We got Rusty at a soccer game. An odd place to acquire a puppy I know. The genius woman who wanted to get rid of several abandoned puppies knew what she was doing. They were gone in minutes. We were the proud owners of a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix…a chiweenie they call it. At least that is what the woman who rescued the litter thought they were…probably…could be…maybe. The boys had been complaining that it was unfair that Hannah had a dog and that they needed one too. Therefore, we picked out one of the boy puppies and before long he was crowned Rusty…sidekick to Jessie, our Golden Retriever. She took him in as if he was her own puppy. He was tiny (he could stand in one hand) when we got him so he had to be carried up and down stairs and lifted up to anything that was over 6 inches high. The boys were thrilled to help him out and he quickly blended in with our family. It didn’t take long for him to grow enough to make his own way, and the “he should stay about 10 lbs. or so” promise didn’t happen…he ended up at about 20 lbs. But he kept Jessie company during the days when we were all gone for the day and she would play with him as if he were a toy.
We found out pretty quickly that he wasn’t exactly an angel dog like his big sister. In fact he was the opposite. He earned the nickname “Demon Dog.” He could not be trained in any way, shape, or form. He never came when called. He never learned to sit or stay. He thought the place to pee and poop was under the piano in the living room, under the pool table or in Peter’s room. When he was whining at the door to get inside Bill used to say in his most pleading doggie voice, “Let me in! I gotta pee!” When Rusty was in the yard he would bark incessantly…at anything. Deer, opossum, squirrels, a neighbor’s cat, leaves, acorns, his shadow, the moon, the stars. Needless to say our neighbors loved us. We eventually moved him into our bedroom at night so as not to disturb every dog, and therefore every human, in a five mile radius. One added benefit of this change was that our neighbors started speaking to us again.
We couldn’t decide if he was sneaky, stubborn or stupid…he would whine at the door to get in and when you opened the door he would run away from you. He would whine at the door to get out and when you opened the door he would stand and stare at you as if to say ‘Why did you open the door?’ He dug under the fence and raced around the neighborhood and was impossible to catch. You just had to wait for him to get hungry…and whine at the door. When you opened it after one of his escapades, he took off and it started over again. The only way to “capture” him was to leave the door cracked open and hide behind it so you could slam it quickly behind him when he came inside. He would creep in, looking all around as he came, to make sure the coast was clear. The only thing was, you never knew which door to hide behind since we left them all cracked. I swear you could hear him chuckle at us when we missed our opportunity and he was gone again. The telltale clicking of his nails on the kitchen floor became a sign that Rusty was in the house. The sound resembled a tap dancer. At night before bedtime you couldn’t tell he had run for hours in his escape attempt earlier in the day, he would take off around the house and make a loop from dining room to living room and back, at light speed. Jessie would chase him and they would play themselves out in time to crash for the night. They were quite a pair…the angel and the devil.
When Jessie died, Rusty seemed lost. His big sister was gone. We couldn’t allow him to be lonely, so I let the boys talk me into a Husky. (I wanted another Golden.) Bella arrived and Rusty hated her right away. He growled at her and wanted nothing to do with this playful ball of fur. I used to say to him, “You better watch out, one day she will be bigger than you.” I was right, and soon she was “playing” with him…which was more like torture to him. However, in her, he found a fellow escape artist and the two became inseparable and known far and wide for traipsing through flowerbeds, gardens, and treeing the neighborhood cats. They tag teamed going over and under the fence and letting one another out. Bella was high strung and she kept Rusty young. Even when she finally outgrew her “puppy exuberance” she still kept him on his toes, by blocking his way, or cutting him off from going down the stairs. He learned to take a wide berth when making his way around the house or yard. Still, the two of them kind of fit one another like siblings who are rivals and love each other at the same time. Somehow, in the presence of Bella who was chewing up and destroying property, “Demon Dog” transformed to become the “good” dog, and his nickname changed to “Little Man.”
So today, the question is why after 12 years of trouble is my heart crushed that this morning we had to put him down? Why are tears streaming down my face so hard I can hardly breathe? What is it about dogs, even demon dogs, that weave their way into your heart when you are not looking? I think it is their persistence at being themselves, no matter who YOU are. They just are who they are. That is so different from humans that we take notice and we come to depend on that honesty of character. They make us FEEL. And this past week, as we spoon fed him, and carried him outside since he could no longer walk we have FELT compassion, as well as sorrow…because for all of his mischief, and all of his crazy shenanigans, he was a good dog. He loved my kids. He loved me. He loved us all. He was one of us. He brought joy and laughter to our home. Without him there will be a hole in our family, and one lonely Husky.
Someone sent me a picture one time that they said reminded them of Rusty…it was probably a neighbor. 🙂 It was a dog, running across a field with a smile on his face and his tongue hanging out. (The only thing missing from the picture is the exhausted family in the background doubled over breathing heavily from chasing the dog.) Across the picture it said, “Live…like someone left the gate open.” I keep in beside my desk at work and I love that picture because it is a doggie version of my life motto…live fully. Live like the gate is open. A message about freedom we could all learn from….and it is taught to us by the dogs.
We said goodbye to Rusty today and let him go. I picture him running around in circles, jumping and leaping through the tall grass with his tongue hanging out and Jessie at his side again, because today…we opened the gate for him so he could run through. Good bye, Little Man…I will miss you more than I ever thought possible. Xoxoxox