Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, March 16, 2011



I have had a lot of dogs in my life.

Well, in actuality, my family had a lot of dogs when I was growing up. We had a couple of dogs at different times when I was really small, one of which I do not remember at all--he died--and one of which I remember well--we gave her away. And then, when I was maybe 11, we got another dog who turned out to be the first in what would become a giant pack of canines that would leave my parents' house covered in shed hair for fifteen or so years.

At the height the insanity, we had a Cocker Spaniel (the one that kicked off all the dogginess), two Newfoundlands (to this day, one of my favorite breeds, despite the smell), a goofy Golden Retriever and a Brittany Spaniel that my sister foisted on my folks. That's a lot of dogs.

What I'm saying here is that I grew up with dogs. I was used to having dogs most of my life and, when my then-girlfriend, now-wife and I set up house in Seattle with various cats, I was jonesing for a puppy.

My girlfriend was a cat person. Her family had had one dog that she remembered, but she'd had a pair of cats with which she was much closer. She didn't mind the idea of getting a dog, but she lacked the fido fervor I felt. (Alliteration! The sign of quality writing!)

We talked on and off for a few years about getting a dog. We got to the point where I pretty much had her talked into it. And then one Saturday, on our way to a meeting of the theater group we'd co-founded with some drunkards we knew, we stopped off at a Seattle animal shelter, just to take a casual look around.

We hadn't even gotten in the door when a lady stopped us and asked us if we were looking for a dog. We said yes and she pulled open her trenchcoat to reveal two dozen puppies sewn in the lining. (Okay, no, she didn't. But that image suggested itself to me and seemed too appealing to pass up.) What she did do was to pull us over to her car, where she had a pair of big mixed-breed dogs that she'd found.

She told us she and some friends had been camping in Idaho. (On, one presumes, an abandoned potato farm.) They'd been at a place called Maiden Rock and had happened across these two dogs. They'd searched high and low for some owners but, not finding any and loathe to abandon two such beautiful, friendly hounds as these, named the girl "Maiden" and the boy "Rock" and shlepped them back to Seattle, where they fostered them at various friends' houses while they tried to find a permanent home.

The dogs both seemed very nice and they were lovely. But I wanted to go into the shelter, just in case some puppy inside seemed like a better match than a fully-grown Massive Potato Hound. But, of course, there wasn't anything in the shelter that could even come close to comparing. So we came back out and, though we felt bad breaking up the pair, took "Rock" to be our own.

On the way to the meeting, we discussed names. Being pretentious, I wanted to use something from Shakespeare. So we tossed a bunch of Shakespearean characters back and forth until we hit upon Benvolio. Good guy, peacemaker. And we could call him "Ben" for short.

I don't always make great decisions. I am frequently kind of stupid. But agreeing to my wife's instinct to take that dog was one of the best things I've ever done. He made my wife into a dog person. It took very little time for both of us to fall insanely in love with him. You couldn't not. He was that kind of dog.

13 1/2 years we had with him. He was the best dog I've ever had. He was Gary Cooper in dog form. He was patient and smart and loyal and handsome and just about perfect. He's pretty much ruined me for other dogs. It's been over a month and the loss is still sharp. We will miss him forever.

He was an awesome dog. I have the tears in my eyes and lump in my throat to back that up. I'm glad you have Mortimer and Sven to help comfort you.

And I guess Megan and Spencer aren't bad, either.
I visited a house one day and I was greeted by a dog which could have been a twin of Ben. I believe I was told she was a rescue dog and was about the same age as Ben. Could have been?
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