I’ve been thinking seriously about getting a dog. Since I’d be the primary caretaker of the dog, I get to pick the breed, and I just long for the dogs that speak to my heart, improbably enough: a Shetland Sheepdog.
In 1990, my step-dog, a mixed breed pit bull named Leo, died after a long, happy and adventurous life. It seemed to me then that I had about six months to get the dog that I really wanted, and do something I’d longed to do for years: show a dog in conformation or obedience, under AKC rules. I went to many dog shows that fall and winter, watching the classes, checking out dogs that appealed to me, and the dogs that won my heart were the Shelties. I bought books, pamphlets, books, combs, brushes, dishes, books, crates, leashes, collars, more books, pedigree lists and software – I was all in.
I bought the first Sheltie puppy I ever saw. It doesn’t work out that way generally, but a local breeder had a new litter and she was considering placing one of the male puppies with a co-ownership contract to someone nearby. So I was a Sheltie owner. His call name was Duncan. I adored him.
Seriously, I just loved that dog completely. My kids thought I’d lost my mind; they called him their brother, not a dog. I took him to training classes, which were much too rough for him – he upchucked on the way home after every class. We regrouped. I tried clicker training, book open in my left hand, clicker in my right. He loved it, and so I loved it, and we had a lot of fun together with that. He never was really precise in his obedience work, because precision didn’t matter to me – I was so thrilled he was doing it at all, and happily, that I didn’t have to heart to insist that his front paw be even with the seam on my jeans, or whatever the rules were then. People suggested an electric collar to train the long down; I nodded politely and whispered to Duncan that we would never, never, ever do that, and we never, ever did.
I still miss him. I still need that nose nudging me aside to see whatever I was doing. I even miss the endless, incessant barking – well, he had opinions. He wasn’t very snuggly – he slept in his crate, by choice, and when I would snore, he would walk up my body and stare into my face, so I would wake with a start to find two brown eyes looking into mine: “You OK in there?” He was a joy every day of his life.
I want me some more of that.
We need to fence a part of the yard before we get another dog, and that project is delayed since Hurricane Irma repairs take precedent, as they should. But the decision is made: a Sheltie is coming into our lives. The very thought, the act of making the decision, makes me feel better: younger, more hopeful, more relaxed, less grim and worried. I feel more competent, less helpless. The very idea makes me happy.
Well, of course it does. So I’m dog dreaming, now. It’s a nice feeling. It’ll happen. Not today, but it will. I’ll be so, so happy when it does.