This blog is about the dogs in my life that were real flesh and blood animals, not ones that are stuffed as they were in one of my last blogs. If you have read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you have read about my Cavalier King Charles dogs, Cara Cozy, a lady of a dog, with her copper brown and white markings; and Markey Mark, the mischief man, who was black and tan with a small spot of white on his chest, hence his name. Astrologically speaking, I am a Pisces and as such I love all animals and creatures that are soft and cuddly. It is part of my charm and also my cross. (Try keeping a house up ready for sale with two dogs whose hair flies off them as they walk across a room.) But bigger than all this is my fascination with the book and then movie entitled A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. I’m going to try to lay out for you my journey accompanied by my dogs and see if you see the connection to the book and movie.
My very first dog was a black and white Springer Spaniel mix. The first time we met I was eight years old and it was a Saturday morning. My chores consisted of helping my mother change the sheets on all the beds upstairs in our Shaker styled, salt-box house and then mopping the floors with a dry mop. We didn’t use vacuum machines as much back then. This Saturday was a rainy, off and on rain, all morning and it came time for me to go shake off the dust on my mop. I went outside and there sitting on the concrete back stairs of our house was a black and
white dog shivering in the cold where she had been exposed to the rain and cold for some time. I sat down on the stairs and wrapped my arms about her to try to get her warmed up and to keep her from running away from me. The running away was not even an issue for she was so happy to have some comfort.
After a time my mother must have wondered where I was because I hadn’t come back with the clean mop. She came to the porch screen door and looked out. “What are you doing out in the rain?” she called. “And where did you find that mangy dog?”
“Mom, look at her,” I called back. “She is so cold and wet. Can we keep her? Bring her inside and make her warm?
“You know how your father feels about dogs especially ones that are tramp dogs. Remember his dog was poisoned when he was a boy and he doesn’t ever want another dog in this house. It hurts too much.”
“Aw, Mom can we at least bring her onto the porch and dry her off, give her a little food. Maybe let her stay the night?”
“I think you are asking for heartbreak, but let her come into the porch. Your Dad is going to be home from work for lunch soon and maybe after lunch you can ask him. But be prepared, he has always said no to the other children when they wanted a dog.”
I did better than bringing her into the porch, I got towels and dried her as best I could and then tied a rope around her neck and walked her up to the field where they counted the young inmates at the Industrial School for Juvenile Delinquent Boys, the place where my father worked. It was a twice a day ritual to count the boys before they released them and the instructors for lunch or dinner.
My father walked across the street to where I was waiting for him under the maple trees he and his boys had planted years ago. “So, who is your friend?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s a dog that was sitting out on our back steps when I went to shake the dust mop this morning.” I tried to sound nonchalant in my response. I didn’t want him to know yet just how much I wanted to keep her.
We started to walk home. “Where do you suppose she came from?” my Dad asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “She was just sitting on the steps out there in the rain all cold and soggy.”
“You know some soldier let her go when he had to ship out. (I neglected to tell you that we lived on the other side of the Nashua River from the Army Post at Fort Devens in Massachusetts.) That’s where all the stray dogs come from around here. She’s going to run away from you in an effort to find him, be aware of that.”
“I don’t care I want her for my dog; my very own dog!” I had just tipped my hand and I hoped he wouldn’t hold it against me and the dog.
“After lunch,” my Dad said, “let me take a good look at her. See if I can tell from her teeth how old she is and check to see if she’s been abused.”
Was that a crack in the old ‘no dog rule’? I think I held my breath all through lunch that day.
After lunch my father went into the living room and turned on the radio and sat down with his newspaper. The dog trotted after him and settled down at his feet. When the noontime news was over my father reached down to touch the dog and she got up as if she was ready and waiting for his inspection. He went all over the dog with his hands, looked in her mouth, while she waited patiently, and then he turned to me. “We are going to have to put up ‘lost dog’ signs. But if no one comes to claim her in a week you may have her.”
“I can have her?!!”
“Yes, you can have her but you are going to have to feed her, and walk her, and play with her even when it gets old.
“I don’t care. I love her so much!”
“Okay, Silly, what are you going to call her?”
I thought for a moment and then remembered my childhood story of the dog, who came to the little girl as scrap pieces of cloth in a laundry basket and she had to stitch them together to get her dog. “Patches,” I declared. “She’s going to be my Patches.”
I took reasonably good care of Patches and we would go for long walks in the woods behind my house after my homework was done. Those were the years as a preadolescent when I didn’t know how to connect with other children. Also because of the rheumatic fever when I was five, which you will read about in the next book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness, my mother kept me very close to her, socially, so that my dog was my companion.
As we both aged I had to go off to college, and my mother said that Patches mourned for me for a long while but with time she became my mother and father’s dog. By the time I was a young married woman Patches had lost her sight, lost her sense of direction so that she was running into things, and had lost her interest in life. It was at that point that my mother had her put down.
My next dog was a Schnauzer that my new husband, Rev. Harvard Lesser, found for me from a friend of someone in the parish. Elijah had gray curly hair, was small and noisy, and soon learned, that like the new beagle that had moved in across the street from the parsonage, she could howl like a beagle. I tried to explain to her that was not what Schnauzers did but she didn’t care. She got away from us during her first heat and was bred by a big dog up the street. I thought when she gave birth it was going to kill her but she survived. Unfortunately, Harvard didn’t want me to get attached to the puppies and so he snuck them away and gave them to people he didn’t even know long before it was time. Elijah mourned for quite a while as did I. Later, after she had healed, she accompanied Harvard on a bicycle trip out with his church youth group one Sunday afternoon in the spring and she didn’t survive. That is too painful to even describe to you.
When Elijah went into heat, a new male dog, Hobo, showed up in our rural neighborhood and was very interested in her. Harvard built a fortress for Elijah to protect her from the new dog but she snuck out somehow when the new dog was not outside her pen guarding her. After Elijah was killed, Hobo began to move to the back step and then into the back shed and finally into the kitchen. He was a Welch Corgi mix—Welch Corgi body and almost a German shepherd head. Incongruous, but like the Volkswagen beetle, he was loving, gentle, wise and adorable. Someone must have dumped him out of a car on the top of our hill or he climbed out, for he chased cars for a long time and I despaired that he would ever be broken of that bad habit, but he was—age I suppose.
As you will read in A Bird and the Dragon, it was Hobo that gave the first vote of
confidence in my choice of Sy Kessler for my second husband. Hobo was always one of those dogs who was there for everyone in the family and he went to his final rest in the back yard of Lakeview, in Nerme, under a tiny holly tree plant that we found on the back of the property. That tree is now a glorious American holly tree and I’m sure it is because Hobo was underneath for all of these years giving off his brand of love and caring.
Next was Saint Andrew, a vanilla colored Lhasa Apso male. We found him advertised in the newspaper as a puppy and went to check him out. We had to wait awhile before we could bring him home because he needed more time with his mother. His name came
from a dream of mine where I was given a choice between the name Saint Andrew and Saint Nicolas. When the dog got to us Saint Andrew seemed the better choice. But Andrew was the only dog that did not turn out well. He became a biter. I’m not sure if that came about by frustrated teenage daughters that would taunt him or it was just his nature. We kept him until he died of heart failure but he was not my best dog. In fact when he died in front of us, I dared not go to comfort him because I knew if he got ahold of me, he might go into a death grip and I’d never get away from him. I have always felt guilty that I could not hold him at the end of his somewhat dubious life.
Somewhere in there before Andrew passed away we took on the oldest daughter Cora’s dog, Megan, which you will read about in A Bird and the Dragon. Cora was trying to keep two dogs in an apartment where she was not supposed to have any dogs. Megan got relegated to the bathroom while Cora was off at work—not really a fair life for a Chihuahua. I offered to take the wee dog and she became a beloved part of our family for the last few years of the girls being at home. Megan and Andrew would stand at the open dishwasher and fight over who was going to wash the dishes as they were loaded. Megan always won because she was small enough to get up onto the dishwasher door.
And this brings us to Cara Cozy and Markey Mark and their stories are all told in A Bird and the Dragon or in these blogs written to advertise my book. Both are/were such beloved dogs, and there is sadness that Markey has already joined the other dogs in dog heaven. But what I want you to compare are the pictures of Patches, my first dog and Cara Cozy my last dog. Cara, the dog on the left below, is the one who has slept with me, cried with me, and cuddled me when I didn’t think I could live through the sudden death of my second husband, Sy. Are these two dogs linked, or one and the same? I could see them as one and the same. Is this ‘A Dog’s Purpose?’ Are these the same dog souls in different bodies?