There is no major dog character in my novel but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one in my life. One particular dog has a special place in my heart, partly because of my father. My dad had congestive heart failure for years. The drugs that kept him alive also had serious side effects and gradually his quality of life diminished. I don’t believe my mother especially wanted another soul to care for but my father was an ardent dog lover and she knew how good it would be for him to have a dog in the house again.
Dexter’s breeder knocked a bunch off the price because he was the last of the litter. Most Havanese weigh between 10-16 lbs. Dex weighs in at 22. He’s a big, muscular rogue of a dog. (Havanese Giganticus). My parents always said they got two dogs for the price of one.
Always he has been supremely confident. His motto is: I’m Dexter and you’re not. When other dogs are caught opening the treat container and scoffing down all the liver treats and are told they are naughty dogs, they might hang their heads, put their tails between their legs and do a little cowering. Never Dexter. He just looks at you like you’re crazy. Much like humans, he’s most concerned with what’s in it for him. When I continued my intermittent sobbing in an arm chair after my father’s passing, he was not in my lap licking my face in consolation. Instead he was staring at my mother, willing her to give him a piece of her BLT. We find his transparent self-interest endearing. He’s just as self-serving as the rest of us but doesn’t bother to hide it.
My father adored Dexter. Over the years I ended up buying three remote control helicopters of varying sizes for Dad to use with him. Oh what barking, running, leaping and hopping took place as Dex attempted to spot or nail the little person who, he was convinced, flew those copters. Sadly, my mother and I are not as adept with the toys and they tend to sit on the shelf now.
My parents’ house has a loft-like area and from the ground floor, Dad could toss Dexter’s favorite toy, the fishy, up there saying, “Are you ready? Are you ready now?” Dex would look at him like, “Oh shit. Are you really going to make me go up there for that again?” Nevertheless he would scamper up and return triumphant, fishy in mouth. His routine was to trot through the kitchen on the way back and Dad would hide next to the refrigerator, springing out and surprising him with a sound best described as a warbling/trilling noise like a demented kazoo. This would spur Dex to run all the faster as if his life was on the line. Sometimes though, he was on to Dad and would bypass him and then stand there staring, waiting for Dad to realize he’d been outfoxed.
Other times Dad would lift Dex up onto his shoulder so he could look out the patio window and have a different perspective. My parents’ living room looks out onto a golf course and pedestrian path which it is Dexter’s mission in life to patrol. Sometimes he looks like he’s waiting for the wildebeests or gazelles to sweep past but he has to make do with an elderly lady and her pug. Menaces that they are, he gives them what for, much to our embarrassment. We’ve never succeeded in teaching him not to bark at passers-by. As far as he’s concerned, he’s just doing his job. Sometimes though, when he was really over the top, my father had him go in the garage for a few minutes. The last time he threatened this, Dexter promptly trotted over to the garage door and looked up at him expectantly. Punishment? Not so much.
After my father died, we took Dexter to the funeral home to see and smell his body so that he could understand why he would never see him again. Dad’s death was a gigantic loss for all of us, but Dexter’s personality distracted us somewhat from the grief, just as the presence of small children can distract from the death of a spouse. Technically my mother now lives alone, but “alone” is not accurate with Dexter as a housemate. That comes with certain beneficial obligations such as walking him and taking him to the dog park, resulting in contact with neighbors and fellow dog lovers. Feeding Dexter, combing out his tail under his baleful gaze, administering flea treatment, brushing his teeth – it all transcends the urge to stay in bed for the day or give in to depression. We’re so glad that Dexter and my Mom have each other.