Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Best Dog in the World

I am a dog person.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I will like your dog though, mainly because I think my dog was the best canine that ever wagged across the planet on four legs.  Let me tell you the story of the world’s best dog. 

It was a beautiful summer day back in 2002 that my family and I went to the rescue shelter to see if we could find a dog to become a part of our pack.  There were plenty of rambunctious and decidedly loud dogs in the shelter that day. They all rushed the gates as if to say, “Pick me!  Take me home!”  Strolling from one dog pen to the next, no particular dog stuck out at first, and then we saw a sweet puppy in the back of one of the runs.  She wasn’t frightened or timid, but simply well-mannered and hesitant.  It was as if she had been passed over by many potential owners far too many times to get her hopes up again.  Indeed, she had been passed over so many times that if she didn’t get adopted within the week, she would have been euthanized.

We asked the attendant if we could take this sweet dog to the visiting area to see how she would act with us.  She immediately came up and nuzzled my wife.  She did not jump up on us or act like an uber-hyper dog in need of a Ritalin prescription.  She was affectionate but not obnoxious.  Something just seemed to click with all of us and felt very right.  Somehow you just know. She was THE dog. 

She was obviously a mutt and was about six months old.  The veterinarian told us she was most likely a mix of Lab, Sharpei, and Pit Bull.  You could see a little of all three in her.  Whatever she was, she was the sweetest dog I have ever seen, and she was now ours.  The shelter had named her “Star”, which I immediately discarded as her name.  I wasn’t going to give my newest family member some stripper’s name.   She just didn’t look like a “Star.” Her coat was somewhere between a deep tan and auburn color and she had big golden-brown eyes that melted your heart.  We decided that Cinnamon would be our new puppy’s name. 

Dogs are wonderful creatures.  They aren’t like cats, which are the progressives of the pet world, who think that they are entitled and act as if your only purpose is to serve them.  Dogs seem to understand human emotions and react accordingly.  When my daughter or wife was sad, she would come nuzzle and comfort them.  When everyone was happy, she did the silliest things, seemingly just to amuse us.  She was in every way a member of the family. 

Cinnamon was very smart and learned lots of tricks, including the best trick of all, to weasel her way into all of our hearts.  There is nothing quite as gratifying at the end of a long work day as to come home, open the door, and have your dog wagging her tail so hard that it is going in circles like a propeller, just out of sheer joy of seeing you. 

Cinnamon would always listen to my then-teenage daughter’s stories and troubles that a teenager doesn’t seem to want to share with her parents.  Cinnamon would lay on the floor next to the bed to be close to my wife as she went through countless surgeries over the years.   And she was always wagging her tail. 

Cinnamon loved kids and other animals.  Whenever I would be doing yard work out front, she wanted to run off to play with the neighborhood kids.  Many people, at first seeing Cinnamon from a distance, were afraid of this “vicious” pibble. (“Pibble” was what my daughter misunderstood “Pit Bull” to be.)  After meeting her, folks could tell their fears were misplaced.  Cinny loved everyone and every critter.

Indeed, one day while mowing my front lawn, the neighbors across the street let their new little Chihuahua out front to do his business.  Cinnamon saw this as an opportunity to meet a new friend and went trotting across the street to say hello.  The Chihuahua didn’t like other people or dogs and immediately let Cinnamon know this by biting her on the nose.  Cinny was shocked at the rudeness of the Chihuahua’s reaction and probably assumed it was some peculiar breed of cat.  Anyway, she tucked her tail, yiped loudly, and came racing back to me at full speed.  I was caught in a rather embarrassing dilemma.  It wasn’t like I could call animal control and tell them that the neighborhood Chihuahua just beat up my Pit Bull.  Needless to say, Cinny stayed close by my side whenever that “cat-tankerous” dog was outside thereafter.

Over the years Cinny was there for the good and the bad times we had as a family and we couldn’t have loved her more. Eventually, my youngest daughter grew up and set out on her own adventures. But Cinnamon was always ecstatic with her propeller-wag happy-puppy dance whenever she came back home to see us.  Then suddenly, my wife of 23 years passed away.  Cinnamon and I were both devastated.  But Cinny always seemed to know when I was at my lowest and she would come up to me, sit down beside me, look inquiringly with plaintive eyes, and just nuzzle me.  She was my buddy before, but we really needed each other after my wife passed.

Well, life moves on and I eventually came to terms with the passing of my wife and the family has somewhat adjusted.  It will never be the same but we must move forward.  God is very good and in His love and mercy He brought a new love into my life.  I have asked her to be my bride and she has foolishly agreed.  We decided to buy a new house to start our life together and so we purchased one about an hour north of my old house. 

The day we moved was hectic, as one might expect.   When the movers left our new home that evening, Cinnamon was acting strangely.  She wanted to stay outside in the cold and just didn’t seem to be herself.  I eventually coaxed her into the basement, but the thought of going up the stairs must have seemed like a daunting task to her with her arthritis as she just stayed at the bottom looking up the stairs at me.  As Cinnamon was always such a faithful friend, I figured the least I could do was to bring her dog bed downstairs for her to sleep on.  She got on her bed, but I was concerned with her strange behavior.  I sat in the chair beside her bed and stayed with her until morning.  At dawn, I went upstairs to take care of a few things and when I went back downstairs, just ten minutes later, my beloved dog Cinnamon had passed away.  It just happened to be the anniversary of my wife’s death that day.

Needless to say I was distraught and devastated.  My fiancé comforted me as I wept.  I called my daughter and told her I needed her to come over that day as soon as possible, without telling her why.  When my daughter arrived, I told her the sad news through many tears for both of us.  We then wrapped up the best dog in the whole world in her blanket, and gently lowered her into a grave we had dug in the rose garden at our new home.

Life goes on.  That chapter was now closed and so looking forward, I turned the page and opened a new chapter of my life.  Cinnamon was with me for the better part of thirteen years.  She was a loyal and faithful member of the family whose only response to every situation was love.  There is a prayer, “God let me be the person that my dog thinks I am.”  I know I would be a far better man if only I was what Cinny thought I was.  Cinnamon is gone now, but I smile when I think of her.  

My beautiful fiancé just happens to have a wonderful dog that is now a part of my life.  His name is Luke and he, like Cinnamon, only wants to love and play with us.  Life is good; in fact, it is indeed a dog’s life.  And if there is a heaven for dogs, I know my Cinnamon is sitting beside my wife and wagging her tail in propeller-circle fashion.  


Jerry Critter said...

I am very sorry for your loss, TP. Dogs have always been a part of my life. They are family members as much as the children and the pain when they leave us is almost unbearable.

This is one area where we are in complete agreement.


T. Paine said...

Jerry, thanks for your kind words, my friend.

Tim McGaha said...

I feel for your loss. But I feel sorrier still for the man who's never known this kind of companionship. There aren't many joys like your pal greeting you at the door, and there aren't many hurts like the hole they leave when they're gone.

Man's best friend, indeed.

T. Paine said...

Tim, you definitely get it, my friend!