So, I am desperately procrastinating from doing more “Library work” for my Master’s research and taking a short break from talking about horses to talking about my dog Vinny. Because he is such a good boy.
He arrived in our lives in January. I wanted a dog because I didn’t want to be alone in our house while Sam worked nights and my roommates moved out (While we live in a nicer part of the city, it’s still close to the university which means drunk dumbass undergrads doing stupid shit. I didn’t need a protector as much as an early warning system). And who was I kidding? I love dogs. I wanted my own.
My first dog was a little black pekingese named Jimmy. He was and will always be my heart dog. We got him when he was 8. My mom surprised me with him when I came home for midterm break my sophomore year. I had begged her to look at him at a local rescue, pleaded with her to foster him. She told me to stop bugging her. I didn’t know she’d already gone and fell in love. They agreed to foster first, but were called within a day to say someone was interested but we had first refusal. My sister cried. My mom knew the dog had to stay (To this day my younger brother says my mom caved to my sister. In reality she caved to Jimmy’s soft, sad eyes). He belonged with us.
Jimmy was independent. He didn’t seek your attention all the time. He didn’t need you to hold or pet him. He tolerated kids. Bossed other dogs around. Tried (And failed) to chase squirrels. Loved to nap on the porch in the sun. Kept his peculiar doggy odor to himself in a little stink bubble. He couldn’t eat another dog food except Iams senior without having explosive diarrhea, but he could down a McDonald’s chicken sandwich without so much as a fart. He loved his family and protected us to the best of his (20 pound) ability.
He died on September 3, 2016 at the age of 16 from heart failure. I can still see the pink fluid in the syringe that ended his suffering. Bubble gum pink. An ugly color. I couldn’t drive past the emergency vet where he was euthanized for months.
His collar sits on a shelf in my room, next to his picture. I still think of him and cry when I read Mary Oliver’s “For I Shall Consider My Dog Percy”
In October I was visiting my mom and looking at photos of dogs on Petfinder because I was so sick of this gaping hole in my life where Jimmy had been. It was too quiet at my mom’s. There was no soft tinkling of his tags as he ambled from room to room. No clickity clack of his nails on the kitchen tile. No soft snorts coming from his bed. And so I looked up pekes for adoption and found Brandon. He looked almost exactly like Jimmy. Except his nose was smaller. Well, the whole rest of him was smaller, and poofier. I showed my mom and called my sister.
They picked him up a couple weeks later.
Brandon is my joy dog. He is always happy. He greets you at the door. He is glued to my mother. He will follow her from room to room, wherever she goes. He hates walks and leaving home (He’s a hobbit). He loves attention but hates to be brushed, even though his coat is often thick and long. He has a snaggle tooth that pops out when he wants a treat. My sister adores him.
But even this addition didn’t fill the void. I love Brandon. I do. But he isn’t my dog. He is my mom’s. My sister’s. My dad’s. I don’t live at home anymore, so I’m not much more than a fun visitor who cuddles and feeds him. I missed having a dog that knew me and sought me out for attention.
I tried to foster a Labrador this winter. I made it a week. The poor dear had terrible separation anxiety, and both Sam and I work. She panicked in a crate and couldn’t be loose in the house alone. We were not a good match. She went back to the shelter and found a family with other dogs within a few days.
I kept searching. My roommate told me to check out a pit bull. She had pits for the majority of her life. She loved them. And I don’t buy into the stereotype of them being dangerous. A dog is as bad as its owner/genetics/health/training. If you don’t care for it, even the nicest dog will go wrong. If you breed poorly you can wind up with all kinds of issues, physically and mentally. So I sought out Recycle-A-Bull.
I initially wasn’t interested in Vinny. I wanted a younger dog. Vinny was 6. I was, and I’m ashamed to admit it, scared of losing another dog like I lost Jimmy. But the younger dog got adopted and they strongly recommended Vinny because he was happy to be by himself or by you. He was friendly. Lived with other dogs and kids.
So he came over to visit. And he stayed.
Vinny is my dog. I don’t know what exactly it is that he will be in my life yet. He is not joyous like Brandon. And I don’t think he is my heart dog either. Rather he’s almost aloof. He is lazy. After five minutes of greeting you he pops off to the couch and goes to sleep. He tolerates other dogs but not on the leash. He is surprisingly well trained (I did take obedience classes with him). He doesn’t seek my affection unless its at night and I’ve let him up in my room while Sam is at work. Then he presses himself to my side. He has mastered the side eye. He is independent. He smells and he leaves his stink on everything he touches. He drools a lot. He farts a lot. His favorite food is salmon. You can’t touch his head when you are directly facing him or he cowers. He’s gotten himself into three fights (Two of which he didn’t start, just an unwilling participant).
He doesn’t lick or jump on anyone. He loves his butt scratches. He has terrible seasonal allergies that make him red, covered in hives and itchy and leave me going insane as I try to find ways to make him comfortable (Zyrtec? Benedryl? Claritin? Fish Oil? Coconut oil? Skin and coat vitamins? Allergy vitamins? Salmon and sweet potato grain free dog food? Tea tree oil spray? Antihistamine cream? Hot spot sprays? Oatmeal baths?). This is unfortunate because he could spend his entire day outside lounging on the grass.
He comforted me when I got the news that my friend Shaun was killed in a car accident.
He is tolerant of children. He has taken to following me from room to room if I’m the only one home; but just far enough away so as not to let on that he cares.
Despite all of this I know I adore this creature (We had a tough night tonight though. He growled and barked at me outside to play, then I had to chase him through the house just to be able to put medicine on the itchiest places. Then he pestered Dante the chinchilla, who’s favorite hobby is harassing dogs. He’s now curled up beside me in bed, snoring). He makes me happy and proud to own him. He makes me laugh, yell, cry, exercise and plan my day accordingly. Sam calls him “Flathead” because the catfish we caught on a fishing adventure in Lancaster reminded him of Vinny.
Whatever dog he will be for me, he will always be a great dog.