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skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com

Friday, 16 January

The wife and I are getting serious about finding a new place. And I'm starting to get a little serious about getting a dog. As I've written before, I love dogs. And I'm starting to miss having one around.

Because, just like many of you, I once had the best dog on earth. For a lot of people, they all had the best dog on earth. Dogs are just that way: they're the best.

Mine was named Andy.

I think I was in second grade when we got him; we were in Idaho, and we went to some redneck domicile where the guy had like fifteen damn pups all running around madly in a pen, and I peered excitedly through the chainlink: We were getting a dog! It was impossible for me to choose; the mutts (and they were total mutts) were all so very adorable, these unremarkable greyish muttpups all lunging around theatrically, screaming with every cell, "Curse this metal barrier! I want to play with the tiny pink person!"

My parents, as parents should be, were much more clear-eyed. They spotted the weirdo of the group, who occasionally peered out worriedly from the much-chewed doghouse in the pen. That was Andy (though he had yet to be named): forever cautious, forever peering. I barely registered him. Fuck the weenie dog! I've got capering masses of gray doglets who are killing themselves to lick my beknighted fingers! I'm surprised I didn't lose a digit.

My good folks bought (and named, despite my urgent requests that he be named "Jet") Andy. And, as a single child, Andy was my fairly constant companion for years and years. Not that there weren't growing pains.

When he was a mere pup--with ominously gigantic feet--he started snuffling around a jigsaw puzzle I was failing to work on. I whacked him on the nose. "What the hell was that for?" my dad demanded. "He was sniffing my stuff!" I explained. He stared at me like I was a foreign microbe invading the family body. "Jesus, don't be an asshole. He's just a puppy."

Andy grew. Christ, did he grow. It turned out that he was an ubermutt: he had elements of collie (coloring), German shepherd (muzzle), St. Bernard (unbelievable size; I think he weighed in at one point around 140), and malamute (upcurved tail). In fact, I used to ride on his back. Despite his immense size, Andy remained, for lack of a better comparison, a total pussycat. He feared the vacuum unreasonably, as if it were a motorized dog guillotine, and would hide from it under your legs. This was pretty cute when he was a puppy, but when he was full-grown, it got kind of disconcerting to suddenly have an enormous mammal trying to seek refuge under your straining knees, which, whoops, were now three feet in the air.

Andy was energetic as hell for years. At one weird, unexplainable point in my family's history, my mom got on a jogging kick. My mom, you should understand, is 5'5", and weighs perhaps 118 pounds if she's got full pockets. But for a time, she wanted to jog. Andy would "helpfully" go with her on the trips, and would habitually race ahead of her for around a hundred yards. Then he'd stop and look back at my mother, gamely trotting along, with a look on his face that basically said, "Jesus, what's your problem?" Then, perplexed, he'd race back to her at around the speed of light, and greet her with a look that said, "Uh, say, why not run faster, like I do?" Then he'd blast off for another hundred yards to repeat the process. I'm sure this was really heartening for Mom.

Not quite as heartening: during this time of eerie jogging-love, my father enjoyed furthuring his Eternal Bastard reputation, and would occasionally shadow my mom with the car. There would be Mom, jogging with gritted teeth, while my father drove alongside her in the car, doing a breezy five miles an hour while calling out fake encouragement: "You're doing great, Sue! Oh, no! Looks like a big hill coming up!" Then he'd ostentatiously take a drink of beer, and speed up the hill, and then back down to my mother, still running. "I checked out the top of the hill for you," he'd say, my mother still panting away gamely on the road, "there's still nothing there."

Andy could confirm this. He'd already run the route up and down six time before my mom had gone fifty feet. He was crazy fast, and seemingly tireless. When dogs are young and healthy, it doesn't seem like there's anything they can't do.

We all got older, of course. I remember once, going out late at night to put the chickens to bed (we lived on a ranch, and the chickens were my responsibility), Andy stopped at the barn door that led to the chicken path down to the coop. He just stood there, growling and not moving. "What's up, buddy?" I said. Andy growled some more and looked spooked. I was too stupid to figure anything out, and remarked, "You're a weird old dog." I was tired. I went down to the coop, and everything seemed cool; I swung the coop door shut and latched it, my nightly duty. I turned away to go back home.

There was then a fantastic CRUNCH! and I spun around. The half-inch plywood door had been rent from its hinges, and there was a tremendous hole in the half-assed door. Running from the scene was this awful hairy shambling thing, fast as hell for its size: my dad identified it for me the next day. I had inadvertantly locked a fucking badger inside the coop, and he made a jailbreak. The goddamn fucking thing had gone nuts and busted out the door--badgers are just bad news.

When I wobbled around to go back to the house, there was Andy standing there, looking pretty queasy, but also pretty fearsome, the big fucker. But badgers aren't anything you diddle around with. He knew what was around--Andy was no dummy--but Andy also looked after my ass.

Some years later--many years--I was doing my morning routine. I always took care of myself in the AM, and took a shower, dressed, got ready for school, and left the house to go catch the bus. Andy was on the lawn, lying down.

He didn't get up. And there was some terrible green slime coming out of his muzzle. He whined, a little. He was having trouble breathing.

I stopped cold. This was my damned dog: he grew up with me! He watched me be Spider-Man and the Hulk. I used to ride this dog! He warned me of badgers. This dog--this protector, this fearful creature who ran from vacuum cleaners--oh hell.

I stopped to pet him, and he made snuffling noises. He wasn't well at all; he was terribly sick, I knew. I was a teenager, and I knew. I don't know why I did what I did, then. I scratched his wonderful ears, that I used to sometimes turn inside-out, because it made me laugh, even when I knew that it embarrassed him, because I could see the reproach on his long-muzzled face. I said goodbye, without a damned word to anyone.

I went to school. And then I went home. And my parents were there, looking very stricken. "We have some bad news," they said. "Andy died, " I said back. They exchanged glances. "How did you know that?" they said. "I knew this morning, when I left." My mom looked a little sick. "Why didn't you wake us up?" she asked. I didn't have an answer, and to their credit, they didn't press me. I still don't have an answer. Maybe it was just because he was my fucking dog. I was the kid; the dog got to die on my say so.

It seems pretty stupid right now, but it's still pretty sad. I miss my good dog. There's a picture of me above the stove with him.

I really miss my good dog.

But they're all good dogs. What we need are good owners. Maybe it's time I tried that again.

Kritters | Skot | 16 Jan, 2004 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


Touching story. You must a though. (I'm being helpful. See how helpful?)

Comment number: 004184   Posted by: i on January 16, 2004 06:19 AM from IP:

Touching story. You must a though. (I'm being helpful. See how helpful?)

Err, I mean MISSED a . You didn't must an anything.

Comment number: 004185   Posted by: i on January 16, 2004 06:19 AM from IP:

My dog's waiting for me at home. She's recovering from a gunshot wound. It was nearly a month ago; she's almost all better now, but there's still some healing that needs to finish.

Nothing has ever hurt me so much her suffering did.

She and Andy can both be the best dogs in the world. There's plenty of room for that.

Comment number: 004186   Posted by: j on January 16, 2004 07:19 AM from IP:

My Rottweiler skitters away from the vacuum too. And also the BROOM. Beware, looming mass of muscle and teeth! Here comes a spindly stick with nylon bristles! Run away!

Comment number: 004187   Posted by: Robin on January 16, 2004 07:44 AM from IP:

Uggg. Thanks for being on tagwatch, i. I've fixed it up.

Comment number: 004188   Posted by: Skot on January 16, 2004 07:52 AM from IP:

Dogs are truly the best.

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." (Anonymous)

I love that.

Comment number: 004189   Posted by: Kirk on January 16, 2004 07:58 AM from IP:

Dogs are the most beautiful creatures. The unconditional love and companionship is unmatched. But it hurts so much when they leave us; they are so much part of the family, like a sister or brother. I like to think that Andy and all of our doggies who have left us are happily playing chase and snuffin' up somewhere in doggy heaven all together.

Comment number: 004190   Posted by: livie on January 16, 2004 08:29 AM from IP:

The Petster was also the best dog in the world. It's been almost six years since she died, and I've yet to get another dog. It's been SIX YEARS, and last Friday night in my car I began to cry thinking about how I miss The Petster.

So why don't I get another dog, dammit?????

Comment number: 004191   Posted by: Bet on January 16, 2004 08:56 AM from IP:

Reading that made me realize how much I miss my dog. He had diabetes towards the end, and we were giving him insulin shots. I was nearby when he died, and heard him collapse. It's been 15 years, and it brings tears to my eyes everytime I think about him. I've been afraid to get another dog because it's too painful when your good dog has to die.

Comment number: 004192   Posted by: Shawn on January 16, 2004 09:16 AM from IP:

It's amazing to me how incredibly attached we become to our pets. My parents had to put my dog down this year...on my effing birthday, no less. I think I must have cried for twenty minutes solid. We don't think much about it when they're around...but when they're gone, it's amazing how much it hurts.

Comment number: 004193   Posted by: k. on January 16, 2004 09:27 AM from IP:

i just wiped away a tear, how sad, thanks "izzlepfaff for the soul"

Comment number: 004194   Posted by: teena on January 16, 2004 09:59 AM from IP:

Awwww...that almost makes me want to go out and get a dog. But not quite.

Comment number: 004195   Posted by: Stacey on January 16, 2004 10:32 AM from IP:

Man, reading your story about Andy dying made me dread the day that my little guy Pepper dies. He got sick last summer with some unknown ailment, and I was wracked with anxiety until he got better. Now he's fully better, so I can embarrass him (and myself) with pictures like this one. To be fair, it's like negative one million degrees up here in Toronto these days, and he's just a little guy without much insulation. :P

Comment number: 004196   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on January 16, 2004 10:36 AM from IP:

Hey rancher boy, how do you put chickens to bed?

Comment number: 004197   Posted by: MojoMark on January 16, 2004 10:54 AM from IP:

my favorite dog from childhood was also named andy. do you think we should move in together?

Comment number: 004198   Posted by: jason on January 16, 2004 10:59 AM from IP:

You know, I was so overcome I forgot - but now that it's been mentioned I gotta admit: How DO you put chickens to bed? Is it like the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons where they all have little kerchiefs and nightshirts and you put them in wooden crates with blankies on them? And then you compliment Henrietta on what a lovely hen she is, and she giggles herself to sleep?

Comment number: 004199   Posted by: Bet on January 16, 2004 11:14 AM from IP:

Heh. "Putting chickens to bed" is, essentially, just closing the door to the coop so nasty critters don't eat them during the night. No tucking in is required.

Comment number: 004200   Posted by: Skot on January 16, 2004 11:27 AM from IP:

Damn. I miss my good dog too. Damn.

Comment number: 004201   Posted by: kath on January 16, 2004 12:15 PM from IP:

Every well-loved dog is the best dog in the world. Thank god for dogs. A lot of dogs are better than most people. Glad to hear you're planning on re-joining the ranks as Member of the Pack.

Comment number: 004202   Posted by: S on January 16, 2004 01:50 PM from IP:

"'Putting chickens to bed' is, essentially, just closing the door to the coop so nasty critters don't eat them during the night."

Like badgers. Of the same species that you locked _in_ with said poultry. This is where the acting came in, I assume? ;)

Wonderful story about Andy. I'm not even a dog lover and I'm misty. My cats -- while perhaps not as erstwhile as canines -- provide a whole ton of love and companionship.

Comment number: 004203   Posted by: ColdForged on January 16, 2004 02:02 PM from IP:

Look at you, all poignant and shit.

Comment number: 004204   Posted by: Joe on January 16, 2004 02:19 PM from IP:

Dogs...what would we do without them?
Whoever coined the phrase "mans best friend" was right on the money.

Comment number: 004205   Posted by: Rob on January 16, 2004 04:33 PM from IP:

you made my eyes water at work. now people are staring at me.

dogs are better than people.

Comment number: 004206   Posted by: teza on January 16, 2004 08:52 PM from IP:

That story was beautiful and sad.

I think I'm one of the few people who is having a baby instead of a pet due to restrictive leases in my city--They can't kick you out of the apartment for having a baby...Not really, but I always think: I want a dog NOW but then I remember how heartbreaking our not in sync lifespans are...You love them so much and then you have to lose them.

Comment number: 004207   Posted by: Miel on January 17, 2004 12:07 AM from IP:

Was Andy a lurcher? I'd like to think so (:

Comment number: 004208   Posted by: petrol on January 17, 2004 11:23 PM from IP:

I lasted 6 months after losing our ancient and much-loved Taffy, a golden retriever, before breaking down and getting Willow, a Chesapeake pup who every day makes me a better human. Thanks, Skot, for sharing Andy with us.

Comment number: 004209   Posted by: Jena on January 19, 2004 07:01 AM from IP:

Great story!

My German Shepherd Dog, Oka, despite his training in Schutzhund (wherein he takes on a "bad guy" armed with a stick), is terrified of the bathtub. My first GSD was terrified of teddy bears and snowmen.

Good luck with your dog search.

Comment number: 004210   Posted by: Dave Trowbridge on January 19, 2004 04:07 PM from IP:


Comment number: 004211   Posted by: Agatha on January 19, 2004 06:29 PM from IP:

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