When I was very young, my parents got a dog. It was a little female poodle they named Smokey because of her greyish brown coloring. She was an absolute sweetheart and easily became part of the family. She was also incredibly smart.
She wasn’t even fully grown when she figured out my parents couldn’t hear. When my brothers or I were home, she would bark at the door if somebody knocked. When only my parents were home, she would tug on their pants legs to let them know somebody was knocking at the door. That came in handy for the idiots who couldn’t read the sign that said: “Please use the doorbell.” The doorbell wasn’t actually a bell, it was something that made the lights flash in the house so my parents knew someone was at the door. Of course, this led to little pranks we played on the dog…
Every now and then, my brothers or I would flip the light switch in a room on and off and the dog would get to barking and then looked confused when we didn’t answer the door. It only took a month for her to figure out we were screwing with her and one day, she just sat there and looked at me when I tried it. Her look said, “Just how stupid do you think I am?”
She was also a pretty good watchdog. One night, she kept barking and pulling at my dad’s pants leg. My dad looked at me questioningly, but I told him nobody was knocking. She didn’t quit so I went to the front door and opened it…nothing. Then my dad noticed she was pulling his pants leg towards the back door. We both went to look and the dog bounded out the back door barking like crazy towards the alley. Then we saw it. There was a kid on our garage roof trying to bend our basketball rim. My dad yelled in his booming voice and the kid fell off the roof. We ran to the alley and saw two kids helping a limping kid as they hurried away. I held the dog back because she was in a frenzy trying to get at them.
When she got a little older, we had her bred. Her first litter produced four little cute puppies. One was chocolate, one was white, and two were tan. I was sad when we sold them. Then we had her bred again and she had another litter with four puppies. These puppies were remarkable! One had the coloring of dark brown with light brown undertones, kind of like a Doberman. Another had distinct brown patches on white, like a Saint Bernard. Another was a smokey coloring like our dog and the last one was an apricot coloring they called champagne. We ended up keeping the last one and sold the others for a high amount because of their unique coloring. This new puppy we called “Bubbles.”
Bubbles was playful at first but became a nervous wreck later. She even annoyed Smokey after a while. Bubbles was not a smart dog. Bubbles peed everywhere. If you just looked at Bubbles, pee came out.
SMOKEY (Dog talk translated into people talk): What’s wrong with you?
SMOKEY: Why you gotta pee everywhere?
BUBBLES: I’m nervous.
SMOKEY (After a long stare): You’re an idiot.
Finally, Bubbles went to a family that didn’t seem to mind this trait. We were relieved and Smokey seemed relieved. We replaced Bubbles with a cat we named “Cookie.” What’s sad is that Smokey seemed to like Cookie a whole lot better than Bubbles.
SMOKEY: What’s wrong with you? You don’t smell like a dog…
COOKIE: I’m a cat.
SMOKEY: Oh…shouldn’t I be chasing you then?
SMOKEY: Um…I dunno. Hey! Can I eat some of your food?
Smokey lived a long time, almost sixteen years. I had left to live in Florida for a while and when I returned, Smokey was blind and had to be carried outside to use the bathroom. She could smell me, however, and did her best to show me how much she missed me. I was very surprised to find how much I missed her.
The one thing my parents couldn’t hear was her constant cries of pain. I told my dad about it and he felt horrible. We discussed it and came to the decision that we couldn’t bear the thought of her in so much pain so we would have her put to sleep. I volunteered to take her to the Humane Society and have it done. My parents cried as I left with her.
I got to the place and they had me fill out some paperwork while Smokey sat on my lap. It was when they came to get her that all of it came crashing home for me. The tears started to flow and I held her for the last time. She licked my face as if to tell me it was okay. It wasn’t okay. As they walked away with her, I swear she could suddenly see and looked right at me. Now it really really wasn’t okay. I grew up with this dog. I swear I loved this dog more than my brothers…wait…um, yeah, definitely more than my brothers.
That was nearly forty years ago and I still feel it. I’m crying while writing this. I know we did the right thing, but I still feel horrible. Sometimes I wish dogs could live as long as we do. In a lot of cases, they deserve it more.