I don’t know what happened to the little dog before she sashayed across Sixth Street at Beckley in Dallas 12 years ago. There, in that intersection, is where we met. I know she didn’t have a collar or any sign that she belonged to anybody. I learned later that she was a chewer, like many young dogs; consequently, I have assumed that somebody tethered her outside somewhere in the Western Oak Cliff section of town. If they did, she would certainly have chewed her way to freedom.
I also learned, later on, that she was about six months old and that she had worms. I learned that she was at least part Cocker Spaniel, but that her peculiar “underbite” (her lower teeth projected past her upper teeth—making her just as ugly as she was cute when you didn’t notice her underbite) made her no good for breeding. This “no good for breeding” argument was used by the vet to convince me to have her spayed.
Noting that the dog could really be ugly at some angles, I wanted to name her “Golem.” But Elaine wouldn’t hear of it.
Within a couple of weeks, the little dog we named “Precious” had eaten Elaine’s glasses and ripped the wiring from the back of her computer. Damages in the hundreds of dollars. That wasn’t nearly the most expensive bad habit she had. She also killed our other dog.
Or at least, that was my version of what happened, although Elaine always gave Precious the benefit of the doubt. When the little dog came into our lives, we already had a handsome German Shepherd. He was an extremely good dog, even in his old age. He was tolerant of the new puppy who jumped around on him and constantly invited him to play. Old Buck’s heart gave out a few days after Precious appeared, and I always blamed her, but it was just to tease Elaine.
Rambunctious is an insufficient word for Precious. In those days, our furniture was just what we could afford and mostly from the Salvation Army. Precious could start in the dining room with one big jump, then she would hit the Elaine’s chair, then mine, and then spring, one jump each, onto the couch. Then she’d gambol her way back to the dining room and start again. Like children, she was fun to watch but hard on the furniture.
Precious would eat anything. I started telling people, when they asked about her pedigree, that she was part Cocker Spaniel and part goat. The pest control people had assured us that no pets had ever been known to eat their rat poison since time began. But Precious got right into it as soon as she found some.
There went $1,500 for a complete blood transfusion and a couple of weeks of rehabilitation at the vets. I made a video when we visited her, “The little dog will live.” I’m sure I put it on YouTube, but now I can’t find it. Precious went on during her long career of costing us more and more until she became, today, probably the most expensive pet that ever lived!
To think, on that first day together, I considered her a free dog!
Getting back to the first day and the street corner where we met, I was just starting my long walk around Lake Cliff Park. I didn’t touch the little dog, but I talked to her, and she followed. Well, she didn’t exactly follow, she was usually ahead of me, but she kept looking back and she stayed near me while I went twice around the 1-mile course and then home. When we got home, I asked Elaine if we could keep her and she said yes. Then I touched the little fuzzy dog for the first time. Before that, I didn’t know she was a female.
As I said, Precious was horribly ugly when one looked directly into her teeth. But from the side, she seemed to have a perpetual smile, almost an audible laugh. Her little stub was always wagging. Elaine and I habitually gave her anything we imagined she might want. When one of us would look askance, the other would give the universal explanation for giving in to the little dog, “She gave me puppy eyes.”
We developed a lot of running jokes about our our little dog. Nothing malicious. For example, we used to say that we were very disappointed that she hadn’t learned to read. Elaine tried to get her to count about two (the number of plates she cleaned after mealtimes), but it was no go.
After 2014, when I had my heart attack, I told Precious that she should have her medical license revoked. We had always heard that people who had dogs had less chance of heart attack. So I pretended to blame Precious for mine. Elaine said that Precious was still batting .500, because only one of us had a heart attack under the dog’s watch.
I always tease Elaine about being too soft on the dog. She says I’m worse.
Not that Precious didn’t have any bad personality flaws. She is intolerant of other dogs, but she never gives them any indication until they get really close. She doesn’t growl at them or posture the way other dogs do. She ignores other dogs until they are close enough for her to bite.
Her other really serious characteristic is intense hatred for the U.S. Post Office. No mailman is safe from Precious if she can get at them. We often worried about getting smacked with a major lawsuit, but mostly we were able to keep her away from them. To her credit, though, we can state today that no mailman has ever successfully smashed their way into our house nor molested either Elaine or me. Not one in 12 years.
Even today, she barks hysterically whenever she thinks the mail might be coming. As she has lost her hearing, she doesn’t really know when they come, but her imagination is working fine.
Precious went everywhere with me unless it was too hot for her to be in the car. That is, she went everywhere with me until about a year ago. That’s when Precious seemed to give up on exercise. She didn’t want to leave the house. She slept almost all the time. About two weeks ago, she even curbed her voracious appetite. The vet (for $641) said she had congestive heart failure and sold us some pills.
She perked up some and even went, once, on a short walk with us. Then about a week ago, Precious started to fall down. She would have spasms on the floor and would be unable to rise. She would just lie there and look directly at us with her big brown Cocker Spaniel eyes. Eventually, she’d get up and act as if nothing had happened. But sooner or later, she’d fall again. The vet calls it “syncope” or something like that. It means that she passes out. She is in the “intermediate” stages of heart failure.
She also started peeing in the house. To be fair, some of her heart medicine is diuretic. It’s the first time in 12 years. My office chair is sitting on a wet floor even as I write this. Fortunately, my sense of smell isn’t any better than my dog’s.
Day after tomorrow, I have been asked to accompany Precious and Elaine to the vet. Elaine says we have to make some decisions. The vet, I’m sure, will (for a price) give us some kind of formulaic outline for whether Precious should live or die. Or the vet will give us some kind of timetable as to when we have to make a decision.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast it and another short audio on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site