A couple years ago, my little dog died. Today I can celebrate his 14 years of life. A dog’s life is always too short.
Shadow was a baby doll or teddy bear Pom – carefully bred for a short nose, a high forehead, and an all around cute face. Not my choice, but I had no problems confusing him with my first Pom. Brandy had been a partner. Shadow was a pet. He began earning his kibbles with my mother-in-law. He didn’t care if she called him by the wrong name, or even if she called him cat. As he saw his first job, it was to spread joy in an Alzheimer’s unit. He tackled it with enthusiasm.
He was, by choice, a South Dakotan. Our 3 acres, with a shelterbelt and pond, was the right size ranch for a 6 pound Pomeranian. Fortunately, he grew up without the presence of border collies, so he developed an unorthodox and safe style of encouraging invading cattle to depart. There was the absolute joy of intimidating herons that would try harvest fish in his pond. He was convinced that rabbits were evil and filled with bad – he had chased one under the Quonset, only to have snow slide from the roof, trapping him. Another time, he saw a rabbit hopping toward him, and set up an ambush – only to learn that it was a jackrabbit, and larger than he. He was a South Dakotan. Montana was too big – he tried, but the pond and the field were just too large.
As an old dog, he would accompany me through Home Depot, where young women working there would recognize him and call him by name. He had always had a soft spot for girls – he assumed that all of my daughter’s friends came to visit him. I suppose to a certain extent he was right. The ladies adored him. As he aged and couldn’t walk, he could still work from the pickup, on the seat, wrapped in my jacket, with the radio tuned to Rush Limbaugh. I’d be outside, fencing, cutting wood, or just about any job I could park a pickup alongside. When Hannity came on to his channel, he would bark to have the radio turned off, and return to the house.
Probably his greatest service was recognizing that Samantha had became face-blind after the truck hit her. He appointed himself as her service dog, taking a station to her side if she was meeting someone he knew, and interposing his body between his girl and any stranger. His failing vision took that duty from him, but he led us into understanding that a Pomeranian can identify enough people and objects to be a service dog for the face-blind. He hated his replacement, she had taken his job and his girl. I suppose that, in reality, I was his second friend, the one who would take him for rides, walks and eventually just carry him as I walked.