Bob Cox, of Frankfort, Ky., shares the joy of loving dogs. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
I’m awake at 4 a.m. I am most certainly a dog lover. Otherwise I would be frustrated, angry, or stubbornly still asleep.
I am sitting on my back porch with my dog, Cooper, as he guards our yard. It has become a far too familiar routine for Cooper to demand to go out in the middle of the night so he can stand sentry at the corner of our patio, protecting our home from all sorts of danger: squirrels, rabbits, birds. He snaps a single bark every 30 seconds or so just to remind the predators that he is at his post and there will be hell to pay for any enemy that dares to approach.
How did I get here? My life is under the control of this dog and his whims. Worse yet, it thoroughly pleases me. Am I deranged?
No, I am a dog lover.
This madness started 60 years ago with my first dog, Pretzel. Next came Khaki and then Q-tip. There has always been a dog in my life. Or should I say ruling my life?
So when Cooper awakened me in the middle of the night, demanding to go outside, I of course let him out. This morning I decided to sit next to Cooper to dissuade him from barking too much and waking my wife who must be up in a couple of hours for work. I thought I would make good use of the moment and jot down a few thoughts. It’s unlikely that I will be able to go back to sleep. And since this all is related to Cooper’s happiness (sigh), I’m good with it.
Cooper’s obedience training, or rather lack thereof, is a mirror of my own personality: I, too, like to break a rule now and then. A well-trained dog would not be allowed to disrupt the household for a midnight lark that is obviously not necessary. But I have taught Cooper, who sleeps next to me (OK, that’s a whole other indulgence) that if he nudges me enough, I will let him out. For the record, this only happens a couple of times a week. Usually it’s a 10-minute interruption and we both go back to sleep. But who am I kidding? It’s totally up to Cooper, and he knows it.
Pretzel was my first dog. He joined our family when I was two years old. He was a full-size dachshund. We lived in a suburban neighborhood in a small town in the 1960s. In those days, children were outside and free to play without supervision. Pretzel was always at my side as I played with my matchbox cars in the sandbox and later roamed about on my bicycle. I remember that I loved to splash through mud puddles, and Pretzel loved to jump in with me. We often came home filthy and were thrown into the tub together. Certainly, a bond was formed between boy and dog.
When I started my own family, I wanted my children to have a dog experience. We got Khaki, a golden retriever. Khaki lived in a household with four rambunctious boys. I made a decent effort training Khaki and he was a wonderful family pet. Khaki was allowed to explore freely and he became friends with everyone in the neighborhood. Occasionally, Khaki brought us an unexpected gift, such as my neighbor’s golf shoe. He was a mascot at all the kids’ ballgames and a regular fixture on vacations. Each of my sons remembers Khaki and, now, each of their families has at least one dog. One son has two dogs. One son has three.
My wife did not grow up with the same affection (affliction?) for dogs. She tolerated them. When Q-tip, a rescue mix came home, my wife was not at all thrilled. Q-tip, named for the little white tuffs only on his toes, was a bit mischievous. He shed and left parts of himself everywhere. His chewing stage lasted longer than most, and we still have corners of furniture nicely carved by his artful work. We nicknamed him Houdini for his many escapes from our fenced-in yard. He repeatedly made a beeline for the Pet Resort down the street and found a way to join the dogs inside the play area. The owner kept my phone number handy to let me know that Q-tip had once again checked himself into the resort and I could pick him up when I was ready. Q-tip became my running companion. He learned to follow me off lead and we put in many miles together. Once he detoured inside a neighbor’s house that was open for spring cleaning and then rejoined the route. I still miss that special companionship.
That brings me back to Cooper. Cooper is a Shorkie; a Shih Tzu/Yorkshire designer dog. In other words, a high-priced mutt. In my retirement, Cooper is with me for the largest part of every day. Together we walk an average of five miles, which is great for us both. Cooper loves car rides and must have his head out the window in the wind. I enjoy taking him with me to dog-friendly restaurants and stores. We are regular patrons at the wine bar in downtown Frankfort: Cooper has a bowl of water while I sip a Cabernet on the patio. We just spent a day at Red River Gorge where he scampered along the trail and romped through the streams.
Cooper, I am happy to say, has also won over my wife. We are so enthralled with him that we have complete conversations telling each other what Cooper thinks or wants. In fact we have playfully discussed custody of Cooper in the event of an unlikely marriage separation.
It’s now time for my wife to get up. Cooper is pawing at my arm telling me he’s ready for his morning walk. I will close my laptop and happily take him. That’s what I always do. It’s ingrained in me.
I am a dog lover.
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”