Friday, April 4, 2008

Remembering Safety Dog

Today starts with very sad news. I received word from my ex that our dog Henry passed away early this morning. Henry was a 14 year old pug that was absolutely devoted to my ex and so custody was never an issue for us. I got generous visitation for the last 5 years, but it certainly wasn’t enough. Henry is the last of the first generation of my four legged children to leave us. They were the companions of my early adulthood and what seems like a whole lifetime past.

When we brought home our little pug puppy, he rode tucked into my ex’s jacket. I held him and started talking to him while waiting for my ex to come out of the store where we had stopped to pick up puppy food. We had an adult pug at home named Tootsie, but had read that pugs, in particular, get very lonely if they don’t have company. As I talked to the pup, going over a list of possible names to discuss I hit upon a family joke. When the eldest of my brothers was preparing to enter the world, my mother wanted to name him after his father. My stepfather refused. So they couldn’t settle on a name for him. My stepfather finally took to saying that he was just going to name the baby Henry Kissinger and be done with it. (This was the late 70’s.) My mother had fits, but still they couldn’t decide.

My brother was born caesarian section and my mother was under general anesthetic. As it would happen, my stepfather was also an inpatient at the time undergoing a rather serious back surgery. He’d fallen off a roof. My poor grandfather was running up and down the elevators between the maternity ward and the surgical ward. When my mother came out of anesthetic, my grandfather and stepfather played a cruel joke. My grandfather told her that because she was out of it, the nurses asked my stepfather what to name the baby and that her first son was now officially Henry Kissinger Neubig. He of course had not. He’d relented at the last and my brother became a number II.

Naming things Henry became a joke in my family. So as I’m holding the pup and thinking about it, I finally blurted out, “Well I guess we could just call you Henry.” I was stunned when the little pup lifted his head and looked me straight in the eye. He gazed at me for a moment and then lowered his head again and rooted for a comfortable spot to snooze. I giggled a bit and asked, “Is your name Henry? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?” Again he lifted his little head and met my eye. This was not a response to my voice. I’d been talking out loud to him for a while at that point. I always talk to my pets. When my ex returned to the car and I explained what had happened it was agreed. His name was Henry.

Henry was the roundest puppy you ever saw. His little fat belly nearly touched the ground. He soon earned the AKC registration name of “Fat boy Henry.”

His more enduring and endearing trait would lead to his long standing nickname, one that even earned him his own song. Safety Dog.

Henry was rather nervous by nature and often seemed to look upon any unusual event or happening with an eye to it’s potential danger. He seemed to sense that his master, my ex, was essentially a clutz. When the lawnmower came out, he hid. When a power tool was plugged in, he’d come running to me, his alpha dog, with a worried expression creasing his little forehead and a face that seemed to say, “Do you know what the beta dog is doing now?” In all fairness to Henry, his master had managed to nearly take off a foot with the lawnmower on one occasion and frequently had cuts and scratches from other simple activities. His concern was warranted.

Safety dog’s most memorable lessons in life involved water. Water was not Henry’s friend. We took him fishing one day. He was on his leash and was snuffling his way hurriedly down the dock. Nose to wood he hustled along, sniffing, sniffing, sniffing…plop! He sniffed himself right over the edge. I grabbed the lease and his master dropped to the dock and lifted him out. When he was eye level to his beta dog, the look on his face had both his human’s laughing so hard his master couldn’t even lift him out of the water.

On another occasion his extra bulk broke the ice on a ditch causing Tootsie and him to drop into the icy water. The beta dog went in after them thinking it was only a shallow ditch. Wrong. The ditch was a good 6 feet deep and filled with freezing water. There was no laughing that day.

So with tears and sadness I say goodbye to Henry. Henry, who never met food he didn’t like. Henry, who snored loudly on the pillow next to his master’s head every night. Henry, who would give a grudging sigh and patiently put up with the antics of his large and goofy Rottweiler brother, Koeby. Goodbye Safety Dog. Toostie will be waiting to boss you about. Koeby will be waiting to welcome you and introduce you to all his squirrel friends. And Wallie. Sweet Baby Wallie will be waiting to give you a wag, a big lick on the face and to commiserate with you the chore of spending an eternity with Koeby.

Now, in honor of Safety Dog, his song to the tune of Born to be Wild. Sing along.

Get your motor running
Always wear your seatbelt
Don’t forget your helmet
It’s the law in Illinois

Born to be mild.

Always obey the leash law
Never play in the street
Don’t chase the motorcycles
Or they’re gonna squish your head

Born to be mild

Now, a reminder about the contest.

You can enter up 'til April 11th to win the 17" double strand of freshwater pearls and amethyst beads. The contest is to celebrate the wonderful response of readers and reviewers to Mating Stone. In Mating Stone, Mark falls in love with Sarah. Sarah, a young human woman who has no idea that Were’s even exist beyond novels and movies. Strictly fictional. As a human woman, how do you react when your Mr. Yummy tells you he’s the one with claws and may just leave fur on the sheets? So tell me: What type of Were is Mr. Wonderful and how does he break it to you?

Email you answer to

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