I have almost always had a dog in my life. And the few times I went without a canine companion, I always felt I was missing a piece of me. So here's an rambling bit of an ode to my faithful companions through time.
Puffy (1971 - 1989)
My first dog and best friend for 18 years was a bitchy little garbage-eating tomboy of a 20-odd lb miniature poodle named Puffy. (No wise cracks on the name, I was 5 when I got her) I've never owned a dog more protective than this one - I know that she would have literally given her life to protect mine. My dad used to love to tease Puff by pretending to hit me. That poodle would come flying at him to bite and put herself between me and the imminent danger. Oh could she put on a show too with all the snapping and growling at anyone she thought was a danger to me (i.e. mailmen, friends, uncles, family) Trust me this came in handy during the very infrequent spankings my parents would try to inflict on me. Being an only child, Puff was my constant companion - her favorite sleeping spot was under the covers by my feet.
I never realized that chocolate was toxic to dogs, because it was Puff's preferred treat and the only candy she'd go after if left to her own devices. Being a white poodle she always had an orange mustache - because she and I loved spaghettios which we'd share for lunch. Puffy and I had so much in common including our aversion to small children. So imagine my surprise in 1987 when I had Ryann and ol' Puff dog decided that baby was okay. She'd even lay down on the floor next to the little baby carrier whenever I'd bring the Ryann over. Puff was very protective of Ryann too, it's like she knew that that baby needed to be protected and was part of the pack. Of course, Puff never warmed up to Todd.
Willy was my parents' next door neighbors' dog and the silliest and most adorable yellow Labrador in the world. When Willy's mom threatened to divorce the dad because of Willy's massive amounts of shedding, the Dad called me to see if I would take Willy so his wife wouldn't leave him (I'm guessing there was more to the marriage problems than just some hair) So in 1990 Willy moved in with Todd, Ryann and me. Willy was the perfect companion for Ryann - as he was so gentle.
It wasn't until our second spawn, Raine, came along in 1992 that problems arose in paradise. Willy never adjusted to Raine being a member of the pack. And we had to be vigilant in keeping the two separate. And Raine, being the inquisitive 6 mo. old crawling little beast that she was, meant Willy was pretty good at leaving the room as soon as the precocious dog-chaser crawl in. Willy didn't take kindly to having his hair or tail pulled or his space invaded. But what he absolutely could not tolerate was sharing his dog food with Raine who acquired a pretty strong taste for the kibble. This meant Willy was never fed when Raine was home.
Unfortunately, the inevitable happened one morning when I was packing the car to go north. Not thinking, I threw some food down for Willy - ran stuff to the car - came to the backdoor just as the screaming started. - The backdoor had locked, I couldn't get in and all I could see through the window was Willy going after Raine. I could see blood and the dog and baby freaking out. I broke a window open, crawled into the house, ran for the baby to get her away from the cujo-dog. Fortunately, the damage was limited to a bite over Raine's left eye. Which made her look even more fierce and scrappy than before.
After that eventful day, I decided that Raine ranked higher than Willy in the pack and Willy had to go. I called his old Dad to see if there was anyway he could take Willy back. And as fate is wont to do, he was just finalizing the divorce from his evil ex-wife and was absolutely thrilled to death to be able to get Willy back. He told me the worst mistake he ever made was "getting rid of Willy and not the wife in the first place".
This was our first German Shepherd, Tasha Yar. She was our Chief Security Officer (Trekkie fans) and once we had her, the break-ins to our house by the neighborhood punks ceased. Tasha was a great companion and a really fun dog to train as she was so smart. She had a great prey-drive so finding things was her favorite game. We'd make her wait, go hide a toy and let her find it. Which she always did!
The first year we moved to Holland in 1998, we left our faithful friend with my parents back in Madison. The idea being that we'd get settled and then have her flown over to us - however, my mother had different plans, and will admit that she never planned to give Tasha back to us. I had taken her grandchildren across the ocean, she was keeping my dog.
Tasha was spoiled rotten by my parents and treated like a family member. Tash had a great life with my folks. When we moved back to Madison in 2001 - Tasha decided to stay with my parents. She had become very attached to my Mom and they were inseparable. Fortunately, we could visit often. Sadly in 2004, Tasha was put to sleep when the cancer had progressed to the point of no relief. It was the one of the saddest days in my life.
Cita - (1999) and Teiko (2005)
Cita is just a reincarnated snottier version of Puffy. Swear to God. Cita hates strangers, loves chocolate, is bitchy and fiercely protective of her small circle of loved ones. Cita carries a Dutch Dog Passport as that is where she was born. When she was a pup - we took her everywhere across Europe, including restaurants, events, even the ocean. I think we overwhelmed her - because now she hates to swim, hates loud noises and can't stand a crowd of people. Cita is happiest when the house is quiet and she is curled up next to Raine or me . She basically hates all other dogs and tolerates only a few humans and necessary canines.
Now, Teiko is the Mama's boy. This dog means the world to me. I remember the first few weeks with him as a puppy, it was just like having a kid. I was so absolutely in love! This dog has such a sweet disposition and will do anything for the Mama. A totally an awesome dog.
Life is just that much richer with good friends.