I’d waited seven years. Been disappointed by three organizations, the last having bumped my spot from the list because there’s a three-hour time difference and I was out when they called. Then I found IHDI which put me at the top of their list for a hearing dog.
Within three months they had two small to medium dogs trained and ready for placement. They sent a written description – part poodle, part cocker spaniel and I could picture that instantly. The selling point was telling me “he‘s really very sweet“. That does it. I‘ll take the sweet one. I could use a big dose of unconditional love. And Sneakers had more than enough for every day – no matter what.
He was 20 months old when he came to live with me. My heart sank to my stomach when I first saw him because he seemed so scrawny. But then I instantly told myself I’ll take him and I will love him. And Martha assured me he’d fill out. I remember his first walking tour around the first floor of my house. He stuck his head in the basket full of dog toys I had bought to check them out. Stopped to look out the back door to survey the yard. Then noticed his food and water bowls in the kitchen. Finally he came around and sat down in front of Martha and me, looked up at both of us as if to say, “Yes. I think this place will be just fine.”
He learned my morning routine quickly. Hit the shower first. Once he’d woken me he would park himself outside the bathroom. He also quickly found out I’m not a morning person. Sneakers could tell time. If I hadn’t gone into the bathroom within 5 minutes, he’d come back to the bedroom, jump on top of me and proceed to walk back and forth across me, deliberately stepping on my bladder. O-Kay. Now I will actually get out of bed because I need to run to the bathroom.
He was the BMOC at the office. Everyone knew him. Me? Not as much. Security would say hello to him every morning. After 9/11 I had to have security reinstate our handicap access. Why? Because Sneakers got freaked by revolving glass doors and he didn’t have his own access card and they didn’t remember who owned him. One snowstorm a colleague wondered who made it in to work, then saw paw prints in the hallway and knew Sneakers made it in. Well, heck, what about me? Sneakers couldn’t drive. His legs were too short. Another didn’t know my exact office location. She asked others on my floor who apparently didn’t know me. Finally she asked someone if they knew Sneakers’ office. She told me “When the dog gets his own office, I’m out of here.”
And Sneakers received treats – from everyone – at work, at gas stations, toll booths, the library, the bank. I’d pay the mortgage, get a receipt and a milk bone. Well, I’d prefer a brownie, but Sneakers will like the treat.
Sneakers took that first layoff (technically second because outsourcing is just another name for the same thing) just as hard as me. For the first two weeks after we’d taken our morning walk and he had his breakfast, he’d stand by the inner garage door, wagging his tail, smiling. “C’mon. We have to go for a ride in the car to the big building with lots of people!” This, from a dog who, for the first two months, threw up all over the back of my car because he had no way of telling me if I put the back seat down, he’d have a better view out the windows and wouldn’t be scared. I had to buy the car when the lease ran out because I couldn’t get the stains out of the hard vinyl.
He was loved at the Fort when we sub-contracted for the Army. One morning Sneakers poked his head out the window at the gate and the sentry checking Ids asked if the dog had any. Of course. “I was just kidding.” But he checked Sneakers ID. “Excellent. You are both cleared to proceed.” The Army was not pleased with our company when we were laid off. But the Army knows how to deal out payback.
He did get play time. Dogs need it. People need it. He taught me it’s just as important as work time. The third time I found tissues and tampons strewn around the bedroom from the garbage was when I finally realized that I had been too tired the night before to play. So while I was sleeping, he attacked the garbage pail to send me the message about all work and no play…..He taught me to put the clean laundry in drawers before going to bed unless I wanted to wear crotchless panties and toeless socks.
He made me proud on one plane ride when he got up and walked into the aisle to the let the woman in the window seat out and did the same when she returned from the restroom, being the perfect gentleman. As soon as cell phone service was available she had to call someone to talk about him. And he knew instinctively to sit right in front of a blind colleague so she could reach down and pat him on the head. He also could embarrass me by sticking his head under the stall wall in the women’s room and scaring the woman in the next stall, trying to peek under skirts in the elevator. Shame on you! But he was a boy after all.
He was always on the alert, always looked after me, especially if I wasn’t feeling well. He loved to cuddle. Always knew when I needed hugs and kisses. Always got them.
He loved the beach, but not water. Would not go out in the rain. Hated baths. But he loved to run and jump in snow – and the leaves in the fall.
He had cute little paws and a wicked crooked smile. An Elvis sneer.
He didn’t just wag his tail, but his entire butt when he was really happy.
There were three places that when scratched would get him to thump his hind leg and smile deliriously.
Liked to chase rabbits and chipmunks trying to catch them. Chased ducks out of his yard.
Didn’t care for gourmet treats unless I baked them: cakes, biscuits, brownies.
Loved imported provolone cheese. Couldn’t eat any without sharing with him. Dad, you bought Sneakers an entire half wheel? The vet will kill me if he eats it all. We’ll split it.
And he preferred to power walk – especially in the morning. He’d race me up the stairs at bedtime, sashay down the stairs in the morning.
He had spinal surgery when he was 10 and beat the 50-50 chance of ever walking again. I just wasn’t ready to lose him then. And he wasn’t ready to leave me. He wanted to come home and stay with me.
This time I suspected when I rushed him to the vet in the morning that he wouldn’t rebound. When I visited him in the evening, he wanted to come home and I didn’t want to leave him alone overnight. I didn‘t want him to feel abandoned. I kept a small hope the antibiotics would help. One more Christmas together. He loved the smell of pine trees. And this is the locals’ beach season.
In heaven all the car windows are rolled down every day, and he went there cradled in my arms. I got him to smile one last time. He went knowing he was loved and will be forever loved, taking my heart with him, his paw prints on it forever.
A forever dog. Just what I signed up for. And the luck of the draw, I got a really cute one.