Young Dog, Good Dog, Old Dog

I married my husband later in life when children had already come and gone. It must explain why we have adopted so many dogs.

I’m aware of the stages of a dog’s life from puppy to senior, and that each dog moves through each stage at their own pace. But maybe it’s possible that all these life stages could be narrowed down to just three. A young dog becomes a good dog (usually), and a good dog unfortunately becomes an old dog as time goes along.

We’ve had one dog in each of these stages for the past 2-1/2 years. Bentley is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and our youngest dog. Mr. Boggs is a Great Pyrenees/Mastiff mix and Dudley, a Standard Poodle, is the oldest.

Bentley joined our family with the sole purpose of promoting recovery after the loss of our last oldest dog. It’s as if he understood and accepted this job immediately. He still plays with toys, chews sticks on our best rug, attacks my feet when I walk around the house in socks, and dusting the furniture invokes the very worst of his wrath for whatever reason.

He is the definition of dramatic, which means I can’t help but smile whenever I look into his little face. And he instantly found a friend in our next oldest dog, despite their obvious differences.

Mr. Boggs left his adorable puppy phase to become this oversized teddy bear. True to his breed(s), he’s territorial, protective, fearless, patient, loyal, and stubborn. He’s also a really good dog.

Dudley is one of the most stunning of all dogs, and at 16 years old he’s our oldest dog. This perfectly coiffed exterior, however, belies his inner strength and resolve. He’s fought a bear, a Great Dane, killed countless rodents, and spent days at a time roaming the mountains where we live. I wouldn’t say he’s ever lost a fight, but he has come home slightly ruffled from time to time. Nothing has ever intimidated him.

He went to guard dog school for six months when my husband decided he should stand guard over the back door of my store. He was just six months old at the time. The trainer assured us it wouldn’t change his personality, but warned it could make him more intense. That was true, and it also meant he grew up fast.

We learned to talk to him in German, and he went to work with me for the first few years of his life. Then he retired to the life he loved most.

Sometimes I’d sleep on the sofa waiting for him to come home from his latest adventure – like a wayward teenager. In the wee hours of the morning I’d find him waiting patiently on the porch exhausted, thirsty, and sometimes wounded. He could ruin a $100 haircut in a few short hours, and he did so often.

He was my running partner when I trained for my first marathon, and my hiking partner in his later years. All he ever wanted was to be outside. I could relate. We were kindred souls.

Dudley went to heaven a few weeks ago. His body had traveled as far as this earth would allow him to go. You’d think losing a four-legged child would get easier after all this time, but it never has.

Whether it was the training or how he was born, Dudley was certainly intense – I couldn’t imagine him any other way. He was aloof, but not unloveable. He was passionate about being on the hunt – his sport, and nothing distracted him from doing what he loved. There was much to learn from this child. I think he would tell us to always be brave, follow your heart, and don’t back down.

There was a sign in the room at the Vet’s office: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” It takes some time to get past the don’t cry part. Dudley’s hips got weak and he started losing his balance. This past year he couldn’t stand up long enough to be groomed and he started looking scraggly. Getting old is not always pretty, but he was the same wonderful guy we loved and I’m so glad he happened into our life.