MY DOG’S WHOLE LIFE

 . . . is in quarantine.

I have 2 dogs. Both German Shepherds.

I had had two dogs before these. A white German Shepherd mix and Wally: three parts long and one part tall. My first dog came to me when I lived in a converted warehouse in Oakland. It was the 4th of July in the year 2000. My neighbor and I were assembling a new barbecue so that we might burn-some-beef and visit with our other neighbors. As we were kneeling down set in our work, this sweet, little, skinny girl walked up and pressed herself against me. True, I had put out some food and water for her the day before. You see, where I use to live in Oakland was about 2 blocks away from the old pound. The old pound used to have lockers outside where one would take animals after hours and leave them for the staff to collect the next morning. The old pound moved and the lockers were welded shut. I am sure that many people did not know that this pound had shuttered and suspect that they just dumped their animals on the street since I had seen many strays in the neighborhood before.

So the day before I put out food and water, since I had seen her wandering two days in a row now. She was a bit skittish and would run away when I approached her. So I left the food, outside by the fence and went about my worldly ways. The next day, when the gate was open, she walked up to us and pressed herself against me. For the next few years she rarely left my side. When I moved to Vallejo she loved the open grass of the yard and this soon became our new home. Shortly after we moved in, I noticed that she was becoming more withdrawn. Some days she would wrap her paws around my leg when I was heading out the door for work. I never had a dog before but suspected she was becoming very bored. I was married at the time and I said to my wife, “It’s time for another dog.”  She said little perhaps assuming that the burden of care would be hers. The next day I came home and she handed me one of those little advertising magazines.  You know the ones that come to your door once a month full of dry cleaners and new windows for you home advertisements. In it was a picture of Wally. This happy-go-lucky, brown faced, smiling dog.

That weekend we went to Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF.)  We asked about the dog in the magazine and were pointed to an observation room around the corner. We walked up to see a sea of dogs running, jumping and falling all over each other. In the middle of this puppy mosh pit was Wally.  He was happy, chasing his tail and the tails of others. My wife and I looked at each other and asked, “Where are his legs?” He was short. Super short. But amazing. Pound for pound probably the best dog ever.  It took no time at all for my girl and Wally to be best friends. I can still feel the joy I experienced the first time I looked out the kitchen window and saw them chasing each other. Instant fast friends.

Some years later, after my wife and I split up, my old girl passed away. 14 years, long time for a big dog.  Wally was older too but he stepped right up and we kept each other company. Then it happened. Wally grabbed my leg one day before I left for work. Uh-oh. That night I start to put out feelers.   In hindsight, for Wally’s sake, perhaps I should have gotten an older dog. One closer to his age. But there came along  this puppy who needed a home. I took my girlfriend, her dog and Wally to meet him. He was only a few months old. The whole gang got along from the start. The next thing I knew, I was the father of this weet little thing. Wally did like to play but as it turned out the puppy had way too much energy from him. Wally’s mood did improve but rather than being the smiling happy dog he settled quietly into curmudgeonly old age. Kinda. The puppy would love to chase the ball inside the house. Wally would lie on the edge of living room while I would toss the ball for the young upstart. The puppy would chase and Wally would snore. Occasionally the ball would land somewhere near Wally. The puppy would approach and Wally would raise one lip give the youngster his alien face.  The closer the ball landed, and the puppy drawn in with it, the intensity of the alien face grew and more of a growl rolled forth. One time I caught Wally doing this and said something, he just turned his head, wagged his tail and smiled at me with a knowing smile. Wally was just messing with the puppy. An old man’s game.

Wally passed and before my puppy boy, now 3 years old, could grab my leg when I left the house, I began the search for another companion. Having become more familiar with the Humane Society of the North Bay, I decided that a shelter dog was the way to go. I called to see if they had any female Shepherds and they did. A poor girl who was just distraught. My puppy and poor girl seemed to get along fine in the get-to-know-you pen. No great love, but no great dislike either. She was distracted but would play chase the ball with us. This one was going to be work but puppy and I were all in.

An anxious urinater, scared of everything new around her, the puppy and I set about making her comfortable. After the pain of her spaying had worn off, new girl was feeling her oats. I was saddened by the fact that she had not taken to the puppy the way Wally had to my old girl. She was jealous and aggressive and nipped puppy boy more than a few times. 2 years of constant love, consistent training and moderate discipline, a steady meal source, plenty of walks and lots of ball throwing later, she has become a very good dog. I will never know why someone would throw away a perfectly good dog. The long and the short of it is, they play, a little, right after meal time when they both have full bellies. They are committed to each other but do not share the same bond as my previous two. I sometimes thinks it is my fault, but then I remember that the world is much bigger than me, so I just do what I can.

Puppy boy is very social and is prone to running off to greet new people. In doing so he is apt to not heed my command to return. We have worked on this and he is better. Yesterday I was sharing gardening supplies with my neighbor and the puppy followed the neighbor out the gate. Puppy was so happy to see another dog, their dog, that he immediately got the zoomies. I laughed as I watched him express pure joy running up and down the street and through both of our yards. I turned my back to let him play. He was happy, so was I. A few moments later I go to call him in and he is gone.  Just up the street it turns out. Off to visit someone else, with their dog, out for a walk.

My dog’s whole life is in quarantine. We walk, almost every day and sometimes twice if the weather is on our side. They both like Wardlaw to chase their balls, but Wardlaw is closed.  Today, puppy barely came to get breakfast. It seems one minute of freedom versus a lifetime of lockdown has saddened my baby boy. Today, we find open fields. Ticks or no ticks. Today we break out.

Until tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

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