Friday, January 15, 2010

The Best Dog in the World

is of course the dog you love. I love Rosie. Best dog ever. I was not the only one to say so. She had a fan club, unofficial but unwavering.

We moved to that year's murder capital of the world (which happened more than once) when my husband entered medical school. I was afraid to be alone in the house and started lobbying to get a dog.  I like a working breed; they're intelligent and watchful and they respond readily to all situations. So I decided on a border collie.

She was tiny and cute. Her mother knew this was it. She kept walking back and forth with her last puppy, biting the hair at the back of Rosie's neck, lightly. I had a definite sense Mama was passing on the last-minute instructions on how to be a good dog.

The little baby threw up in my lap on the way home. After the first time, she sat on a newspaper on my lap and threw up two more times. The stuff must have been like styrofoam, expanding in the presence of atmosphere, because there was no way this tiny puppy could hold that much ick. A friend of ours said she got sick from reading the headlines from the murder capital of the world. After awhile, this did not seem like a far-fetched explanation. This dog learned more words than any dog I've ever known. She could almost read, I swear.

House-training went well. Teething didn't. Eventually she learned to chew on the legs of my husband's home-made blackboard and save everything else for us. And then the fun never stopped. I trained her in obedience, which was a snap. Then she trained my husband. Double snap. We took her any place not expressly forbidden to dogs by law, and she adapted to everything and behaved perfectly everywhere. We moved five times, and she kept up without missing a beat. But I think the best year she had was right before we moved to RiverTown, and she could swim in the local lake almost every day.

1. On Which Rosie Plays a Shell Game
Near RiverTown, there was a state park on the bayou. We would take her there on weekends. The first time, she found a turtle. "That's a Turtle," I told her. "Turtle. Turtle. Good Rosie."
The rest of the afternoon, she made fun of me. If she had been a pointer, she would have pointed. Instead, she would go down the path, come back, go back down, and wait by a turtle. Then she'd look at me: You want a turtle?
The crowning moment was when she leapt, slid, swivelled, and ended up staring at me with a turtle between her two front legs, grinning as dogs do: I can see them better than you, smell them better than you, and find them better than you. So is this the one you like?
"Okay, Rosie," I said, laughing back. "You win."
She pointed out no other turtles that afternoon.

2. On Which we Take a Trip
Rosie's staying at Grandma's house. On the second night, she goes to the front door.
"Woe, woe, woe," she says.
"They'll be back," Grandma replies. "They'll be back Sunday night."
Rosie goes into the living room and lies down.
Afterwards, my grandmother gets a dog.

3. In RiverTown, Rosie's guarding groceries, calm and doing the normal, while we truck them down the hall. A man passes by that I learn later is a prominent drug dealer on our street. For the first time since training, Rosie breaks her sit-stay. She goes after him: Leave my people alone. I collect her, but I do not correct her. Because I believe her.

4. In Which We Are Herded
I get a black and white cat; Daisy. The three of us spend weeks of free time where the cat sits by my lap and Rosie by my feet while I do homework. Now that all the family knows they're supposed to get along, the circle widens. Eventually, we develop an evening tableau:  the cat lies on one side of the room and Rosie on the other. Their bodies describe two ends of a perfect oval, in which my husband and I are encircled.

5. In Which Planning Allows For Smooth Execution.
Rosie and the cat have deals: Daisy can play with any toy, except a ball belongs to Rosie.
Daisy has first dibs at the water, no matter what. Rosie has first dibs on any disputable food, including cat food. Daisy has to eat on top of a dresser.
Rosie trains the cat to jump on the kitchen counter and knock the lunch meat package to the floor. A lot of ham and turkey disappears before we are trained to put the lunch meat away immediately. I am never sure the cat gets any of the lunch meat.

6. After my husband became ill, Rosie switched her allegiance to him. She never left, literally, the back of his knee for two solid years--whenever she could be with him, she was. If he was asleep, she waited at the foot of the bed. She had duties that were now inexorable. No one told her to do this. She chose it. Immediately.

When he died, her heart and mind broke. She became sick and vacant. I tried and tried, but I couldn't fix it for her. She was already with him when she took the last trip to the vet. She was fifteen years old.

Two days later, Daisy disappeared. She came back after three days. I think she was looking for Rosie, who had always been her wise counsellor. Whatever reason she had, when she came back, it had been satisfied.

Once my sister told me, "You learn unconditional love from a dog."
From Rosie, I learned what God had in mind when He made the angels. She understood better than most. Served more than most. Loved more than most.


Unknown said...

Unconditional Love. Rosie was a winner. I'm glad she shared her world with you.

Bob G. said...

Rosie reminded me of my dog from decades ago (Bonnie) a Border Collie, who passed after giving our family 16 years of love.
Funny thing...we only had ONE Bonnie...or Heidi (our Shepherd), or Sandy (golden retriever).

ANd that's all you ever have...ONE, unique family member.
Each dog has it's OWN special personality, but will STILL manage to steal your heart along the way. long as there is a RAINBOW BRIDGE, none of them will ever be gone from my life forever.

Marvelous post.

Ann T. said...

Dear Peedee, and Bob G,
It was her world, and I was glad to be in it!

Thanks for writing in. It was time to bring her back into the world, at least as a memory. And Bonnie and Heidi and Sandy too.

Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

This was a great read Ann T. Your description of the pet oval with the "folks" in the middle is such a wonderful image.

After our most recent pet loss, they never cease to amaze me in putting their owners above themselves even on their last breaths.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I loved her so much, and she returned it over the top. The oval was a great place to be.

I'm sorry also for your loss.

Ann T.