Two: Love in the time of Covid

Most everyone who has had a pet of any kind will admit that the fuzzy, furry, finny and otherwise bedecked creatures fill the needful place in our lives. We need that unconditional love. For the sake of this article, I’m eliminating the vicious monsters who use animals as an outlet for their violent aggression. Just writing that sentence made me shaky. Animal cruelty is a crime beyond my understanding, and deserves the full weight of law hammering down on the offender.

Back to the human and humane. I’ve had dogs and cats and numerous other species in my life since forever. The ones I grew up with were part of farm life. Dogs lived outside and dined mostly on table scraps and some kibble. Cats, ditto. Eventually, the pets migrated inside. As a teenager, I worked and was able to buy my dreamed-about horse from a local horse trader, before the mustang/quarter-horse mix went to auction. That was Galahad. Cream white with blue eyes and pink skin.

Dogs entered my adult life in a steady stream, starting with an elderly basset hound that had belonged to my first husband. My in-laws sent Gideon to live with us with a “he’s yours now.” Though his time with us was short, his life inspired us to follow with three successive basset hounds. Each was more stubborn and ungraceful than the last. I loved every flap-eared goofy one.

And next came the daughter’s dogs. We fell for the “but I never had my own dog” argument. Each researched their dream dog and in short time, we had Niles, the rakish Italian Greyhound and Sweetie, serious Sheltie. When the daughters went to college, the dogs settled in with me. Nothing says devotion like maintaining a 12 pound canine, with legs like pencils, throughout harsh New England freezes. He slept under the duvet at night and next to us on the couch during the day (under a blanket). By then marriage number two added Kaco, chocolate lab, timid and a well trained embarrassment to my two dogs. Niles had attended obedience school and graduated only because the trainer never wanted to see him again. We were asked to not wear our School tee-shirt in public lest people wonder what kind of training explained Nile’s rampant disregard for normal dog behavior.

If you’re keeping scoring: it was three. And then it was two. Then one. Kaco was the last of the trio to break our hearts. Along came Waffles, thanks to vigorous searching by my daughter who knew I couldn’t be dogless. He was a rescue at MSPCA.Β  I called and talked with the adoption manager who gave Waffles high marks and said “If you want him, be here before we open.” We were there, noses pressed against glass with a line forming behind us. Waffles walked to the front of his cage, licked my hand (and barked at Art), and that was that. Twelve years later, his life is a small whirlwind within our days.

Briefly, Waffles had an adopted sib. Chickie the Spoodle, also adopted thanks to the lovely team at MSPCA, looked like a sheep. Sweetie the Sheltie would have loved herding her. Chickie (renamed by Art to pair well with Waffles) was rescued from a hoarding situation and had also been over-bred. She had suffered and we were determined that her life would only be good from then on. Until it wasn’t. Two years later, her body was wracked by cancer and we lost her.

Waffles, the only child and occasional envy of our own children, is aging.

We had his DNA tested and our suspicions that he was mostly Lhasa Apso were confirmed. About 60%. Another 25% Shi TzuΒ  and some American Eskimo. His grand-dogs got around some. Like the Bassets, Lhasas are breed specific. Not stubborn, but protective. They’re an ancient breed that was tasked with guarding monks inside the Tibetan monasteries. Tibetan Mastiffs, the huge guys, guarded the outside. He is a velcro dog, sticking close to us before the pandemic lockdown; he is now obsessively close, frequently directing us through our days. Him: It’s time to leave the sunroom and begin work. And so it goes.

Dr. Norm, his vet, plies us with medications to alleviate his arthritis. We lace his fresh-cooked food with CBD oil to smooth his days. He hears little. His vision is down to about 30%. But he is all love — every bit of him. And the feeling is mutual. These days, with the two of us home and our children far-flung, we keep balanced like those monks. Safe in our place.

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