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Readers share: Dog Days of Summer

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Several readers responded to our request for stories about their beloved pets. We hope you enjoy their tales - and their efforts to bring a lighter fare to the Opinion page.

 For the love of Madam Queen

This happened 82 years ago, but it is a true story. I wrote it while taking part in a writing group at Atria Elizabethtown.  

We arrived at my grandparent’s house at about the same time: a bedraggled, flea bitten pup and a crippled 6-year-old girl who had just lost her mother. Both of us were searching for a new home where we would feel welcomed. My grandparents, although no longer young, provided this loving home for us.  

The pup, whom I named Madam Queen, was my constant childhood companion who followed me everywhere. Since then I have owned a number of dogs of more aristocratic pedigree, but Madam Queen remains in my memory as my truest friend. 

Jean T. McCubbin

 

Constant friend

The summer my son, Justin Kevin, turned 2, he ran wild throughout the whole neighborhood (before we put in the backyard fence).

At that time we had a half-German shepherd, half-chow stray dog we named Moose. He loved Justin Kevin even if Justin tried to shove tennis balls and baseballs into his mouth. That dog followed Justin everywhere so he helped babysit for me.

When I couldn’t see Justin for the tall wheat behind our house, I could see Moose’s chow tail and I knew he was with Justin. The funny thing was he loved Justin but if you let any other child in the yard he wanted to bite them. So needless to say, we had to let him go because we feared someone was going to get hurt. He was a faithful old watch dog and Justin’s best friend. 

Donna Chelf

 

Requiem For A Yorkie

I was expecting tomatoes when I saw my son and granddaughter coming to the door that hot August afternoon in 2010. Autumn had her shirt tail pulled up and clutched against her and the bulge inside was about the right size for two-or-three tomatoes, a welcome treat.  

But I didn’t get tomatoes that day, I got Emmy. My kids had decided I needed companionship to boost my spirits and speed up my healing after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

And so, the woman who never wanted or considered having an indoor pet was transformed after the first snuggle with a tiny blonde and black fuzzball into a sappy, baby-talking, over the top, obnoxious pet owner. It happened so fast I couldn’t even remember all the reasons I thought house pets were a bad idea. I was besotted and there was no looking back.

She was named Emmylou after my idol, singer Emmylou Harris, because that was a name I revered. Like Emmylou Harris, this two-pound Yorkie puppy was crazy beautiful and her shock of white blond fur framing her face reminded me of the singer’s own striking hair. Ms. Harris is an ardent animal activist and I knew she would be honored to have a namesake of such superior loveliness and charm.

Because I had never had a house pet, I made every mistake in the book those first few weeks. I put training pads all over my house thinking I would avoid any accidents, so she learned that the entire house was her bathroom. As for the pads, sometimes she would daintily wipe her feet on them after relieving herself on the floor 12-inches away, but mostly she ignored them.  

She batted her eyelashes and whined pitifully whenever I sat down to eat, so of course I felt I had to share and then I’d spend the next 36 hours spot cleaning carpets. I tried leaving her in a crate the first two nights, but I couldn’t sleep for thinking of how alone she must feel being away from her Mama and brothers.  

By the third night I was so exhausted from lying awake worrying about her that I had to bring her to bed with me just for a few nights so I could get some rest.  Of course, she never slept anywhere else again. I did buy her a harness and leash but it never seemed appropriate to restrain royalty so we rarely used them. She was content to be cradled in my arms when we needed to go out in public and I practiced posing like Paris Hilton with my designer dog, just in case the paparazzi were lurking in the bushes.

Time passed and in a few short months, Emmy had trained me to be an obedient and faithful master. I learned to drop everything and fetch her ball when it rolled out of reach behind or under the furniture. I could respond to commands: “Get out of bed, now!” (quick, short yips repeated as long as needed). ”Gimme a bite of that!” (loud, impatient yelping); and “Pleeeaaase, I really need that (kleenex, pencil, cookie, insert name of any forbidden item here)”(pitiful, heartrending, growly little whines). 

We were a team. I provided food, shelter, toys and unlimited tummy rubs. She, in return, would wake me up from sound sleep several times a week to let me know anytime a possum, deer or raccoon was trespassing in our yard. She would also sound the alarm as soon as visitors were inside the house and nearly at our side. She was the perfect dog.

Emmy had been the runt of the litter with two strapping brothers. Her weight eventually topped out at about 5 pounds and she was mistaken for a pup her whole life. That’s just how cute and precious she was.  

My daughter compared her shape to a short loaf of bread and some people described her as “chunky”, but she was not chunky. She was the exact right size and anyone who thinks otherwise is just wrong. Emmy filled a void that I hadn’t even known existed and she was a joy to me every second of her short life. I have lived alone for years and never felt lonely until I experienced the joy and then the loss of Emmylou. 

Who would have thought that losing a four-legged, five pound, silky bundle of fur could leave a hole the size of a Mack truck in my heart?  Rest in peace, Emmy girl.  Mama loves you.

Emmylou (June 26, 2010- March 26, 2014)

Wanda Howard, Howardstown

 

Cold muzzle, warm heart

My family’s always been partial to dogs. Long-time LaRue County residents still speak fondly of “Clarence” my Mom’s venerable, cantankerous, English basset hound. That dog lived 16 years (that’s 112 in dog years!) He never ate a bowl of dog food in his life, insisting instead on table scraps from our hearth. 

I like German shepherd dogs, too. “Commander” our first GSD, struck terror in the hearts of many who entered our property, (particularly those with ill-intent). My Dad bought him from a reputable breeder at Fort Knox after a series of burglaries. And then there was “Baden,” another beloved GSD me and my littermates Todd and Jacque simply adored. Mom and Jacque currently have “CJ” another GSD. Told you we were dog lovers.

But now that I’m grown and on my own, my wife Theresa and I have been absolutely smitten by boxers since we got “Bruce” last summer. Ditto for our kids. We’ll definitely be repeat boxer owners! 

We absolutely love the boxer’s intelligence, loyalty, protective instincts, love of their owners and beauty. Having had several different breeds growing up, none have been as silly, playful and sensitive as the boxer. When you’re loved by a boxer, you know it.

Despite their size, boxers have a lap dog mentality. Bruce enjoys snuggling with Theresa every evening on the couch and eventually follows us to the bedroom when we retire for the night without fail. During the day, he’s never too far from my daughter or son’s bedroom. I swear, Bruce thinks he’s human and Theresa is his Doggy Mom.

I admire Bruce’s sturdy, muscular build and natural athleticism. Boxers look fierce, but they’re really just big teddy bears at heart. Bruce ain’t the Pillsbury dough boy, though. We’ve discovered boxers don’t warm up to just anyone. As the Boxer Club of America’s breed standard (the written specifications of an ideal representative of a breed) states, “With family and friends, [the boxer] is fundamentally playful [but] deliberate and wary with strangers.”

Don’t want to chit-chat with the security system sales rep who’s pounding on your door at 7 p.m. just as you’re about to plop down to dinner? No problem. Just crack the door a tad, let Bruce poke his sniffing muzzle toward the interloper and watch the sales pitch rapidly evaporate. And I pity the fool who would brazenly attempt a home invasion.

Recently, we had some water work done in our subdivision that resulted in an intermittent loss of water pressure. When pressure was fully restored early the next morning, the sudden clamor in the pipes sounded like someone breaking in our house. Bruce bolted out of bed with alarming speed, his fur bristling and a low, guttural growl resounding from his blunt, barrel-chested body. He insisted on a full-parameter visual over-watch to allay his concerns. Now, that’s a good dog!

And talk about tons of personality! From mooching table scraps with those large, expressive eyes (honestly, who can deny that whimsical expression?) to howling in his language of supplication in the midst of our family prayer circle, that dog is a straight nut. 

Unfortunately, boxers aren’t a healthy breed. On average, they only live about nine years and are prone to cancer, heart disease and hip dysplasia, among other conditions. But they live well. I, for one, am convinced God put dogs on earth to show us humans how to love unconditionally.

Maybe Matthew Cowley said it best in his article “Canine Clowns” when he wrote: “He is the clown of the dog fraternity, canines answer to vaudeville. A laugh a minute, lives life to the fullest, maximum velocity version of canine slapstick. But he is also a sympathetic soul, a shoulder to cry on, a confidante. He is all that is good in a dog. He is of course The Boxer.”

Yup. That’s Brucey.

Julian L. Shipp is a LaRue County native and former interim editor of The LaRue County Herald News. He is currently a Documentation Specialist Team Lead for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox.