I’m going to depart from my usual topic of real estate here. For those who were fortunate enough to have a dog when they were growing up, you will be able to relate to the story I’m going to tell about my boyhood dog.
She was a toy poodle. I was seven years old when my Dad brought her home from one of those fancy-pants breeders. She was a pedigree with papers showing her lineage of dog show ribbon winners, and she had already been entered into the records with the presumptuous name (or, title I should say), Lady Shantet of Cameo. But she didn’t come to our home for the purpose of being any kind of show dog, and my sisters and I had no interest in her breeding. She was going to be a kid-dog. She was going to be “Shanty.”
Poodles are known for their intelligence, and Shanty was no exception. We taught her to sit, stay, lay down, fetch, speak, shake, and everything else we could think of. My friends used to kid me that the last time they called me on the phone, Shanty answered it. If she had thumbs, I would have believed them – she was that smart.
Shanty was born with the patience it takes to raise three kids. My sisters used to put her in a doll carriage and put doll things on her – hats, sweaters, booties – and she never squirmed, flinched, or tried to get away. She was always happy to be a part of the play, and especially when she was the center of attention. Then I would take her outside, give her a stick, and my friends and I would chase her in circles around the yard until we collapsed. Five boys chasing a ten-pound dog – we never caught her, and she never stopped to rest until the last of us had given up. Then she’d lie down triumphantly on the grass, stick between her paws, panting, and watching us all in case any of us showed any signs of going again.
I remember, one time, running through the woods behind our house, with Shanty close in trail. As I brought one leg forward, she clipped it just right, so that one leg hit the other, and I went down into a pile of leaves. I rolled and came to rest face up. When I opened my eyes, there she was, breathing hard, smiling down at me with her bright eyes. I was several times her size and weight, but she had used her pint-sized skills to take me down. I grabbed her and tussled her around the neck. She licked my face. We laughed.
We had a friendship that I will always remember, one that will never be replaced. I remember the night my Dad called me to tell me she was gone. It was tough. He was thinking about the day he brought her home to us; I was thinking about the times I rode down a snow-covered hill with her on our toboggan. It was very tough.
I was the youngest sibling, and I was about one month away from graduating college when she died. It was almost as if she knew. Her life’s work was to help raise three kids, and her work was done.
The silver lining, I guess, was that she lived a long, healthy life and she was loved every day. Shanty was a lucky dog. She was a good dog.