Our first child was a miniature schnauzer. Schnapps was the best
behaved and most well trained dog most people had ever seen. It seemed
his primary mission in life was to please me, and he did so with a love
only a dog can give. He went everywhere with us, and if a hotel didn't
take pets, they didn't get us either.
Our neighbors warned us that the dog-catchers in our little town were
very strict. They would take your dog out of your own yard if he
wasn't fenced. One day Schnapps heard a noise in the front yard and
wanted to go out to investigate. Since he was trained to stay in the
yard, I let him out and sat back down to my TV. After a few minutes I
heard a car door slam. The engine growled as the dog-catcher's truck
pulled away from the curb, past the window and on down the street.
THAT SOB HAD TAKEN MY DOG RIGHT OUT OF MY OWN YARD! He was taking him
to THE POUND! THEY KILL DOGS AT THE POUND!
It didn't matter that I was still in my pajamas and stocking feet. I
snatched up my keys and dashed out to the car. At the speed I was
traveling, it didn't take but a couple of blocks to catch up to the
dog-catcher's truck. He was driving slowly along, looking for another
victim. In a classic move from TV, I passed him on the left, then cut
back in and stopped almost sideways across the street in front of him.
I flung open the door and stalked right past the startled dog-catcher
to the rear door of his truck. I tore open the rear gate of his truck
to rescue my first child and . . . the truck was empty.
The dog-catcher was downright unfriendly about being interrupted in
this way. I apologized without a lot of exlpanation and slunk back to
my car. I took the long way home in case he followed me, but I guess
he wasn't interested. When I pulled in the drive, there was Schnapps,
greeing me with his usual enthusiasm. No, the police never showed up.
I'm not sure why.
When our daughter was born, then our son, I felt a little guilty
because I just didn't feel as much genuine affection for either of them
as I did that old dog. But they grew on me as children will, and after
a while, I didn't have to feel guilty anymore.
He tolerated the little intruders, maybe because they dropped food on
the floor. Then one day, my 3 year old boy was walking around, eating
a peanut butter sandwich he had made himself. He let his hand fall a
little too low, and in a flash, the dog lunged for the sandwich,
nipping some fingers in the process. THAT BEAST HAD ATTACKED MY SON!
Before I knew what was happening, I was across the room, on the floor,
and the poor dog was yelping from the repeated blows from my open hand.
I knew some corner had been turned in my life. I loved that old dog
with all my heart, but he was just a dog.
As he tottered into those twighlight years, nature began to take things
away. First his hearing went. Then the cataracts got so bad he could
barely see. One morning he just couldn't seem to get his legs under
him, and my wife and I agreed it was time. We all went to the vet
together. I carried him in on his favorite blanket and carried him out
the same way, only limp now.
I thought I would simply never get past the pain. There was just this
big ache in my heart that wouldn't go away. I kept reminding myself
that he was just a dog. I wonder how people who lose children ever go
The puppy we brought home could never replace Schnapps, but it helped a
little. He wasn't as smart, but he seemed eager to please. He grew on
us as puppies will. After five years, I can't imagine how I ever could
have ever loved another dog more.
"The cup of life is sweetest at the brim - the flavor is impaired as we
drink deeper, and the dregs are made bitter that we may not struggle
when it is taken from our lips."