The Cast: Duchess (Erich’s dog then), Erich (fellow Hide-and-Seeker), Lady (my dog then), Myself (the cynophilist), Porthos (my recent dog).
Every boy should have a dog. And yes, so should everybody else. Having a pet helps to teach a child all kinds of important things that they will not fully understand until they are older—lessons to be understood later in life. They need it when they are young.
Growing up I always wanted a dog and I was blessed to have a few. One of those dogs was Lady. She was a mutt, pure and simple—well, not pure, but simple. Anyway, she was a fun dog. A good dog. Erich also had a dog, her name was Duchess. Erich, Duchess, myself, and Lady would have all the kinds of fun young boys can have in a small town when they set their minds to it. The kinds of fun you see in movies where after the mischief the boys and dogs run off and “get away with it” kind of things. Not destructive, not malicious, just play.
Sometimes we would put a leash on the dogs, hop on our skateboards and tell the dogs “Run!”. Duchess would usually just stop after a few feet, distracted, and Erich would have to just jump off or steer out of the way to avoid hitting her. Lady would just go and go, but the skateboard would hit a rock and stop. I would eventually stop Lady because she couldn’t drag me very far over asphalt and loose gravel (I had to keep hold of the leash because you can’t tell a dog to “Stop!” when they’re two miles away). Then she would come over and lick my face.
The best game was hide-and-go-seek. We would play at a park—across the street from my house—that few people would hang out at so we could avoid any possible issues. Then Erich and I would get our dogs interested in something, let them sniff and focus, then we would slowly back away and hide. We would watch and wait for one of them to notice we were gone and then the dogs would hunt us down. We could play for hours. Good times. Great dogs.
Later in life, I came across Porthos—we named after J. M. Barrie’s dog—a year old Shetland Collie. He has been a wonderful pet. Pretty much the best dog ever (Everyone thinks their dog is the best, that’s fine, they can). Porthos was mild of temper, even when young. Full of energy, ready to play. Tug-of-war and fetch were his preferred activities. Porthos and I would go for walks three times a day. He liked them, and I did too. I would call him to me by giving my thigh two quick slaps, and he would come. For almost 9 years we would walk in rain, sun, snow, sleet, cold or in the summer’s heat. In the afternoon the two of us would play games in our backyard.
He was good to my wife and children. I think he only snapped at people a total of six times. He only barked when overly excited or when someone would ring the doorbell. When on walks and other dogs would bark at us Porthos would just turn and give them a look as if to say, “Dude, chill. What’s your problem?” and then just keep on walking without a care.
When Porthos would get sick and have diarrhea, we would place him in our bathroom and wait it out. At some point, he figured out that our tub was the best place to make his mess. So, even when woken up at 2 a.m. by a really, really bad smell emanating from the bathroom it was nice to find it contained in the tub. The best dog.
In the mornings when I would get ready for the day Porthos would slump outside my bedroom door and his paws would slide under it letting me know he was ready for his walk. If the door was open and I was putting on my shoes Porthos would enter the room and harass me to hurry up, bumping me and doing a little “dance” as if to tell me, “Come on man! Outside! Let’s go! Hurry up! Walkin’s!” Or just walk up to me and put his chin on my knee and look at me all sad-eyed letting me know that I must hurry because he is already ready.
Once, while at a family Thanksgiving get-together, we gave Porthos a little ham. Well, a ham roast. At the end of the dinner, clean up required getting rid of some foodstuffs. There was a good amount of ham on the bone still, and we gave it to Porthos while we went to clean up. It should have taken him a while. It didn’t. In the blink of an eye it was gone, bone and all. I don’t know how he did it. Even the aluminum pan was void of all juices (I think he would have eaten the pan if he could have). He had bloated up to almost twice his size.
We had to lift Porthos into the van—he couldn’t jump up—for the ride home. The three and a half hour drive in 17° F would have been just fine if we didn’t have to keep opening the van windows for most of the drive home because the dog farted. And it was bad, oh so bad. As a Marine, I have been exposed to gases wholly unpleasant and toxic. I would have gladly gone back skipping and singing to those gases if that meant escaping what Porthos was putting out.
As Porthos would decompress everyone, quickly and loudly, reacted to the noxious fumes that would choke out the breathable air and almost overpower us all. The watery eyes that were one of the side effects were really only a hazard to my wife since she was driving and might kill us all if she couldn’t see. The driver and passenger windows would have to open all the way, the rear window flaps would also open to ventilate and return breathable, cool 17° F air at 75 mph. Every few minutes. For three and a half hours! Over the next three days, Porthos slowly returned to normal. However, it is far more difficult to ventilate a stationary home than a speeding minivan.
Porthos had a bed at the end of our hall, placed out of the way but in a way that allowed him to watch over us. At times he would come into my studio and lay there to watch me work, just to spend time with me. Or just watch me from his bed. When I would come home, he would be waiting for me, happy just to be my friend. Then he would roll over, belly up, ready to be rubbed. When the family would return from the store or church Porthos would charge through the home finding us all, his tail wagging a mile a minute.
Years have passed and sadly, Porthos became sick. We were helpless as we watched him slow down with rapid deterioration, we were confused at first. He passed away recently (04/15/19) due a very aggressive cancer. My religious faith teaches of unconditional love, a Christ-like love. I think dogs teach us that Christ-like love. I would like to believe that the unconditional love shown by Porthos to my family is one of those lessons better understood later in life. That we should always love those around us and learn to be more tolerant of each other and live together in harmony.
Porthos, we were a pack. We were friends. You were immensely loved. You will be missed even more.