A friend, Robin Williams, wrote recently about the passing of two of her old dogs. I was moved to tears. Her tale of these “satisfactory” dogs, as her dad would have called them, reminded me of the dog I married.
I figured it was about time I told the tale of Patience. Before my Beloved and I met, he opened his car door one day to a small black mutt who promptly jumped on the parcel shelf in the back seat of his Beemer and went to sleep. She’d been hanging around where he worked for a while, and he’d taken to feeding her. One day, he decided to give her a chance, and if she took it, she was going home with him. Her patience paid off.
This was not a dumb dog. She knew a good thing and she took full advantage of it. Though small, she was one tough cookie with an iron stomach. One day, she got into a five pound bag of chocolate chips. Ate the whole thing. My Beloved called the vet, who said that no matter what, don’t let her drink any water. By that time, she’d consumed about a gallon, and proceeded to toss her cookies down the stairs. Yep, she knew five pounds of chocolate didn’t mix with a 25 pound body.
When my Beloved and I married, Patience was well ensconced as queen of the house. She slept beside her rescuer at night, her head on the pillow next to his. One night, she woke up barking furiously, and my Beloved was surprised to see an apparition of a woman, dressed in black, rocking in the chair in the corner of his bedroom. Patience had taken her role of lady of the house seriously, and wasn’t about to let another woman, even a ghostly one, into her domain.
Then I showed up. Banished to a doggie bed on the floor, she showed her displeasure by chewing up all my bridal lingerie in the laundry basket. I guess she was afraid I would take her food along with her man, because she started hiding doggie food under the pillows in the bedroom, beneath the sofa cushions, and anywhere else she thought was safe from me. I fed her, I walked her, I bathed her (oh my stars, what a battle), I brushed her tangled fur. Nothing I did endeared me to her. I’d taken the love of her life from her, and she wasn’t about to forgive me.
Until I had children. Then she figured I was good for something. One day, very pregnant and tired, I ran home from work for a quick nap. Just twenty minutes, I thought. Four hours later, I awoke to find Patience cuddled up beside me, keeping watch. Thus began our détente. When the children arrived, she’d lie beside the crib at night, keeping baby watch. As they learned to toddle, she followed them around, ready to catch them before they landed too hard. She licked sticky fingers and faces, and generally became their second mama. They tugged on her fur to get to their feet, and she never once gave even the smallest sign of annoyance.
One day, when my youngest was about three or four, I was raking leaves in the back yard. I thought the children were playing in the fenced yard beside me, but somehow, the youngest had made a break for it and ended up in the front yard without my knowledge. Suddenly, I heard furious barking, something Patience never did, from the front of the house. Running out there, I saw a man near my baby, a very threatening looking man. Patience stood her ground between the man and my child, clearly aware of danger and not about to let him near her precious one. For a small dog (we called her cockapoo-terrier-schnauser), she looked pretty fierce. I ordered the man to leave, and he wasn’t about to, until Patience decided she’d had enough. He ran.
The vet figured she was about 20 years old when the time came to say good-bye. She’d grown deaf and blind, and life wasn’t much fun anymore. We all adored her, and she’s still the standard by which we judge all other dogs.