Thursday, April 7, 2016

Good Dog

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

As someone who was once attacked by a dog when I was a little girl, I never thought I’d grow up to be a dog owner, let alone like or even love a dog.

But then came a shy, sad-faced puppy--a little black Bassador (said to be a mix of a basset
hound and a black lab)--that my older daughter, Johanna, encountered at the city pound on New Year’s Day of 2005.

We were at the pound because Santa Claus had promised my younger daughter, Mary, that we could go there and adopt a cat—which we did.

My husband, Tim, while friendly with dogs, had never owned a dog and had absolutely no interest in starting--and he made that clear on the ride to the David R. Lee Animal Center at 28th and Western. He cautioned me not to let Johanna go look at the dogs while the rest of us looked at cats.

He knew what would happen.

It did.

Somehow, through some miracle, Johanna convinced her father to drop his guard and let her go look at the dogs up for adoption, swearing that she was "only going back there to look."

So off she goes.

While all the other dogs up for adoption were doing the usual yipping and yapping and tail wagging (translation: "Pick me! Pick me!") that most dogs at pounds seem to do, the lonely little dog in the last cage on the end of an aisle did not bark. He just hung his head and looked at Johanna with those sad brown eyes.

Johanna, always a kind girl with a heart of gold, had no chance when her eyes met his.

So within minutes, she gingerly approached her father and with a soft, apologetic voice, said, “Dad, I know we all agreed that we were only going get a cat, but will you please just come with me and look at this one dog? We won’t take him home or anything, I just want to know if you’d look at him.”

Tim knew exactly what that meant and what the result would be; and it would have been easy for him to stick to his position and say, “No, come on, we’re outta here," but he decided to be a good sport and play along. Knowing how much he did not want to be a dog owner, I will always be grateful for what he did that day. It was a touching gesture of love for his daughter.

So he and Johanna made the long walk past dozens of other dogs, each of whom was practically singing and tap dancing in an effort to attract Tim’s interest.

When they made it to the quiet cage with the sad-eyed, silent puppy at the end of the aisle, Johanna said, “There he is, Dad. His name is George.”

Upon seeing Tim, George made his first noise of the day. His eyes grew wide, he took several steps backward and bayed in fear. (We later learned that George was most likely abused in his first year of life, before he ended up at the pound.)

“Great,” Tim thought. “Not only do I have to go home with a dog, it’s the one and only dog at the pound that’s terrified of me.”

So anyway, home we go with a frightened little puppy on my lap and one angry, white-furred cat, Whitley, in a box given to us by the pound.

To make a long story short, George and Whitley were an odd couple for the ages, a source of nearly endless laughter for our family. Whitley was smart and brimming with a typically arrogant feline attitude (or "cattitude," as Tim would say), and George was filled with wide-eyed, absolutely lovable dopey-ness ("a bear of little brain," as Tim would say, likening him to Winnie the Pooh).

George soon warmed up to everyone--except Tim, of course. He even tried to warm up to the cat, who typically swatted him away with catlike disdain and indignation.

George brought us a lot of mirth, a load of light-hearted moments. I even wrote about them once, during my mom-blogger years.

Beyond the joy, George was a very good dog by many other measures.

Mary and George
He became extremely protective of Johanna and Mary, barking at and throwing his body against anyone who threatened them, even if it was just their father telling them to clean up their room.

He barked and barked if anyone or anything came within a certain radius of our house--a great guard dog who may have saved us from a burglary or two.

More than anything, though, George had a gentle heart--and on those occasions when my daughters were sad, he would nuzzle up next to them and literally lick away their tears, providing a level of comfort that only a treasured family dog could.

And while George was always nervous and skittish around children he did not know, much to my surprise and relief, he has been very gentle and patient with our grandson, Raphael, through the first 15 months of his life.

Those are the highlights of what I'll always hold in my heart about George.

You see, George lost his life today. He was 12 years old.

What seemed to be a fairly routine sick-call to the vet turned into a sudden, jarring revelation of cancerous masses that had grown very suddenly, so much so that George could not even urinate. He was in a fair amount of pain and distress, which we had seen in recent days.

A decision was made quickly. As responsible pet owners, we would not let him suffer unnecessarily.

George was gently sedated and then euthanized on a veterinarian's table. He died slowly and quietly, with Mary's tears moistening his black fur. Mary held him through his final breaths. Tim held Mary. It was the day before her birthday, and she was losing the dog of her childhood.

And then a short time later, Tim held me when I came home from work and needed his shoulders to cry on.

Mary called Johanna, who lives in Virginia, and broke the sad news to her. The sisters shared a few tears over the phone before they hung up. I'm sure Johanna's husband, Michael, is holding her tonight.

Like I said, I never thought I’d grow up to be a dog owner, let alone like or even love a dog.

But a sad-faced little dog with brown eyes and a big heart changed all that, and changed me.

We'll miss you, George. Good boy. Good dog...

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1 comment:

  1. WOW! Great story. They give love however they're able, no questions asked. If only people did. A pet can be a transformative companion in life; yours was. Each are individuals with they're own special uniqueness, personal traits, personalities and quirks. They bond into members of the family, and when it's time, they are missed like one of the family too. Keep the memories, they'll be treasured for the rest of your life! They can't ever be replaced, but there may be another little friend waiting to be another member of your family, willing to give you that unquestioned love, protection and comfort. Maybe not right now, but don't pass up the idea, because, they need your companionship too. Good Dog George, your family will never forget what you did for them.