Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ripley's Believe it or Not

Keeping up with even one blog has been a challenge lately, let alone two because we have a new member of the household.  I got a puppy for Christmas.  Actually, I got her a little before Christmas, but she was the big holiday gift.  It's been more than a decade since I've had a puppy in the house, and I haven't cared for one this young since 1995.  One forgets how time intensive they are.  Like mobile infants with sharp teeth and no diapers.  It's exhausting.  Worth it, but exhausting.

She fulfills an almost half century desire to own a true, purebred rough collie.  I've been hooked on the breed ever since I first saw Lassie Come Home, followed by being a faithful Sunday afternoon viewer of Lassie and then reading all the Albert Payson Terhune books about his collies, primarily Lad.  I loved the look of them with their delicate long faces, bent over ears and sleek coats, their native intelligence, and the nobility with which they carry themselves. And, truthfully, I fell in love with Terhune's depiction of his country estate, and I associate collies with a lifestyle I find attractive.  Ironically, for all the dogs I have had, except for a brief period back in the 80's, I've never actually owned a collie.  I've come sort of close.  We had Lando, a border collie, for many years, and Luke is part collie, but since I couldn't resist rescuing anything and everything, there was never a chance to pick and choose a purebred dog.  We shouldn't have done it now.  Four large dogs in a suburban yard is enough, but Luke is 15 and Ashley is in poor health, and I've steeled myself for a while that they are both close to the end of their days.

But it's more than that, it's the realization that Cheyenne is now 11.  She is my bedrock.  Without her, I could not have made it through the last decade.  She came into our lives before we really understood that we were all beginning a slide down a very long rabbit hole, but she's been by my side through it all.  She loves me completely.  I feel the same about her.  She's been supportive in ways humans really can't because she has no other interest.  To say she lives for me might be laying it on a little thick, but I am her main vocation.  She's by my side when I'm sad or sick.  She's shared the happy times and accepted the bad ones.  The only thing she can't handle is when I cry.  It upsets her too much, and she'll  leave the room briefly.  She was a good companion to my mother as well.  She was tirelessly patient whenever I took her to the nursing home during Mother's last months and we would be stopped multiple times as we made our way down the hall to her room so that other patients could pet her and talk to her.  She looks and acts young to me, and I plan on her living a very long time, but others have commented on her age - they can see the years on her.  She can no longer jump on the bed.  There are other signs that she's past her prime.  There are so many wonderful things about dogs, but there is the hard truth that they shine brightly but briefly.  I've been accepting about that with the other dogs:  I've recognized that it's just the way it is, and to enjoy their company while I've had it.  I've mourned the pets I've lost, but I've moved along.  But when I would contemplate losing Cheyenne, I just couldn't imagine it.  So, after I first got to Pittsburgh, I registered with a pet search engine that looked for listings at shelters within a 100 miles for collies available for adoption.  I thought maybe if I got the dog of my dreams and had him or her together with Cheyenne for a few years it would blunt the pain I would eventually have to feel.

Greg has put his foot down all along, insisting that there would be no more dogs for now, but for some reason he decided to try and get one for me this year, so he secretly began trolling local shelters looking for collies.  In the meantime, I would get alerts whenever any dog with "collie" as part of their make-up would be available nearby.  The planets seemed to have aligned earlier in the month when a trio of purebred collie puppies were available through a small rescue group in Ohio.  And so enter Ripley (name for Ellen Ripley of the Alien movies).  Cheyenne is not her biggest fan.  None of the older dogs are really happy about it, although they accept it.  After all, at one point all of them were the newbie, and they all know this is a multiple dog household.  Ripley however, is fascinated with Cheyenne.  I think she senses this is the Alpha dog, and wants to be around her.  Cheyenne is not particularly patient with her, but accepts her begrudgingly, I think, as long as she's secure in her knowledge that we are still tightly bonded.

The moral to this story is that no one loves you like your dog.  No one understands you like your dog does either.  They don't nag, they don't talk back (usually), and they love you no matter what you look like.  They don't care what your politics are or whether you're a genius or not, or if you're wealthy or not.  They don't judge you.   I have great friends, but none are greater than my dogs.  And now I've got the dog of my dreams and Cheyenne's by my side.  Pretty sweet.

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