I’ve been thinking about dogs the last few days because our neighbors had to put their girl, a dear old black lab named Poppy, to sleep. Poppy was a rescue dog and truly sweet, although she was skittish around anyone not from her human family. But she’d overcome a lot, and seeing Poppy on her daily walks, indomitable even as she grew terribly arthritic, never failed to brighten my day.
I “owned” at least six dogs over the years, and I adored all of them. Strangely, they shared one common trait; despite their differences in breed, size, and personality, they were all bat-sh*t crazy. Lots of folks have pets that are well-trained, mild-mannered, and always obey their human companions. Not my dogs and I have the eternally strained vocal cords to prove it.
First there was Baba, Duke of Haddonfield (his actual registered kennel name), a feisty Miniature Schnauzer who could be meaner than a junkyard dog. Of course, as my dad used to say, Baba had his standards—he only bit family members. Everyone else seemed to escape his wrath, something none of us could ever figure out since we spoiled him rotten.
Then there was Louie, the magnificent Standard Poodle who was a behemoth of the breed, clocking in at 90 lbs. in his prime. Louis loved to eat dead things. One time, at our house down the Jersey shore, he got hold of a rotting seagull carcass—and I mean rotting. He led me on a merry chase around the yard, bolting down the dead bird before I could catch him. Louie only stopped his mad dash when he’d finally swallowed the damn thing—but for the gull’s webbed little feet, which he thoughtfully spat out on top of my sneakers. The rest of the carcass subsequently reappeared on my mother’s white Berber rug.
But the craziest dogs I ever lived with were Toby and Max, a dynamic duo created when I moved in with my soon-to-be husband Randy, and his seventeen year old son, Daniel. Toby was my Standard Poodle, so hyperactive that he needed a daily dose of anti-anxiety medication. Max was Daniel’s Cardigan Corgi, a sweet if completely insane dog who engaged in daily “weirds.” Those consisted of Max erupting from a dead sleep to race repeatedly around the house, barking like a maniac the entire time.
Max and Toby got along very well, thank God, since the rest of us were still trying to figure out the whole “blended family” thing.
But then one day, Daniel came home from school for dinner. Both dogs hustled to greet him and Toby managed to reach Daniel first, which led Max to conclude that Toby was attacking his beloved boy. In Max’s weirdly wired brain, it was now time to launch a full-out attack on Toby.
Anyone who’s ever been in the middle of a dog fight knows how horrible it is. This fight was particularly gruesome because Max would not disengage. Toby, the bigger dog, kept trying to back away, and Max kept after him. Fur flew, blood was drawn, and we only managed to split them up when I threw a pot of cold water on them and Daniel risked life and limb to pick up 40 lbs. of snarling, insane Corgi.
Randy had been outside while this was going on, and only came in at the very end. I was hysterical, Daniel was as white as a ghost, and the dogs were still growling at each other. Randy, who adored Max, instantly decided that everything was Toby’s fault (mostly because he was the bigger dog). He told Daniel that if Toby didn’t “learn to behave,” then he would have to go. I was in the kitchen, trying to rescue what was left of dinner (a really nice Italian frittata), when I heard that comment. The resulting discussion ended with me stating that Toby and I would be happy to go together. I punctuated that statement by dumping the frittata into the sink, taking Toby and locking myself in the bedroom.
Unbelievably enough, the same scenario played out two weeks later, when Daniel came home from school. This time I let Randy pull the combatants apart. Again, fur flew and blood was drawn when Max the Crazy Corgi refused—again—to disengage.
A half hour later, when the adults were drinking alcohol and trying to figure out how to deal with two dogs who clearly hated each other, Daniel called us into the living room. There were Max and Toby, squeezed into the same small armchair, happily cuddled together as if nothing had ever happened. In their little dog brains, they’d probably already forgotten about the fight.
Or they were just crazy.
But here’s the thing: no matter how nutty all my dogs were they were also incredibly loving and loyal (okay, maybe Baba was an exception). And when each one crossed the Rainbow Bridge, my world grew a little darker and I wept. I still miss all of them.
I sincerely hope I see my guys again on that day when I finally cross the Rainbow Bridge. Because as the great Will Rogers once said: “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
For you, Poppy. R.I.P.
What about you, folks? Have you ever had any pets that drove you crazy?