Canine Lupus Familiarus.
Also known as a dog.
Throughout the years, I’ve been blessed by the company of some very amazing canines. There was always a dog (or an entire pack of them at one time) as I was growing up. Our first was a Doberman named “Champ.” I don’t really recall too much about him except a sun-dappled memory of playing in the backyard with him when I was quite wee. Then there were the Saints. Saint Bernards, that is. It started with Brandy, a purebred sweetheart that I grew to love very much. My folks bred her with the (at the time) Michigan state champion AKC male, and she gave birth to a litter of 13 (!) pups. It set a world record that was listed in the Guinness Book. We gave away all but one of those adorable pups to family members. Then there was Christopher, whom I called St. Chris…though mostly I called him ‘slobber face,” because he was the slobberinest dog I’d ever met. We actually had to wet mop the ceilings in the house because every time he shook his head, stalactites of gooey slobber would form there.
Later, it was Einstein (named after the dog in the Dean Koontz book, “Watchers”), a yellow Lab. He was the most intelligent dog I’d ever met, and adorable besides. In 2000, I adopted
Malai (full name: The Malai Lama), a rumble-tumble bundle of black fur and too-large ears that she kept tripping over. She was a Zen master of patience and kindness and a black Lab. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 13. She is very greatly missed.
Malai suffered from separation anxiety, which didn’t really become an issue until I began working outside the house. So I adopted Ozzie, aka Sonic the Bedhog, and Speedbump, to keep her company. Despite the fact that Ozzie once ate an entire couch while I was at work, he was my best boy. Smart, gentle, great with kids, and loved puppies, Ozzie was most definitely a gentle giant. Ozzie was part black Lab and part Newfoundland, though the people we adopted him from weren’t ever sure what his father had been. As they lived high in the Rocky Mountains, my guess was that his papa had been a black bear.
As I volunteer for several large and giant breed dog rescues in the region, I learned about my most recent pup through a notification we received from a shelter in Galveston, TX, just after Hurricane Ike devastated that area in 2008, that they had a St. Bernard in their care that they were going to euthanize because she’d grown feral. She had learned to survive on the streets of the city, eating garbage and other scavenged foods, and protecting herself against other suddenly orphaned dogs. I took one look at her photograph and knew (a) that she most definitely was NOT a St. Bernard, in any sense of the word, and (b) that she was a dog that belonged with us. So I made the trek from Colorado to Texas to meet her, with the assurance of the shelter that they would not put her down until I had a chance to see her. Though they claimed she was overly aggressive, the first thing she did when I walked in was roll over and show her belly. After I greeted her, she leapt up with a gigantic doggie grin on her face, stood on her hind legs and placed both front paws on my shoulders. She was taller than me by several inches (I’m 5’10” in shoes), and grinned down at me.
That was all it took. It was 5 months of intensive training with her, but now she’s one of the most lovable and loving dogs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She’s fiercely loyal, though adores her brother Ozzie, and has been a very welcome addition to our tribe.
Dogs have helped me in so many ways, some noticeable, others not so much. In 2006, after I was devastated by medical issues (lost all of my short term memory, the use of my legs and my arms), they were my rehabilitation. And though it was three very long years before I “came back from the dead,” I credit much of that to my pups’ unwavering love. Since then, they have helped with depression, loss, and major life changes. I rely on them for laughter, warmth, and love. I hope, by the pictures I’ve shared below, you will be able to see why.