DASH THE WONDER DOG TURNS 10

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an empty space we don’t even know we have.”  Thom Jones

           An Irresistible face

Tap. Tap. Tap. I wake each morning to paws gently tapping my shoulder. I roll over and Dash the Wonder Dog’s face is one inch from mine, with an expectant look on his face.  I roll over and obediently scratch his ears.  He has me well trained.  I bid him a good morning and ask how his sleep was.  He response is 100 kisses – just to make sure I’m awake and to alert me that he’s ready to start his day.  This is his morning routine, and whether I have had 8 hours or 8 minutes of sleep, it never varies.  On the mornings when my sleep has been closer to 8 minutes, I wonder why I have let this dog take over my life.  I resent, just for a moment, that once I have let him out to sniff and pee, he curls up on the sofa, rests his head on his soft blanket, and falls blissfully back to sleep.  I, on the other hand, put extra coffee in the pot.

           Dash – 2nd from left

Ten years ago, on November 16, 2012, I received a message from Dash’s breeder that he and his four brothers had been born.  She sent me a photo of them, snuggled up together, looking a bit like tiny guinea pigs.  I didn’t yet know which one would come home with me, but it didn’t matter – I loved them all instantly.  I had waited a long time to own another dog and pledged that this dog would be special.  Little did I know I really had no choice in the matter.  Dogs have a way of wriggling into your heart and staking their claim on your soul.  In January 2013, I drove to the breeder’s home to select which dog would be mine.  Of course, what really happened is Dash chose me.  As I stood in the backyard, with dogs and puppies romping and vying for attention, Dash came up and scratched on my pant leg.  I picked him up, he gave me a lick, and I was done.  Dash was my dog, and I was his person.

“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job.” – George Carlin

             Dash’s first day home

We brought him home on February 3, 2013. I vowed early on that I wasn’t going to be a sap about this dog.  Who was I kidding? I was a sap by the time we backed out of the breeder’s driveway. From that first day, Dash has lived up to the nickname for Cavaliers – he is a “comfort spaniel”. No matter how bad a day we might have had, it is impossible to remain sad or depressed when greeted at the door by his wagging tail and twirling body. My husband and I vie over who gets to sit next to him on the couch.  Dash doesn’t care, he is an equal opportunity snuggler.  He plasters himself next to us and miraculously transforms into a 1,000 lb. dog – absolutely immovable.

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”  Andy Rooney

       Dash visiting a WWII hero

We acknowledge that over the past ten years he has put a crimp in our social life. Spending an evening with Dash, vs dinner with someone blathering on about their hook shot on the 10th hole, is not even a fair fight.  Our friends tease us that they have met the “Dash bar” when we go out rather than stay home.  But we are not the only ones who are smitten by him. He has put smiles on faces wherever he goes, especially when he worked at the Vi Care Center, bringing some sunshine to people who didn’t see much of it.  We have taken him everywhere we traveled, and as luck would have it, he loves car rides.  He doesn’t really care where we go, as long as he is with us.  He is the reason we have met people from all parts of the world, who engage us in just enough conversation to justify their real reason for stopping – to pet Dash. He made friends with a little girl from England in Squaw Valley, and he snookered the people in the gift shop in Sun Valley to give him treats every time he passed by.

                        My sweet boy

When we first brought Dash home, I told my husband that I’d be happy if he lived ten years.  After all, most Cavaliers suffer from mitral valve disease, so their lifespan can be shorter.  Two years ago, Dash was diagnosed with it.  He is on medication and so far, it seems to be keeping the disease at bay.  He still loves to play fetch every night.  Mostly I do the fetching, as he manages to put his toy exactly one foot beyond my reach.  I can almost see him laugh as I heft myself off the couch to retrieve it.  He would do this for an hour, but oftentimes my knees give out before he does.

His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever—in case I need him. And I expect I will—as I always have.  Gene Hill

Dash the Wonder Dog at 10

And now that he is 10, of course I want more time.  I want more snuggles and kisses, more twirls when I get home, more waking in the night to his chainsaw-like snoring.  I dread the day when I won’t wake to the tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.  But for now, we’re taking it a day at a time, and enjoying each day to the fullest. At night, before we tuck in, I set Dash up on the bed and review our day – where we went (nowhere), what we did (nap and eat) and any special people we might have seen (the crazy dog down the street).  And then I tell him how much he is loved.  I bury my face in the scruff of his neck and tell him what a good boy he is and how blessed we are to have him in our lives.

I’ve done nothing to deserve this sweet, gentle boy, and yet he chose to grace me with his presence.  For that, I am the luckiest person on earth. Happy 10th birthday to my most cherished companion!

LONG LIVE THE KING!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Anglophiles the world ’round are sad this week with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.  I have had an interest in her life since 1960, when as a naive 9-year-old, I saw the headline banner on the newspaper my dad was reading that screamed, “QUEEN IN LABOR”.  My first thought was that the Queen of England had embarked on ditch digging.  But even at that age I knew that couldn’t be right, so I asked my parents what “labor” meant. I still recall the uncomfortable look they gave each other, as if to say, “Are you going to be the one to tell her?”  In any event, that is my first memory of the queen.  I subsequently studied English history in college and over the years I grew to appreciate the majesty that is the monarchy.  I know that we fought a war to separate ourselves from it, and I wholeheartedly support our divorce from the motherland, but given today’s bitter political infighting I sometimes think it would be nice to have a non-politician above it all who could say, “Stop your childish bickering and get on with the job.”

There is no better example of the benefits of a monarch than when Queen Elizabeth outfoxed Margaret Thatcher on the issue of apartheid. On several occasions during Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister, the Queen urged her take a strong stance against the apartheid laws in South Africa.  Thatcher dragged her feet, suggesting that the “time wasn’t right”.  For Thatcher, the time would never be right. By 1990, the Queen, frustrated with Thatcher’s inaction, took matters in hand by inviting Nelson Mandela, the foremost anti-apartheid leader, to the United Kingdom.  At the time, that was groundbreaking.  The apartheid laws were repealed the following year, in part due to the support exhibited by the Queen. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be seen with Mandela.  Even Thatcher, never one to miss a photo op, had her picture taken shaking Mandela’s hand.  Elizabeth and Mandela enjoyed a life-long friendship; he was the only person outside of the family that referred to her as “Elizabeth”.

I was very sad to learn of the Queen’s passing and I admit I shed a few tears.  She was part of the “greatest generation” who exemplified duty, humility and serving others, combined with some increasingly rare common sense. Elizabeth always understood that being royal was not about celebrity or attention-seeking, but about doing her best for her fellow countrymen.  In a time when slacking off has become fashionable, Elizabeth still stood by the virtues of hard work and commitment to one’s obligations. Not many 96-year-olds are still on the job, but the Queen stood by her promise to serve until her death.

Now we must forge ahead with the new King, Charles.  As a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owner, I echo the sentiments I read from another owner that it is going to be hard to hear the words “King Charles” without wanting to add the word “spaniel” at the end.  Nevertheless, I am somewhat relieved at Charles’ accension.  For the past nine years innumerable people have stopped me and said, “Oh, you have a Prince Charles Spaniel.”  Perhaps now Dash the Wonder Dog will get his due respect.

 

IN THE DOG HOUSE

By Dash the Wonder Dog

Me…in my customary position

Well, as you read in Uncle Bob’s post last week, my mom has gone and done it now.  Her reckless behavior has resulted in the both of us being thrown in the hoosegow.  Not just any hoosegow – a Turkish hoosegow.  Although her intentions were good, she never should have used that photo without authorization.  Sometimes I think she isn’t functioning with all her marbles, like when she forgets to feed me on time.  All I know is that one moment I was relaxing in the lap of luxury on my leopard bed and the next thing I knew I was in a land far away, mingling with people (and dogs) who are far beneath my station in life.  Do they not know I’m a Cavalier KING Charles?  My mom keeps sobbing, something about “Midnight Express” and that her manicure is being shredded.  She wants me to dig our way out of here.  Seriously?  Sister, you got us into this mess so you can just suck it up about your ruined gel polish and get to work.  In the mean time, I will try to describe our conditions in this primitive place.

Bad Eddie – Don’t mess with him

I must say that the people you meet in a Turkish prison are very solicitous.  Really – they solicit everything.  We have been asked if we’d care for cigarettes, chocolate bars or a brick of hashish.  My mom jumped at the chocolate bar but I’m still holding out for a good antler bone.  They seem to be in short supply.  Unfortunately for me, several other detainees have brought their dogs along with them.  Just like humans, there is a pecking order among us canines.  At the top of the heap is Bad Eddie (photo right).  I don’t know what he’s in for because I’m too scared to ask, but my guess is that he bit off the leg of a sultan.  He rules this place with an iron paw and steals the meager rations from newcomers like me.  I have tried my best to bat my big brown eyes at him but I think I gave him the wrong impression.  Apparently I am not the first to learn that batting one’s eyes can result in becoming someone’s bitch, which is ridiculous because everyone knows I’m a male dog.   Bad Eddie struts around the courtyard with his “posse” of Rottweilers and Poodles, acting like they don’t have to obey the rules.  I have tried to instruct them as to proper etiquette, showing off my credentials as a Canine Good Citizen from PetSmart but I don’t think they’re impressed.  One of them actually lifted his leg on me which just isn’t done in polite society.  I think PetSmart could make a killing in this place.

Mom’s lunch…and dinner.

Mom doesn’t seem to be adapting to our new circumstances.  She keeps complaining about flies, rusty water and the sixteen other women sharing our 4×4 cell.  I remind her that every minute that she spends complaining is another minute that she is not digging!  Besides, in my personal opinion, I think the food here is doing her some good.  I don’t like to be critical but those five pounds she packed on at Christmas are still hanging around her hips.  Another few weeks in this place and I think she will be back in fighting shape.  As for me, I’m doing my best to supervise her, keep Bad Eddie at bay and bribe the guards for some organic bison/mango treats.  Hopefully by our next post all will be returned to normal – me lying on my leopard bed and mom resuming her manicure schedule.  Sheesh!  I hope she’s learned her lesson.  I don’t think I can face Bad Eddie again.

 

NEWS FLASH!!!! YOUR DOG LOVES YOU!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

DashRecently some ingenious neuroscientist published an article in the New York Times with the astounding news that dogs experience love just like people do.  I don’t know how much money was spent on this study but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most dog owners could have spared him the time and expense of the “investigation”.  We KNOW that our dogs love us.  And we didn’t have to train them to sit in one of those blasted MRI tubes to figure that out.  But it got me to thinking … maybe I can get in on this dog behavior study trend and make myself a little extra cash on the side.  As it happens, Dash the Wonder Dog, will turn one year old this month so I began to reflect on all of the “newsworthy” discoveries we’ve made over the past few months.  Purely in the interest of science, here are my observations:

 

1.  DOGS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR AEROBIC EXERCISE

I know – you read all the time about how good dogs are for getting people out to exercise.  True, a dog forces you to get up off of your duff and take it outside.  But that’s about the extent of the exercise at our house.  Dash will lead me as far as the end of our driveway and then screech to a stop.  Apparently there is a VERY interesting bush that needs to be examined and re-examined every day.  And peed on.  As we progress on the “walk” I take 20 steps forward and 15 steps back.  There is not a leaf that goes uninvestigated.  And he has all the airs of a snotty French waiter – a little upward tilt of the head and a big sniff – as if he is trying to assess the “bouquet” of the urine left by previous dogs. Once home, he is exhausted and I head off the to the gym.

2.  DOGS ARE GREAT JUDGES OF CHARACTER

In the past year I’m sure we’ve met close to 500 people that we would otherwise have  just walked past.   Most everyone wants to stop and pet Dash or at least they give him aDash with Abby smile when they look at his face.  We have met Judy Blumberg, the Olympic figure skater, and Edward Villella, the famous ballet dancer, because they wanted to talk about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  More importantly, we have met countless warm and wonderful people who I happen to belive are geniuses because they thought our dog was cute.  We have actually perfected  what I call our “asshole test”.  If someone walks by Dash and doesn’t at least crack a smile, they’re obviously an asshole.  Harsh?  Perhaps.  But I’ve got a lot on my plate and I think this is as good a quick filter as any to determine whether someone is worth getting to know.

3.  DOGS KNOW A PIGEON WHEN THEY SEE ONE

Dogs are very smart when it comes to figuring out which “parent” to go to achieve the desired result.  In our house, I’m the one Dash looks plaintively at when it’s food or treat time.  And usually I’m the one who has to draw the line when it comes to discipline.  Dash has slept in a crate by my side of the bed since the day we brought him home, but a couple of weeks ago he underwent some major surgery so the vet told us to keep a vigilant eye on him.  Which my husband, Mr. “I’m Not Sure We Should Get A Dog”, interpreted as Dash sleeping on the bed with us that night.  And the next…and next…and next.  Now when I tell Dash to go to bed he runs over to my husband’s side of the bed and won’t come near me.  As to where this is headed I’ll leave it at this – Dash recently acquired his own pillow.

4.  DOGS ARE CAREFREE

We humans could learn a lot from our dogs about chilling out a bit.  You don’s see them worrying about whether the house is clean enough for guests or what might happen if the 49ers lose.  Life to them is about sleeping, comforting and playing.  Not a bad way to go through life – not caring one whit that their owner might be the teensiest bit mortified as they “do their business” in the middle of the hardware store.  Certainly I’m not suggesting that we all take on that particular trait (God forbid) but as the bumper sticker says, “A little less bark and a little more wag” would probably do us all some good.

2013-08-07 09.46.59-1 (2)5.  DOGS HELP US TO APPRECIATE EACH DAY

Alas, as every dog owner knows, dogs just don’t live long enough.  Seems to me that some researcher ought to be working on that. It seems unfair that we should have such devoted companions, only to lose them far too soon.  The last time I had to put a dog to sleep I cried for weeks.  Years later just a picture of her would elicit tears.  So I started a tradition with Dash the first night we brought him home.  Just before we go to sleep (and it’s ever so much more convenient now that he is right next to me) I take time for one last snuggle and to review our day.  I talk about the things we did and the people we met.  I tell him what a sweet boy he is and thank him for another wonderful day together.  Because I know that the days go by much too quickly.  At the end of his life, I will know that I told him just how special he is every single day of his life  .

But today we are a long way from that day….today we will play fetch until my arm gives out and I’ll probably put some funny hat on him and stick a candle in his kibble.   And I’ll try to figure out how I can make headlines in the New York Times stating the blatantly obvious…DOGS ARE GREAT!

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“THE BOY”

2013-02-17 10.18.12 Every dog should have a boy….  Erma Bombeck.   I’m sure Ms. Bombeck had a freckle-faced 10-year-old boy in mind when she wrote that.  At our house “the boy” is almost 72 years old.  But it seems that some things are timeless and not bound by the limits of age.

I should point out that “the boy” has resisted my attempts to get a dog for the past 25 years.  Every broach of the subject was met with groans, moans and 87 reasons why we shouldn’t get a dog.  Over many of those years he had a point – we were both working long hours, we traveled a lot, we had white carpeting.

But last summer our kids went on vacation and we offered to dog sit.   When he thought I wasn’t looking, “the boy” would give the dog treats.  And he was perfectly content to sit on the couch with the dog right next to him watching golf tournaments on TV.  Over the course of ten days the dog learned all about lip-outs, soft fades and why Tiger Woods will never win another major.

So, as you faithful readers know (and we do thank you for your subscription!), “the boy” was finally worn down enough by last fall that the moans and groans were uttered with less conviction.  I pounced on the opportunity and put a down payment on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  He was born in November and we named him “Dash”.  We were finally able to bring him home two weeks ago.  That’s when life in the Watson house changed. Forever.

Before Dash came home, “the boy” wanted it made perfectly clear that I was going to be totally responsible for all feeding, training and (this is critical) poop patrol.  Dash was going to be tolerated and allowed to live with us just to keep me happy.  Yeah, right.

Within 48 hours it became clear that Dash was going to belong to “the boy”.  He didn’t want to leave the house for fear the dog would miss him.  He admonished me for washing Dash’s face with a bit too much pressure.  He got a big stick to take outside to the dog run just in case any wild animal ventured near.  And the baby talk?  Here’s the best example I can provide:  one week after Dash came home “the boy” was watching hockey while Dash and I were in my office watching something educational, like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  When I decided to retire, I took Dash and walked into the family room to say good night.  “The boy” jumped up from his chair, came over to us and starting petting and cooing …”oh, I love you soooo much”, “good-night little sweetheart”, etc. …. to the DOG.  He has not jumped up out of a chair like that for me in 20 years.

So now, after 25 years of wanting a dog, I have to fight for equal time.  At best, “the boy” and I sit on the couch with Dash in between us.  Life is very good at those moments.  And truthfully, I love seeing “the boy” so enamored with Dash.  Dash has brought us a lot of love and I’m sure has lowered our blood pressure by several points.

However, I should stipulate that “the boy” is not so enamoured that he has picked up poop.  Somehow, that is still my responsibility.

 

GOING TO THE DOGS

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Raes five boysMy husband and I have lost our minds. We recently decided to add to our family.  No, we’re not that crazy (or young).   In February we will become parents to a 12 week old Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The picture at left shows the litter at 8 days old. We don’t know yet which one will be ours, but I’m hoping it’s the smart one.  I am aware of the pitfalls of a new puppy – we can say goodbye to sleep, sanity and our clean white carpeting. On the other hand, if “Puppy Breath” was sold as perfume it would be a best seller.

I haven’t owned a dog in 25 years so I thought I should become familiar with the modern dog world. Conveniently, PetSmart was sponsoring its annual Holiday Pet Festival near us this past weekend. It offered an opportunity to see (and pet) dogs, peruse the latest dog supplies and hopefully pick up some tips.  And it was free.  The perfect storm.

The festival was held at West World, which is a HUGE exhibition center where they hold the Barrett-Jackson car auction and other large events. I figured they would cordon off a small portion of it for the dog soiree. But as I entered the building it became clear that I am horribly, crushingly, out of date when it comes to the dogs and the vast array of “stuff” available to them.

Twenty-five years ago my dog had a collar, leash and feeding bowls.  I fed her whatever canned dog food was on sale at the supermarket.  On a good day she got a piece of a hot dog or whatever scrap happened to hit the kitchen floor.  Apparently my  laissez-faire approach to dog ownership would now warrant an emergency call to the SPCA.

The “fesitval” made it clear that today’s dog requires vitamins, special organic, gluten-free food, freeze-dried liver treats, harnesses, and a bed that would have to pass muster at the Ritz.  And though not required, it was strongly suggested that if you love your dog at all you should purchase a dog massage, a day at the doggie spa, blinged out collars and sunglasses.  I won’t even go into the ridiculous costumes being offered but really…some of these outifts would embarrass Lady Gaga.

All in all it was a fun day.  There were small dogs and large dogs, and dogs that looked like they wanted to be anywhere else:

small dogs

large dogs

bored dogs

But my favorite was the dog who decided, right in the middle of the arena, to “do it’s business”.  Big time.  And guess what breed it was?  A Cavalier King Charles spaniel.  I think I’m going to need a bigger shovel.