Ode to a Perfect Canine

I’ll never forget the first thing an employee at the dog shelter told me after he brought Dollie out to meet out family in May 2014– he said Dollie was obviously a very intelligent dog because she made great eye contact. I have no idea if there’s an actual correlation between eye contact and canine intelligence, but as someone who has done much public speaking training, I immediately attached to a creature who had mastered this high level skill. And it was true, Dollie had a gaze that would just not let go of you.

This same employee told us that Dollie was dropped off at the shelter by a family that was moving away and couldn’t keep her. I found this story impossible to believe, because Dollie was too sweet for any warm hearted family to walk away from. I imagine that the real story is that she was a breeding dog, abandoned by a puppy mill that no longer had use for her. When I’d take her on walks, Dollie always gave me the sense of being a mother on the lookout for her lost puppies — and sometimes she would follow her nose to a path with great purpose.

After two years, we found a long lost puppy for Dollie to look after, a younger male puggle named Bogey (or sometimes Bogie … we never really know how to spell him.) We more commonly call him Bobo, the Spanish word for clown, and it’s apt, because Bobo is a silly character next to Dollie’s stately emotional leadership. Bobo was also a rescue and he shows it. The poor guy gives the sense of being abandoned cruelly early in his life and he clings constantly, mostly to me but also to Dollie. He will miss her terribly.

I’ve never met a dog with as much pure love in her heart than Dollie. She would prefer to lick everyone in the face to the point where they could take it no more, but learned as she aged to back off. She also let go of some of her territoriality and let Bobo take over as the voice of home defense. At a younger age, Dollie would stand at the fence and confront a pitbull face to face. She had no fear. And every fluffy dog in the neighborhood had to beware, because they were her natural enemies.

Every one of my children has a picture of Dollie as the background of their favorite device. They created a mythology around her — the Wisdom of the Dollie — that elevated her to the leadership role in our household and sometimes the entire world. And it was well earned.

Today Dollie is gone and I feel some guilt about it. She was morbidly obese by the time of her death and I am largely responsible for that. When Bobo came along, he brought with him an aggressive debating style that would ask for people food until he was satisfied. Not wanting to leave Dollie out, I also gave the food to her. And as they both puffed up, Dollie became less and less active. The walks became less frequent. By the end, Dollie had to be carried up the stairs to sleep with us. If anyone in the family is angry that Dollie left us too soon, I will shoulder that blame. I’ll try to do better with Bobo and future canines.

I had a couple opportunities this week to have last moments with Dollie. I laid on the couch with her yesterday and rubbed her stomach for a long time. She seemed contented in a way that she hadn’t been for awhile. This morning, after she drank some water, I carried her over to the couch and pet her. Those brown, expressive eyes looked different. They had clouded over and her time was coming to an end.

We will miss Dollie terribly, but she leaves us with nothing but good memories and there are very few creatures in the world of any species who do that for you in life. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

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