Outside, mostly schnauzer; inside, mostly love.
And gross guts and stuff.
The moment I stepped out of our house to leave for college, my entire family heaved a huge sigh of relief. Finally, the Allergy Queen was gone, and they could get a dog!
Some of his Josh’s long gray hair hung over his eyes, which helped him a lot when he was leaning his nose on your knee and guilting you: “But I’m so cute! How can you not want to play with me?”.
Joshua did not like dog food. He did not even like meat all that much. His favorite food was spaghetti. He was in doggie heaven when he could get this treat, and would look up at you with a big doggie smile, long sauce-y strands dripping from his mouth.
Everyone loves their dog, and everyone thinks their dog is special. Well, does your dog do this?:
When he couldn’t get spaghetti, Josh lived on cat food. The two dry food bowls sat side by side in the kitchen, one with dog and one with cat food.
Joshua would walk into the kitchen and ever-so-delicately pick up one tiny piece of cat chow between the tips of his front teeth, pad quietly with it out into the dining room, and gently place it down on the dining room carpet. He’d examine it carefully, at last eat it with great crunching gusto, and then go back for another piece.
One by one, he’d work his way down the cat’s food bowl, making trip after trip from kitchen to dining room and back, carefully carrying his precious cargo, one crisp morsel at a time.
Of course, this would drive the cat absolutely crazy. Which perhaps was the whole point.
The cat survived by eating dog food. (Oh, hush, now. Both cat and Joshua lived long.)
My brother and Joshua had a very special relationship. Paul used to grab Joshua’s wet doggie nose, put his own lips over it, and blow hard. The air would shoot out of Josh’s mouth, making him go “Huhmmpff!”. He’d pull free, stepping backwards and shaking his head quickly. Then, he’d step up again and poke his nose at Paul, ready for more.
It was their love dance.
One day, I met Josh’s future best friend. I was walking near my friend Maria‘s house when a little white blur came racing out the screen door of a neighboring house. I had been carrying a tapestry shoulder bag. Hanging from it now was a tiny white bulldog. I had never had a dog hanging from my purse before. I lifted the bag up to my eye level, and the little white puppy came right along with it.
I walked up to the screen door and knocked on the wall next to it. When one of the family answered, I held up their tiny pet, still glommed on to my purse.
“I believe this is yours.”
“Oh, thank you! That’s useless!”
All became clear after I learned that Useless was the little dog’s name–after his formal name, “Ulysses”.
Useless grew into a waddling, drooling bulldog, with short bowed little legs. Like my sister Meg’s hamster, Wilbur, Useless had a knack for escaping. His family always knew where he could be found.
Our family would be sitting down to dinner, or sleeping in on a Saturday morning, when there would come a scratch-scratch-scratch at the front door. We’d go down and open it, to find Useless sitting there somewhat impatiently, saying silently, but perfectly clearly, in his doggy way:
“Can Joshua come out to play?”
Joshua was born to be an outdoor dog. He’d joyfully lope through heavy underbrush as smoothly as if he were on a putting green. However, when my siblings first picked him out at the pound, Josh was still a tiny puppy.
That first week, my dad and Paul took him up to the woods. It was winter, with snow deeper than a puppy’s legs. And on one of his first runs, Josh chose a pond that hadn’t yet fully set. Crack! He fell through the ice into the dark water underneath, and couldn’t scramble out.
If you grow up ice skating on ponds, you learn what to do if someone falls through ice, and you know you have to do it fast. Before my dad could stop him, Paul had spread-eagled himself to distribute his weight, and carefully ooched his way forward on the crackling surface beneath him until he could grab the collar of the poor little ice-puppy.
My brother risked his life to save Joshua.
People who’ve never had a dog might not understand that.
Thank you, Paul, for saving that dog we all loved, who loved us all back.
POOR LITTLE ME ADDENDUM
Before the first break of my first college year, when my mom told me by phone that the family had gotten a dog, I felt…unwanted, unwelcome, left out, and hated by my siblings and parents–all things which were true. But more importantly, there was a practical matter:
Me: Can you have one room professionally cleaned and then keep the new dog out so that I won’t get sick when I come home? (Back then, I got asthma very quickly from exposure to dogs or their environs [living spaces].)
Mom: No I’m not closing off any rooms from that dog! He’s more a part of this family than you ever were!
So when I came to town at Thanksgiving, I stayed at a friend’s house instead. My mom got furious at me for not staying at “home”.
(Where was my good guy dad during these exchanges? Endorsing these actions of my mom’s–I explicitly appealed to him also about the dog-free room issue.)
DON’T FEEL TOO BAD ADDENDUM
When I met Josh, I fell in love with him, of course, and he with me. I became glad the family had gotten a dog, even though it meant I had to stay away or outside most of the hours I visited. When home, I would pet and play with Josh until I had to go use my inhaler and change my clothes and wash.
Because who can resist the schnauzer-ish breed?