“My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.”
Recently, a friend told me that when she dies she wants to come back to this world as MY dog. Even though I’ve heard it a handful of times throughout my life, I still laughed. It’s true; my dogs receive better care than David Letterman’s assistants. I have never understood people that don’t like dogs. In fact when someone walks into a room and doesn’t get excited about a dog, I look closely at them to make sure they are not a cat.
I got my first dog when I was six years old. Her name was Candy, and we named her that because she was as long as a piece of licorice. She reached her fourteenth birthday, before we had to put her down. She was too sick, had lost that glimmer in her eyes, and her will to live. Up to that point, I had never experienced a bigger tragedy. It was like losing a sibling, a child, and a best friend all at once. After that painful experience, I swore I would never get another one again. I didn’t have the strength to buy another tragedy. Their biggest fault, these darned creatures called dogs, is that they just don’t live long enough. The loneliness that I encountered in those first few months after Candy died was sadder than Mike Myers dying career. If you are a dog owner then you can understand how empty life can feel without one, no matter how fulfilled you are in other ways. In those months, I started stopping by pet stores and looking at puppies in the window. Sometimes I’d cry, but sometimes I’d ask to hold one, just to see if it felt right. It never did. I knew it was too soon.
The first time I saw a Lhasa Apso was that following summer up at Camp Winnebago in Huntsville, Ontario. It was Visitor’s Day and one of my camper’s parents brought their new puppy up to show her. It was the first time since Candy died that I went absolutely bonkers over a dog. What was that? An Ewok? Gizmo, from the Gremlins? It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life. As I lay on the grass playing with it, I looked up and asked my camper’s mother the number one question that I had: What was the breed’s lifespan? She told me they lived to be between 15 and 18 years old, but the breeder had told her of many instances where they lived even longer. I knew my next dog was going to be a Lhasa Apso.
I went home and researched Lhasa Apsos in books at the library. (What was the Internet back then?) I learned that they were originally watchdogs from Tibet. They were bred in the Buddhist monasteries, and used to alert the monks to any intruders who entered. They were guarding the doors. So to tie this in with my last few blogs, basically Lhasa Apsos were just another way of saying “bouncers.” Perfect! I found a few different breeders in the classified section of The Toronto Star and called them. The one that drew me in, was a breeder out in Port Perry called “Lhasaposa.” The breeder’s name was Joanne, and after she consoled me for half an hour about my childhood dog dying, she told me to hurry up and come see her, so I could choose a puppy. She said after seeing her dogs, I would be instantly cheered up.
My parents came with me out to Port Perry and, upon arriving there, about fifteen Lhasa Apsos and a huge English Mastiff greeted us. The personalities these dogs had were amazing. It was as if they were little clowns. None of them looked exactly the same and their behavior was so comical that I couldn’t stop laughing. Choosing a puppy is almost like choosing a mate. In order for it to work there has to be something that instantly clicks. Let me tell you, as you will learn in future posts, I really have this dog choosing thing down to a tee…the mates? Mmm…not so much!
I chose Charlie because, when I sat down with the litter of newborns, he was the one that puttered over to me, dropped face first in my hand, and fell asleep. Instant love.
“Well that was easy,” I said. At the time Charlie was this salt and pepper color with dark black eyes. However, when I returned to pick him up a few weeks later, he had turned a chocolate brown with white paws and had these mesmerizing, bright emerald green eyes.
“I don’t think this is Charlie,” I said to Joanne. She laughed and said that Lhasa Apsos change colors often, and he may turn many shades throughout his life. It’s part of what makes them so unique. She also told me that this dog was different from ones she had seen recently. His eyes were a very rare color and only once in a while did she see eyes in one of her pups that were so human like. It was almost as if you could see his soul through them.
“This dog is going to be a fighter, you’ll see,” Joanne said.
Over the past two years, no words have ever rang truer for me than those. Charlie is now almost sixteen years old, and tomorrow you will read about a story of strength and a will to live that I have never seen. This past year the amount of dog nar that I have had, has been out of control. My friends and family will attest to that. I will start with the story of Charlie, who a year and a half ago was given a medical prognosis of six weeks to live. Later on, as I continue to document my hellish year through my writing, you will also learn about the miracle of my other two Lhasa Apsos, Lucy and Molly. For now sit tight, and never let a day go by without appreciating the unconditional love of dogs, as they could be role models to all of us.
See you tomorrow
Love and Silver Linings
Love and Silver Linings