we are dog people from way back. I grew up hearing stories about my great grandfather's dogs - the best of which was a German Shepard by the name of Duchess, mother to my grandparents' dog Lady, with whom my mother grew up. my father worked as a shepherd as a young teen, and while I didn't hear any stories of those dogs, I remember an old picture of my father out in the fields, with his rifle, and his German Shepard. when my dad came to the U.S. with my mother, who was in her final month of pregnancy with me, they moved in with her parents, and that first night, settling into bed next to my mom, Ayesha - the German Shepard who was part of the family at that time - got up on the bed and stood over my dad, staring him down. apparently, that was Her spot on the bed, and as nothing about him smelled at all recognizable, she was Not in any way ready to permit him to sleep in the bed next to her humans' adult pregnant child. my father, understanding innately, took the hint and slept on the floor. after that, he won Ayesha's respect, and was allowed to sleep in the bed next to his wife.
Ayesha was the first dog I knew and loved. according to family 'legend', she was my self-appointed protector, and when they brought me home from the hospital, she stationed herself under my crib and let no one enter the room unless they were accompanied by my mother. she also taught me how to walk by standing slowly while I had my tiny baby hands in her long, beautiful hair, and supporting me while I took one tentative step after another. her long hair was considered some kind of genetic 'flaw' to the breeders my grandparents adopted her from (distant cousins), and they only let her be adopted under the condition that they would never 'show' her in any dog competitions, which they of course promised not to do. none of their dogs were ever 'shown', and it always hurt to think that if my grandparents hadn't given her a home, she may well have been 'destroyed' for her 'flaw'. she was an angel, and it broke my heart when she died, when I was still a kid in grade school. it was the first death of anyone I loved that I experienced, and to this day, I clearly remember being at dinner at my grandparents' house, and suddenly realizing that I hadn't seen her, and asking, "where's Ayesha?", to be answered by that uncomfortable silence, and somehow knowing she was gone in that moment before they told me.
we got our own puppy when I was very little - two or three - whom we named Dumbo for his big ears. he was a mutt from somewhere in the neighborhood, but he was the Best dog! sweet and gentle, loyal to a fault. he was trained by my dad to protect us, and I 'pitied the fool' who tried to mess with any of us unaware (no one did). there were two people Dumbo didn't like, and they were not invited back to our home as a result - one was a little girl in my class, who ended up getting into serious trouble as we grew up, and we insensitively joked that "Dumbo knew, even back then". the other was a land developer that was trying to sell my parents some land to build a house on - and our well-trained dog could hardly be controlled to keep from attacking that man. needless to say...my parents chose not to deal with him, and the house that was eventually built on that land sank into the swamp hiding beneath it. by the time I was in high school, Dumbo - who had dutifully waited at the door for us kids to get off the school bus, jumping with joy each afternoon - couldn't get up off his rug to come see us as we came rushing in to pet him where he lay whining and wagging his tail, ears flat against his head, eyes full of love, to welcome his teenagers home. he was our fuzzy brother, and his passing left us all with a hole in our hearts.
|Sheba & Yaffa|
after Ayesha, my grandparents brought home sister-puppies Sheba & Yaffa. Yaffa died quite young (I don't remember why), but Sheba was with us for years, though she was always a bit melancholy after her sister died. she was the last dog my grandparents had. and even though we decided we didn't want a puppy after Dumbo died, my dad came home from shopping with my mom one weekend with big, baby eyes, saying he'd seen a puppy, and wanted us kids to come see it with him while my mom stomped angrily around the house saying she didn't want another dog. she did eventually, she just wasn't ready for one that day, but my dad got his way, and brought home Misty. I moved out of my parents house a few years after that, so though they had another dog - Kushi - after Misty was gone, I didn't really know him past being my buddy when I went to visit. I found out while living alone in my first apartment how much I missed having a pet, but knew I couldn't keep a dog in a third-floor walk-up when I was out working most of the day, and partying half the night, so I started to have cats as pets, instead. I wrote a post for the cats I have known, and I considered sharing them last week for 'C', but it seemed like a cop-out to just repost an older essay, so I figured I'd share it here as a footnote.
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