When we were first married my wife had a cat she brought to live with us. It was all white except for one black ear. It had one blue eye and one green one. My wife named it Goliath, but it was really Satan. I hated that cat and it hated me just as much. Often I would see it watching me from some high spot smiling as it thought: “Just wait until you die and you’re in my fiery little abode,” and then it would laugh manically in its little cat’s head. When it finally left Earth to go rule the underworld, I vowed I would be a good person for the rest of my life so I wouldn’t have to meet up with that creature again.
Since then we’ve had dogs. We are currently on our third Airedale terrier. For those who don’t know, Airedales are nuts. An Airedale is a dog on methamphetamine. They make kids with ADHD want to sit down and take a break.
All three of our Airedales have had different personalities…other than being nuts. Our first one, Megan, only sat down three times in the first five years we had her. We were young then and took her for long walks, sometimes several miles. She never tired. I think she would have been willing to walk twenty-four/seven in those first five years. You could not have found more of a family dog. If we were home, she was with us. Her bathroom habits were amazing. We once went over to a town about twenty miles away for an afternoon gathering. As often happens in the mid-west, a blizzard came up and we ended up stranded there with nobody available to let Megan out or to feed her. When we finally got home, twenty-three hours after we left, we expected to find piles and puddles everywhere. Megan had her legs crossed and was doing the pee-pee dance, but we searched the house from top to bottom and found nothing. I’m still not sure what happened.
Meagan had bad hips that grew worse with age. One day on a walk, she just lay down in the street and wouldn’t move. That ended her long walks. We still walked her around the block, but if we went on a long walk she would be at the window watching and crying to go along. Her hips continually got worse. She went deaf and blind. She had an enlarged heart and constant diarrhea at the end because her body could no longer process her food, no matter what kind we tried. She lived to be thirteen.
After Megan died we vowed to never have a dog again, and then we ran right out and got another Airedale. I had read all the books on how to pick a puppy. The books say to have all the puppies in the litter put together and pick one that is confidant, so you don’t get one that might bite out of fear. (If I ever find that author I’m going to slap him.) When the breeder put the litter together, there were five puppies cowering in the corner and one puppy standing on her hind legs trying to get out of the kennel to be with us. We chose that one, of course. We should have known something was wrong when after we took her all the other puppies started high-fiving each other.
Josie was the most dominant dog I have ever known. She wasn’t vicious or threatening. She just believed she ruled the above ground world the way Satan ruled the underworld. Her attitude toward other dogs was: “You’re only alive because I haven’t killed you yet. Now let’s play.”
It didn’t just go toward other dogs either. Even humans were tolerated only in the respect that they were the ones who gave her food. If we went for a walk and let our youngest daughter hold the leash, Josie would look downright embarrassed to have such a lesser human controlling her. She was the smartest dog we have ever had by a long ways. We once had to kennel her for a few days when we couldn’t find anyone to watch her while we took a trip. When we returned the lady at the kennel said she had to put a lock on Josie’s kennel, because in fifteen years of running the kennel, Josie was the first dog to learn how to open the door. You could teach her to do any trick in about two minutes, as long as you had a treat in your hand. If you didn’t have a treat, she’d laugh at you. Josie never cared for being with the family. If we were down in the family room, she would be upstairs looking out the window, waiting for her real family to come and get her, I guess. When a thunderstorm came, she went crazy. She also hated air-nailers and gunshots. At seven the veterinarian diagnosed the lumps she had developed in her neck as cancer. I didn’t miss her as much as I did Megan, but I felt far less secure in our house after she was gone. I once gave a friend a key to our house to drop off some things while we were out of town. My friend said he opened the door and set the packages on an end table. About that time Josie came around the corner and saw him. My friend said if the Devil could growl, the noise that came out of our dog is what it would sound like. He made a hasty exit out the door.
When our youngest was a senior in high school, she decided she wanted an Airedale for a graduation present. That’s how we have Reina. As dominant as Josie was, Reina is that submissive. Not just to people but other dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels and leaves blowing across the yard on a windy day. But she sleeps through thunderstorms. Go figure.