My mastiff lived far longer than his breed is supposed to, but my bull mastiff out lasted him by even yet a few more years. To keep the bullmastiff company, I betook myself to the pound, and asked for the biggest, oldest, black dog they had.
People tend not to adopt big dogs, old dogs, or black dogs, and the selection was daunting. The long term inmates included a lot of grinning Rotties, a few shepherd-cross looking beasties, and one fellow who looked kinda like a Lab-Rottie cross. Amid all the “Pick me!” and “Hey lady, over here!” commotion, that one dog lay quietly watching me was I went from cage to cage.
The quiet dog had dignity, and this is a virtue by my lights. I read his card—he knew some commands, didn’t bark much, and answered to the name of “Sarge.” What’s not to like?
“You,” I said. “You’re coming with me.”
Sarge and Boo Boo got along well enough, though it wasn’t long before Boo Boo followed Fuzzy up to the Cloud Pasture. This left me with a dog, when I’m not a dog person.
If I leave Sarge home in the morning, his expression is sad, a touch reproachful, and resigned. Despite how deeply I disappoint him, when I arrive home hours later, he’s ecstatic to see me. (Boyfriends, husbands, children, take note.)
While it’s nice to come home to a cheerful reception, it’s also nice to have company at the office so Sarge has become an officio member of the bar. I sit at my desk doing lawyer stuff, talking on the phone, reading my files, and yet a little bit of me is also aware that Sarge is peacefully napping a few feet away.
Of course, a dog must have regular outings. When we’re at the office, I will take him boulevardiering at mid-day, even if it’s a court day. Ours is a quaint, old-fashioned section of town. While the block is defined by streets on all four sides, alleys criss-cross behind buildings, and many carriage houses and stables line those alleys.
Sarge inspects every vacant lot on our block, sniffs every little sprig of lambs quarters growing around every telephone pole or lamp post. When we walk past the soup kitchen next door, he must make six new friends among the people waiting in line for their lunch. Without fail, if somebody sees this black mutt on end of my horse lead rope (a nice, lavender colored one), they start smiling.
We also sniff our way past the old folks’ assisted living apartments, and on the benches outside, Sarge finds more friends. He’s an equal opportunity smile-generator, happy to kiss strange old men, delighted with the attentions of the smokers we find on various stoops. Doesn’t matter who you are, if you can pat a dog, Sarge is your buddy.
He asks very little of me, this dog—some puppy chow, the occasional visit to the vet so we comply with the county’s laws about vaccines and licenses. Mostly, Sarge wants to know where I am, and to be with me.
I am not a dog person, but I am a Sarge person. He asks little, gives much, never complains, and sets a good example for me in terms of his unfailing good cheer, and his nonjudgmental view of everybody he meets. If I only say “I love you,” once in the course of my day, I could do far, far worse than to say it to this dark, handsome fellow who has become my domestic companion.
What about you? Has your path ever crossed that of a good example on four legs? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of Richard Armitage reading the Georgette Heyer classic, “A Marriage of Convenience.”