Gerald Doane: Best friends
Her hair, burnt orange and shaggy around her head and tail, is close cropped on the remainder. The tail, which is in constant motion, sways back and forth or rotates like a propeller. The nose, mottled reddish and brown, sits at the tip of a face that would melt the icecaps in Greenland, especially when she wants something, like a nip of bacon.
She looks like a miniature lion exploring our backyard, looking for her friends, the grey squirrel who resides in our oak trees, and the yearling deer who stare at her through the black chain link fence that separates our yard from our neighbor’s.
Her name is Fuzzy. Mary and I are her subjects, even though we may act like she is our child and we, her parents. Fuzzy loves the bacon treat we bring home after Sunday brunch at the Humpty Dumpty Kitchen, our favorite place for a weekly gorge. But she has other favorite things, like ear scratches, tummy rubs, grooming sessions with her favorite brush, walks with mom and dad, sofa snuggles, camping trips, and visitors, especially her four grandkids. She simply goes crazy for her grandkids. They are about her size you know, so she thinks, “I am like them.”
Fuzzy also likes to help around the house. She folds laundry with mom, focusing on a pair of dad’s white socks, at least for a few moments until she loses focus and looks for another chore, like nipping at the dust mop dad uses to clean floors or make trips to the “post box” with mom to see if there is mail.
Mary and I have a history of best friends. Fuzzy’s predecessor was Tchai, a Lab, whose ashes rest on a shelf next to our first Lab, Samantha. Our kids loved Sam. The eldest child retrieved Sam from the breeder and brought her home to the screams of his sisters. “She’s so cute,” they would screech.
The kids sprouted and grew up with Sam until they left home to pursue their own self-interests. Sam remained with us while we ventured into Oregon territory on a 17-year excursion of our own making. She lived until her 15th year. It was one of the most difficult things I ever did, taking Sam on her last trip to the vet.
Along came Tchai to soothe our loss of Sam. Tchai was a rescue, having been mistreated by her first providers. She tried to run away when we brought her home from the rescue place. She had me running after her on the country road in front of our small farm yelling, “Tchai, stop!” She finally quit and sat in the middle of the road, convinced, I guess, that I wanted her home with us and that I wouldn’t mistreat her. She never left our side thereafter.
Tchai remained with us after Mary and I retired, sold our small farm, and moved to a tiny Oregon community near Crescent Lake. This was god’s country on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, the “dry” side of the range. Hardly dry, it was a paradise. We would walk with Tchai every day, snow, rain or heat, winding our way up the paths that reached the summit of our community, then back down to our one-acre plot to rest. Later we would go to one of the lakes to fish, boat lounge,or play on the beach.
Family beckoned us back to California after 17 long years. The trips back and forth were just too long and tiresome. We were now grandparents and our Oregon adventures were coming to an end. We searched for a place near grandchildren and eventually left “god’s country” and settled for “gold country.”
After Tchai passed away unexpectedly, I was reluctant to get another, both of us in our 70s and experiencing the tribulations of age. We had just lost our best friend and I refused to make another last trip to the vet ever again. But Mary wisely prevailed, telling me that we needed another best friend to give us purpose, routine, and most important, shared love.
So along came Fuzzy, recent from her mother’s womb to our home. Half Lab, half Standard Poodle and the runt of the litter, she is the apple of our eye, saving us from the slings and arrows of old age and most importantly, allowing us to love a best friend.
Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.
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