I’m asking my family to share a pet story from their own lives. You heard from John in the last blog, this one is from Ann. Enjoy!
Our dog Keenan is old. We don’t know how old he is, because he’s a rescue dog. We also don’t know what breed he is. I call him the Big Black Mutt, among other things. Most people think he’s part Akita and part Chow. He weighs about 50 pounds. I tell people he’s part cow, because his paws are white with black spots. Keenan is maybe 90% deaf. He doesn’t hear the door bell anymore. He used to hear everything with razor sharp acuity.
Keenan and I are soul mates. We've been soul mates almost the entire time we've known each other. The first few days after we brought him home were rough - this was maybe 10 years ago. He had been passed around in his youth for reasons we don't know. In his last home, he had bonded with another dog, and we took him away from that. When we got him, his heart seemed broken and we couldn't fix it. He literally didn't eat the first week we had him. We worried and felt terrible for him. Also, I wondered how I could possibly bond with this creature. Finally, he ate. (I remember the moment vividly. A neighbor kid offered him a few pellets of dry dog food, and he sniffed them and ate them. We cheered quietly, we were so relieved.) We fell in love with him, he fell in love with us and Keenan became our pack mate.
A few days ago, Keenan and I had a serious, heart-to-heart conversation. We had just finished Round Three of a hysterical wrestling match. We wrestle almost every night after I get home from work. It’s a bonding thing between us. He lets me know when he’s ready to wrestle by dancing around, dipping and growling.
Our wrestling has gone on for many years. It’s wonderful. Our wrestling matches turned stinking funny recently because I pulled a new move on Keenan. (I have to get kind of technical to explain this, please hang in there.).
Typically when I wrestle with Keenan, we bob and weave and whatnot. I’m down on all fours, trying to make things even between us. (Sometimes when we’re wrestling, I get up off my knees, I stand up and beat my chest, and I make Tarzan noises. Keenan looks up at me like, Really?)
Anyway, he often slams his hind quarters into my face when we wrestle. This is his Signature Move. He acts very stuck up when he does this. He faces away from me, he pushes his back thigh/butt region towards my face, it’s like he’s laughing and saying to me, “Take THAT!" It is just precious.
So I decided to turn the tables on Keenan recently, and I’ve been slamming MY behind into HIS head. Not rudely or violently. Just in the same uppity way he slams his behind into my face. His reaction was so hilarious the first time I did this! He was kind of confused. He also looked at me with a new found respect (I think because I mixed it up and made him think).
I love wrestling with Keenan. My sister Karen says I am “speaking his love language” when I wrestle with him. He’s speaking my love language, too.
Keenan’s alpha is my husband Brett, who feeds him, loves him as much as I do, and is generally at home more than me. Keenan misses his other pack mate, Rachel. He sleeps in her bed sometimes. She’s away at college. Keenan really loves his pack mate, Noah, who recently graduated from high school. Noah is a wonderful 18 year old who sometimes has leftover Chick Fil-a sandwiches in his bedroom. Keenan might rather find leftover Chick Fil-a in Noah’s room than wrestle with me. Our other pack mate is Sam, Rachel’s twin brother. They’re 21 and finishing their junior years in college. Sam and Keenan are chill. Keenan is a beloved pack mate of ours.
Anyway, Keenan and I finished wrestling, and we ended up snuggling. Our wrestling matches often end this way, with us laying down next to each other. I looked into Keenan’s eyes and he looked into mine. He’s good with eye contact. I took the opportunity to tell my beloved dog three things:
1. When you are tired and done and ready to die and it’s not working naturally, tell me.
2. I will prioritize your needs and desires above my own sadness.
3. You are so fortunate that a wonderful expert in our family who loves you too.
He looked away once when I was saying this to him. I took his face into my hands and made him look back at me. I needed him to hear me. He did. He listened. He looked and listened. He licked my face. We finished talking. I scratched him really, really good. Eventually he got up and left. We have an understanding.