Elizabeth Willis Barrett
I do not like dogs. The only thing they have going for them is that they are 50 times better than cats. For some reason the word “cat” puts a shiver down my bones. I don’t know why I wasn’t blessed with an animal loving gene. I think when the lines were queuing in Heaven for various attributes, I stood far too long in the Music lines, constantly looking over at the Photography and Writing and Speaking lines to make sure I could eventually get into them. There was no time to wait in the Animal Loving line before I was whisked to earth and set down in Rexburg, Idaho, during a blinding snow storm.
But Brad loves dogs and has to have one. We’ve been through many as a family: Chisum, Beau, Alamo, Chorizo, Mariah, Ike, Jeremiah, Sammi and Bailey to name a few. We’ve had Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, Mutts, Irish Setters, Samoyeds, Dachshunds, and Brad’s current breed: St. Bernards.
Brad’s favorite dog of all time has the distinction of having his ashes, housed in a beautiful southwestern urn, grace our mantel at the cabin. Brad still sobs as he remembers Bailey and his last day with him. Brad helped Bailey into the back of the Sequoia to take him to his final Vet appointment and together they visited their favorite mountain haunts. I was invited to join them on this journey of nostalgia, but thankfully I was wise enough to know when three’s a crowd. Brad even shared a Navajo Taco with Bailey in the quaint town of McNary. It was to be Bailey’s last meal on this planet. Most likely on any planet. I don’t have a complete handle on what happens to dogs after they die and I’m not sure I believe that movie title of “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”
Bailey, of course, was a St. Bernard–a hairy, slobbery St. Bernard who would sprawl across our kitchen floor since it was way too hot to be outside. Everyone knows that St. Bernards have no business living in the Arizona desert. Bailey developed bone cancer and the inevitable was soon approaching. Brad couldn’t possibly put the dog down himself even though he thought he might try. I’m glad he let the professionals do it because Bailey’s death is already emotional enough for Brad. He doesn’t need the memory of his own hand doing the deed.
Bailey was a nice dog as dogs go. The grandkids loved him and he even put himself between me and a vicious neighbor dog once. But stepping in slobber gets a little annoying and sweeping up dustpans full of hair isn’t a picnic either. And the smell! Every dog I have ever known has DO…dog odor. When the animal is as big as a bear, the smell is magnified considerably. For some reason, Brad’s nose doesn’t register the disgust of DO. Even after a thorough $80 grooming, that dog smell comes through, but Brad thinks it smells wonderful. Hmmmm. Feeding a St. Bernard is a little taxing, too. And tripping over it…well, that gets a little old.
Knowing that Bailey wasn’t long for this world, I put in my sincere recommendation that the next Barrett dog not be a St. Bernard. It was too much to ask that there not be a next Barrett dog at all.
My opinion isn’t taken into account on very many occasions, however, and in a couple of weeks after Bailey’s demise, another huge St. Bernard was lolling across our kitchen floor. This one’s name is Buddy. Not very original, but that’s the name he came with from the St. Bernard rescue team. Buddy, too, is loved by Brad and the grandkids and barely tolerated by me.
I don’t know how a dog of any kind got past the barriers of the outside doors. I must have put down my guard for a moment because my absolute rule of no dogs in the house has been unobserved for a long time now. My next adamant proclamation was, “OK, then. Absolutely no dogs in the living room!” But both Bailey and Buddy have been know to plop their beastly bodies on the living room couches looking as comfortable as basking sunbathers. I feel like I have a cooked lasagne noodle for a backbone.
Today I am reminded of my animosity for dogs because Buddy just ate the cinnamon rolls I had on the counter! When I complained to Brad, Brad said it was my fault. I should never have left them there. Really!
Our marriage of 42 years is founded on profound admiration, love and put-up-with-ness. Brad puts up with my needs and I put up with his. But as I trip over Buddy for the 17th time this afternoon, attempt to brush his prolific hair off my black pants and take a slide in his spit, I would like it to go on record that, although Buddy is the St. Bernard, I am the Saint!