|Deputy Dog in foreground with Katie in Profile|
In 2001 Charlotte and I went to Petsmart with the intention of adopting one dog. There were more than twenty on death row. After a family discussion we narrowed our choice to one of two dogs. Unable to decide which one to adopt, we took both for a long walk and quickly noticed they.played together like old friends. Predictably, we left with both as the gallows were being assembled. 'Katie' was two or three years older than the adolescent other puppy, who had a temporary name of ' Boris'. As a big fan of the cartoon Deputy Dog when growing up, I decided 'Boris' looked the part, so his name was changed. The lawyer/saint was able to legalize this name change for a minimal additional charge.
Kate (aka) " the Sheriff" and her "deputy", Deputy Dog seemed delighted with their new eleven acre home. They took their law enforcement duties quite seriously. Anyone driving up was immediately greeted, and we were duly notified by their distinctive barks. Both agreed that 5427 Rivolli Drive was not the place any rodent, or rodent like animal was welcome. Trespassing resulted in a team approach of search, seizure and execution. On most occasions the criminals were also eaten, but never in entirety. Charlotte and I debated whether this last action was meant to be a message for potential future trespassers, or some type of bragging ritual for our benefit. I recall a short period of time when a number of raccoons, attempting to relocate in our yard, were all killed, one at a time, over four or five successive nights. Every morning, just off the front porch, we were horrified to see the mangled top half of a grown coon. I recall telling Charlotte:
"Something about them raccoon's hineys seem to be aggravating to the dogs."
These two new family members were real dogs and not your typical modern day inside "yappers". For a decade they stayed outside the entire time. They reminded me of my younger years when I preferred to be outside 100% of the time. Even their attitudes toward the parental figures coincided with mine. In no way did they beg for our attention or seek constant approval. Most kids raised today are toted to their piano lessons, to karate, and then to soccer, where every practice and game is viewed by the adoring parents. This seems annoyingly similar to the indoor dogs, who race from room to room with the 'master', needing constant attention and praise. As a child I preferred our Sunday 28 inning baseball games with the neighborhood kids, in jeans, T shirts, and no parents, to the Saturday Little League games we played with standardized uniforms, umpires, chalk lines, and screaming parents. What a delight it was for Charlotte and I, as parents, to watch Deputy and Kate play together all day, always on a mission.
When we first brought Katie and Deputy Dog home we gathered everyone around and explained the lineup:
"Cats in, Dogs out".
Maybe the dogs should have contracted the 'Lawyer/ Saint' to negotiate on their behalf, but they didn't.
The cats looked rodent enough for us to be concerned.
Deputy was the friendlier of the two. He was more or less the Will Rodgers of the canine world, never meeting a dog he did not like. His good will extended to all human visitors as well. He was always so happy to greet everyone who came to see us, including strangers, running to them with his tail a waggin'. We assumed he had a sixth sense to discern the murderers, rapists and tax assessors. We had no problem with first two, but come to think of it, our taxes have been going up.
During the first winter, severe low temperatures were predicted one evening. The television/radio people repeatedly warned that all pets needed to be brought indoors. We had to do something. We did not want the Defax social workers in our home again. That was painful enough when those jerks showed up in earlier years, questioning our child rearing skills, something about:
"Why does your little girl not have a bow in her hair?".
We made nice beds for the dogs in Charlotte's studio located below the gardens East of the house and turned on the heat. When we woke up the next morning and looked outside we noted the dogs were comfortably sleeping on the porch, and it was 18 degrees. When we went to the studio we discovered they must have taken a running leap, and had gone right through a glass window. We never again tried to tell them where to sleep. This time, Defax saw it our way.
Katie died a couple of years ago of an apparent heart attack in her sleep. "The Dep" did not take this too well. He stayed on the front porch, hunted with little enthusiasm and less success. He was particular freaked out by the lightening and thunder. Apparently Katie made better sense of this threat and together, they weathered the storms. Missing his partner and finding himself alone, Deputy Dog seemed bewildered and frightened. As a team, the Dogs had been fearless. By himself, Deputy grew cautious. Fire crackers were the worst. Though otherwise a proud American and by no means a 'political animal', he grew to hate the 4th of July, then the flag and eventually the flag wavers.
"Assholes", he preached to the cats.
Soon thereafter, secure his years of good work assured him a comfortable lifestyle, he announced his retirement as a 24/7 watch dog, and asked to be an indoor dog. The vet by then had assured us the dogs knew the cats were family, and would inflict no harm upon them. So in he came. He never yapped, but he did follow us from room to room. We brought his bed from the porch into our bedroom every night and back outside in the morning to his favorite spot, depending on the season.
He remained skeptical of the arrangement to the end. Most nights the three of us would watch an entire movie together. I then asked if he needed to pee and I held the door open. Typically he would pause, refusing to exit, sensing the door would be shut behind him. Without fail I would then go out and pee in the yard. He followed and peed on my pee and the two of us would reenter the house to join Charlotte. Ditto the next night and ditto for 2 years.
Indoor dogs always develop a neurosis or two and Deputy was no exception. He refuse to bathe and amazingly, he did not smell bad. The only time he got into the car was to go to the vet. He was not good at the vet. Once, when he was sick, the vet took a rectal temp and Dep bit the guy. That didn't go over well with the staff, even after I explained to them Deputy's response was genetic:
" No one", I revealed, "in the entire family tolerates that procedure well. "
After this violation of his dignity, he refused to get into the car, no exceptions, even when we put bacon in the back seat. Luckily in Macon, we have a house call vet who looked after him, sans temps!
With declining skills he teamed up with the cats during the day to hunt. The cats advanced to indoor/ outdoor vocations after 'Jackson', the Maine Coon Cat, escaped and went on a 'walkabout' for 2 months and to our amazement was able to survive. That's another whole story. Jackson claimed he lived on coyote pups, going into the den at night when the parents were out hunting. Charlotte and I thought this was some sort of bullshit but Deputy bought it hook, line and sinker. Impressed, Deputy and the cats joined ranks though I felt it was a pitiful facsimile to the good old days with Katie. Typically Jackson captured the chipmunks and brought them to Dep, who would gobbled them down in a heartbeat. He loved those chipmunks and always referred to them as "potato chipmunks". He was predictably never satisfied with just one. Apparently there must have been some type of reciprocal protection arrangement. Since his Dep's death, the cats will not go outside.
He was such a handsome dog. Everyone knew he turned down multiple leading man offers from Hollywood, content to stay here hunting and watching out for the two of us. Even when he was older, with gray hair on his snout, he was offered spots in commercials. He turned them all down with the explanation he did not believe in the particular product. He had a few faults but he was definitely a dog with principles.
Dep was in serious decline the last few months even with the traveling vet doing all she could. He saw the end was coming and tended to reminisce. He told the same stories over and over but we loved hearing them. Mostly they were hunting adventures with Kate. Regrets? Well, he had a few.
" I should have come in earlier" he said.
" Air conditioning? Shit.Who knew?"
As you can see he did have a foul mouth and also dog breath, but we never mentioned our concern. I gave him grief about the theft of my precious all black El Camino, stolen one night right under his nose when we were both home. He claimed I deserved to have it stolen for being so insensitive to the plight of immigrants, evidenced by my custom made bumper sticker on the back fender which read: "I Swam the Rio Grande". Hell, I told him, I am practically an immigrant myself . Back and forth we would go. It's hard to argue with a dog.
The end was terrible. He went into kidney failure. We discussed options. Dep refused dialysis, I am proud to say, and on the last day he had problems breathing. We didn't bring up the ventilator. When he died we were devastated. I was surprised by the extent of my grief. More so, than when some people die; I mean the ones we knew. That's probably not right, terrible in fact. What a predictable and ridiculous Catholic thing to do: Feeling guilty about feeling bad. I am certain the nuns who mentored me in my early schooling would have been proud of my "bringing the abstract concept of misery to a new and much needed level."
But that is where it is. Bad feeling. Terrible loss. A great dog. A real dog. The dog's dog. Deputy Dog. We will never forget him