet off the ground from a sitting position. I used to sit on the front porch of my house and watch birds feed in a bird feeder that was on a 5-foot pole in the middle of my lawn. The bird feeder was about 20 feet from my porch. One day while enjoying the birds feed and my little Jack was lying on the porch, she sprang into action suddenly. Jumping from the porch, she ran full bore at the feeder. When the birds saw her, they took flight, but it was too late. She sprang five feet in the air and grabbed a bird in flight.
At first, I thought it was a lucky catch, but as she kept catching birds, I finally felt so sorry for them I quit feeding the birds. I called her the “great white” because she sprang from below like a great white shark.
Over the years, she went nearly everywhere with me. I took her in my car to places I went. She always had a wag of her tail and a nuzzle for me, always wanting to be with me or go with me. We became almost inseparable. I could not sit down without her wanting to be in my lap. When I wasn’t feeling well, she was there to lie close to me. She knew when I wasn’t feeling well, and I think she also knew when I had a lot on my mind and would stay closer.
When illness hit my family, I saw her lay beneath a sick bed for over 30 days. She refused to come out unless I reached down and took her out to do her business outside. Then it was right back under the bed; I had to feed and water her there.
I have been the “friend” of this loving little animal for over 14 years. She developed diabetes, and as a result, went blind. Also, because of either her age or the disease, she has lost a lot of her sense of smell and some of her hearing. At times now, she gets cranky and growls at me when I move too fast around her. She has even snapped at me.
I figure it like this. For most of her short life, she has loved me unconditionally, truly unconditionally; now it is the time for me to do the same. Some folks told me when she developed diabetes that I should have her put down; others say they wouldn’t have a dog that snaps at them. I figure it’s my turn.