In 2003 I was visiting my friend Susan, not just because I love her like a sister, but because she had puppies and I am a sucker for puppy breath.
She had a miniature long haired dachshund named Dolly and her pups were adorable.
The oldest one was named Sam by my honorary niece Mandy and this particular June day, he was the only puppy left. Mandy loved Sam but knew someone would buy him and take him away.
What do you say to a lovely niece who sits in your lap and begs you to take that puppy so she could still see him when I came to visit?
He came home with me.
I presented him to my husband as an early Father’s Day gift.
We renamed him Woody and even though he was given to my husband, he is my — well dog just doesn’t do it.
He doesn’t have the training to be a therapy dog, but perhaps because he grew up with Echo, a Sheltie who became his mama, Andrew, a greyhound who taught him how to be as regal as a dog with stubby legs can be and also to become fluent in hound language, he has become a companion who knows my moods and responds to them.
Right now he is asking me to play ball with him. He has a massive collection of tennis balls that vanish on a regular basis so he can get another one.
We cleaned 10 tennis balls out from under our bed recently.
He was unrepentant, which was hilarious.
Also, balls that size are easy for me to pick up and throw or roll or whatever he wants.
He makes me laugh. I can be wracked with pain and he will roll over on his back with his head close to my hand and give me “dachshund eyes” which beseech me to pat the soft fur that coats his underside.
I’m told when I leave he howls. He is so excited to see me when I get home I just cannot feel bad.
On good days, I’ll go into the backyard and use a plastic “flinger” to throw the ball across the yard. He goes tearing after it.
He’ll bring it back. Rearing back his head he flings the ball at my feet with perfect authority. Before I can get it he grabs in again and repeats the process. The whole time he is talking to me. Eventually he will let me have the ball so I can throw it again.
When I am lying in bed, miserable, he will ask to be picked up and he cuddles up to me like he knows I just need a visitor who has silky long ears that I love to stroke.
The best thing? He smiles. He will lock eyes with me, open his mouth and give me a big doggy smile, secure in the fact he is loved.
As many dachshunds do, he has back trouble if he plays too hard. He’s 12 and now has a standing prescription for a drug that is anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever. When big fronts come through, when I start to feel bad we give Woody a pill too.
Woody doesn’t care how I look. I can still be in my pajamas at 3 p.m. and he’s fine with that. When I cry, he licks my tears away. He curls up next to me not because he has to, but because he wants to be there.
He is an entertainer. His silly antics with balls and squeaky bones will make me laugh, no matter what else is going on in my wreck of a body. I can always play hide the ball in the blanket.
Woody does have backup. In the 12 years we’ve had him we’ve lost some pets and gained a few. I always have a dog or two in my life, but Woody is a once-in-a-lifetime dog.
Just before we got Woody we went to a cat show and came home with a black Maine Coon, Russian Blue mix kitten. We named him Kneadle. For years we had cats name Stitch, Kneadle and Bobbin.
Kneadle is “my” cat as much as a cat will belong to anyone. He has a sweet kittenish face and long black hair except for a patch of white fur on his tummy we call his stuffing. He enjoys sleeping on me. If I have a warning, I grab a blanket or comforter to put between me and my cat. Before he settles down, he kneads me. He has no real idea how much it hurts — not just because of the claws, but because the Fibro makes it hideously painful. When he is satisfied, he lies down.
As he has aged, he has developed a sheen of silver fur. He has no idea how striking he is, he just waits for his opportunity to use me as his bed.
Last year we got a dachshund/Pomeranian mix puppy so my husband could finally have his very own dog. We named him Minko, a Chickasaw word for chief.
He and Woody are the best of friends. Woody has passed on his knowledge of houndspeak and when I leave now the howling is epic, as is the squeaking Minko can do when I get home.
When my husband isn’t looking, Minko sneaks in and hangs out with Woody and me.
The whole time I was writing this, Woody and I have been playing ball. I’m sitting on my bed and Woody is up here with me. There are times I stop writing altogether and sit here petting my dog and then remember I have some work to do.
Having Woody around does make it easier and a lot more fun.