It’s National Dog Day
to all the dogs I’ve loved.
|Alex with Comet during the holidays.|
Today is National Dog Day and I’ve
been thinking about all the dogs I’ve had in my life. I decided to write a blog
about them. I’m quite sure most people are not the least bit interested in all
the pooches I’ve loved, but if anyone is the least bit curious, here it goes!
The first dog our family owned was
named Cinder -- a little, black Cocker Spaniel. I don’t remember much about
Cinder, but I have a photo of myself, chubby and curly-haired, cuddling the
little pup; we’re sitting together on the front porch of my childhood home in
The second dog I remember was Star.
Star was a purebred, black German shepherd who wandered the neighborhood, ate
spaghetti, and was hit by a taxicab. She didn’t die in the accident,
fortunately, but her shoulder was injured badly. When she recovered she chased
taxicabs and police cars. That’s it. I suppose the light or fixture on top of
the vehicle triggered a reaction. Those cars clearly were the enemy! (By the way,
I don’t think leash laws existed back then.)
Star wasn’t really my dog. My
parents bought her from a country farmer for my bother, Jay, but I loved her
just as much as he did. Maybe more. I could hold her up by her front paws and
she would “dance” with me. We were the same height. Sweet Star was very patient
with me. She died of kidney failure when she was about thirteen after my
parents moved from Elizabethtown to Louisville. By that time my brother and I
had moved away, he to Lexington and the University of Kentucky; I was in
California, plugging away at the College of Marin. When my mother called with
news of Star’s death, I cried and cried. It broke my heart.
My next dog was Seurat, a purebred
Dalmatian who was gifted to us by a friend. We were thrilled for the simple
reason that our son, Alex, already had dreams of being a firefighter. What
better dog for our little boy to have? I also thought we gave Seurat a
brilliant name. We named her after the French pointillist painter who was noted
for painting with impeccably placed dots. Seurat was a very hyper dog,
unfortunately, but we loved her anyway. When Alex was small, Seurat would chase
him around the yard, stick her mussel between his little legs and trip him. It
was a great game and both of them loved it. Seurat lived to be around thirteen
too and was loved by both Alex and his brother, Justin for many years. When we
had to have Seurat put down, Alex, Justin, and I cried for days.
Our next dog was Comet, the dog
Alex loved more than any other. We found Comet at the Marin Humane Society. She
was a pit bull, ridgeback mix and truly was a gem. She lived to be seventeen
and a half. Though Comet had very powerful pit jaws, she was the sweetest dog
ever. She did have her moments when she exercised her strength though. The most
daunting example of her power was when she took down a full-grown raccoon on
our back deck. She sported the scars on her nose to prove it for the rest of
Also notable was Comet’s love for
Alex. When Alex was a grown man, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. After a
second craniotomy, when we were not sure Alex would survive the night, we put
Comet on his bed. Alex was in horrible pain, and after hours spent at the
emergency room was home again. He could hardly raise his head, but he
recognized Comet’s presence before falling asleep. “Comet,” he mumbled. The
next day he was much better. We like to credit the unconditional love of the
dog for his rapid improvement.
In Comet’s later years she was
incontinent, skinny, and weak. I cleaned up many messes, but could not have her
put down for Alex’s sake. Finally on the day she could not stand, I knew it was
time. I called my son, who lived in Sacramento and told him to come home. The
morning before we took her to the vet, Alex carried Comet in his arms in the
field below our house for the last time. We then went together to the vet. She
died peacefully with her snout in Alex’s hands while I was clutching her foot.
I will never forget that moment. Alex and I could hardly see our way out of the
vet’s office that afternoon.
|Rich & Judi with Quazar & Bummer.|
At the same time we had Comet, we
owned Quazar, his brother, Bummer (and he could be a bummer). We rescued these
two from a friend who likely would have discarded them somewhere had we not
taken them. They were boxer/Australian shepherd mixes that, though sweet, did
not always get along with each other. We had quite a few skirmishes between
those two. Both were good dogs, though, and both died of cancer, Bummer going
We had two other dogs at the same
time we had Comet, Quazar, and Bummer. Yes, five all at once, plus five cats as
well! Justin was given a beautiful purebred Alaskan huskie that “talked”
endlessly, could jump six feet high, and shed more hair than any dog in the
world, I’m sure. Justin named him Lupus, but we all called him Louie for short.
He was beautiful and generally a good boy, except for one little issue. He
hated cats and broke my heart when he killed the kitten Justin and Amy had
given me for my birthday, in the kitchen. I’ll never forget that moment. Karma
is a bitch, though. Louie developed diabetes later in life, was overweight, and
blind. He had moved out of our house with Justin by then and died at probably
around ten years of age.
And then there was Max. Max was
Rick’s dog, a purebred, 110-pound black lab. Max was a great watchdog but was
quite irritable when he grew older. The most memorable event that involved Max
was his near mauling of Justin in the house. Justin, who was in his early
twenties by then, was home alone. Bummer and Max got into a fight and, in
trying to break the two up, Justin slipped to the ground. Max turned his
attention from Bummer to Justin. He shredded Justin’s arms. Justin’s girlfriend
(now wife), Amy, arrived just at that moment, thankfully, and was able to get
Justin to the emergency room where he was treated for multiple wounds on both
arms. Rick and I had just arrived in Tahoe when we received the phone call.
“You’d better get home. Justin is
in bad shape.”
We hopped back into our car, drove
home, to find Justin’s arms completely bandaged. I don’t know how many stitches
he had but there were A LOT! Needless to say, I never had much affection for
Max after that. He was quarantined for a week or so and then set free to live
out his life. Max got sick one weekend and died on a Monday at the veterinary
hospital. It was cancer (again) that took him. His passing was not pretty. He
literally howled as he took his last breath while Rick and I stood helplessly
by. It was horrible, and another moment I won’t forget.
So, the five dogs left us, one by
one: Bummer, Max, Lupus, Comet, and finally, Quazar. We lived with only cats
for a couple of years until we had an opportunity to get a German shepherd. My
bilingual assistant at the time had visited family in Los Angeles over the
holidays and came home with Ace, a male German shepherd.
“There are more,” she told me.
Rick and I decided it was time, so
in just over a month, Hallie, our beautiful full bred German shepherd was
delivered to our door, all the way from L.A. She was a sweet, shy bundle of
fur. I was in love! After five dogs, one seemed perfect until Alex made a
“Mom, my friend’s Brittney/Lab mix
just had about thirteen puppies. The dad is a big, old, hunting lab. All the
pups are blond or black except for one that is brown. It’s my favorite. Don’t
you think you and Rick could take a second dog? It would be company for Hallie.”
|Rudy & Hallie as pups.|
How could we say no to Alex? In a
week Alex brought home the little pup and we named him Rudy. Rudy had been
living in a Tuff shed with all the other dogs and obviously had not been eating
well. His tiny, little, emaciated body didn’t quite fit his large head. A trip
to the vet informed us that he had worms and fleas but those problems were
taken care of easily. In no time at all, Rudy was chubby and happy, sharing
space with his new friend, Hallie. Rudy and Hallie were two weeks apart in age,
with Rudy being the older. They were inseparable; that is until December of
2015, when at the young are of eight, Rudy died. In August we had noticed lumps
on Rudy’s throat. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, and although we treated him
with steroids and other meds, we had to let him go. On a Saturday morning in
December, he looked at Rick with pleading eyes as if to say, “I’m sick, Dad. I’ve
had enough.” We took him to the vet that day and sat with him until the end. We
were so, so sad. And so was Hallie. She began moping and would not eat. She had
lost her best friend too.
|Hallie and Rudy - best friends.|
I had the brilliant idea that we
should get a companion for her, a puppy. We decided on another German shepherd,
and with the help of a retired police officer friend found a breeder in Chico
(which incidentally is where Rudy had been born) and drove there in January.
There we picked up Jake. He was six weeks old and a bundle of fur and energy.
He will be nine months old on this coming Sunday. Jake is a stunning dog –
handsome, friendly, and sweet. He has become very attached to me, so much so
that Rick has said we should rename him “Barney” as he is like a barnacle,
never leaving my side.
I had hoped Hallie would come out
of her funk when Jake arrived. She’s a female; he’s a male. I thought she might
nurture a little puppy. Wrong. She definitely is not the nurturing type and
Jake is relentless in trying to gain her attention. Needless to say, there have
been a few hurt feelings between the two over the last few months, but finally,
I believe we are over the hump. I actually think they enjoy each other’s
And that’s it. These are the dogs
that have come and gone in my life. I really have loved them all and have been
grateful that I have been able to provide a loving home for them. Each dog I’ve
owned has had a unique personality and all have enriched my life. Happy
National Dog Day!
|Judi with Jake and Hallie hiking above Lake Tahoe.|