Today we were at the beach and met a schnauzer named Duke who could have been Riley’s twin. We first saw him when we were stopped at a light before parking the car. We watched him approach another dog and interact politely so we said “nothing like Riley.” Seconds later this little guy started the “schnauzer snark” and we laughed recognizing the fact that schnauzers are always schnauzers. We ran into them on our walk and got to meet Duke up close and personal. It made us laugh. Jay had never heard of schnauzers until he met me. We all have our baggage. Mine includes multiple schnauzers. It all began with Smokey. A miniature schnauzer, brought home as a surprise when I was in Kindergarten. The breed was chosen because my Mom had really bad asthma and schnauzers are supposedly hypo-allergenic because they have hair instead of fur. They are also certifiable, but so, so loveable…once you get with “their” program. Smokey was a “mini” but a big boy…he didn’t like to be picked up. He probably also did not enjoy being dressed up as “mother mouse.” No need to elaborate, but let’s say he wore a babushka with a flair that led to far too much repetition. He was a sociable escape artist who could dart out an open door like a comet, running up the circle on “The Knolls” with one of us in hot pursuit. He loved my baby brother dearly ~ likely because of the snacks thrown from the playpen ~ and was a constant throughout my childhood and adolescence. He stayed with us until I was almost 21. His only failings late in life were falling asleep in the bay window of the living room, by jumping from the back of the couch, to lounge in the sunlight. And falling asleep in the cabinet that held his “treats.” When “caught” he’d look at you with that “huh” look. I just loved that he fell asleep enjoying himself. .
Then there was Daniel. Daniel the Spaniel. Bruce and I did not have children. We had Daniel. As a lyricist, Bruce felt the name should be euphonious. So it was. Daniel was adorable and Daniel was a flirt. He would “work the room.” One of my funniest experiences with Daniel was a trip to the car wash we took together. The guys drying the car were laughing at us and when I asked what was so funny, one said “You look like your dog, man.” True. When Bruce and I parted, I got custody of Dan. There was “visitation” that I need not go into. Suffice it to say that couples without children can behave ridiculously over their pets.
But they’re more than pets, aren’t they? They are surely members of our family. They provide entertainment, unconditional love and they don’t talk back. Most of the time! When Daniel didn’t like something he seriously “dumped guilt” with a withering look. Like when I got my second dog, Murphy. Murphy was a little female schnauzer ~ I have a fondness for the breed…why I do not know ~ and it was recommended I introduce them outside. So I took her out of the dog carrier in the back yard. Dan came over, sniffed the dog carrier, took one look at Murphy and lifted his leg to pee on her. So began their relationship. Yet, it worked well.
For me life events a few years later dictated an emptiness that unexpectedly led to one more schnauzer. I stopped on the way home from work to go to a movie ~ Jack Nicholson in “The Wolf.” Alone…a pet store beckoned. Don’t even say it. I paid the price for that decision, literally and figuratively, with a dog that ultimately required twice daily shots – by me – the person who got married in Vegas to avoid a blood test. The things we do for love. But would I change a moment? Never… Smokey II was the kindest, most loving dog imaginable. He loved completely, although his nickname later in life became “Captain Neurotico.” Smokey would sigh a deep sigh and drop his head on your chest as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. In truth, I think he liked to snuggle but wanted to appear “manly,” as if “you really need this, don’t cha, ok…”
I took Murphy to meet Smokey before I brought him home. She was a bit aloof but I thought they’d be “just fine.” Daniel was at the groomer. When I brought him home and “introduced” Smokey he gave me a look that said “you’re kidding right?” and walked away in disgust. Smokey then walked into the back yard straight into the jacuzzi. As I picked him up after he’d gone down for the second time, I remember thinking, “maybe I have really lost it.” But it all worked well.
When I met Jay in 1997 it was me, Murphy and Smokey. Jay came to our house the first time and Murphy humped his leg in greeting. Lest you forget, Murphy was a female. I’m surprised there was a second date, yet alone a successful relationship. Murphy, aka Miss Murray, was an odd little thing. Feisty but loving. Jay loved golden retrievers so that Christmas we brought home Mr. Peabody. Mr. Peabody and his boy, Jay. In the beginning, while Mr. P. loved Jay, he adored Murphy. Murphy’s attitude was, “leave me alone, boy, I am NOT your mother.” Finally, when he got too big to soak her with kisses, she retreated under the bed for solitude. Mr. Peabody and Smokey were best buddies. It’s very funny to watch a big 80 pound dog play with a 20 pound dog who really believes he’s HUGE. Schnauzers have that way about them. They have no idea they’re little dogs. I guess the Napoleon complex doesn’t only apply to humans. Good times…
Ah…Mr. Peabody and Jay. What a relationship those two shared. I have always said every boy should have a dog, especially when they’re nearing 50. They were magic. You understand. I could write about when I was diagnosed with early stage one breast cancer and dear Mr. Peabody slept on the floor on the floor by my side of the bed throughout my treatment yet somehow knew when I was alright and it was time to resume his rightful place on Jay’s side. But I won’t.
And Clara…found on a trip to Whole Foods Market made unexpectedly, only because I was destined to find her. I’ve told you about her. She lived a wonderful life…orphan to princess, who completely believed she was “to the manor born.” When I brought Riley home she didn’t eat for three days. “Excuuuuuuse me?” Yet, it worked.
These four legged marvels, all shapes, sizes and personalities, are brought into our lives to give us the unconditional love we probably don’t deserve but will always receive from them. To love a dog as much as we seem to is to understand your heart will likely be broken at some point. Miraculously, our hearts heal enough that we are willing to take the risk again. And what we find is another love…different, but so, so wonderful that we recognize the familiar. We embrace it.
They become family. And when you don’t have kids in the house, they become the kids. Jay often talks about “our little family.” For the past sixteen years, it’s always been three dogs in a wondrous rotation, and the two of us. At times, it became awfully crowded on our queen sized bed. Our boy Hobbes was a treasure. A meteor who burned bright and left at four leaving a legacy of love, laughter and tears. Losing Clara and Hobbes over a six month period unexpectedly left Riley an only child. He smiled maniacally and
before we could actively choose to search for another furry friend, one found us.
Harley…..who could ever imagine a senior “aggressive” golden scheduled deserted in a kill shelter would become our next loving addition. But he was ~ and is an amazing treasure. For whatever reason ~ likely feeling lonely without his “pack” ~ Riley bonded with Harley instantly. They are the best of friends. Even as they desperately try to avoid my fanatical photo fests.