Butterscotch Ridge

The mildly to altogether embellished adventures of a standard American


I have had the privilege of prevailing over the
lives of several dogs in my lifetime. These were relationships I
sought-out, and they never ended up being the panacea I had longed
for them to be. They were failed attempts at bonding man and k-9
and were hardly ever the fault of the dogs. Fact is, I suck at it.
I think dogs sense this incompatibility in me long before
I realize it myself. In fact, I’m quite certain that if the roles
were reversed and it was them that did the choosing of us, I would
be the poor mongrel human left sitting in the shelter until I
finally had to be put down. But a few of them have given me a try
because they had no choice, and each relationship has ended in
heartache. There was my very first pup, Sandy who came to me
in 1970, on the Christmas of my fourth year of life. It was a
magical time for me, but my little floppy-eared Sandy had all of
the intelligence of a fruit chew, and on day 3 of our relationship
dashed from our back door never to be seen again. Then, while
courting my wife, we thought it would be a good idea to get a
husky puppy. It was just the kind of financial and emotional strain
a young, naive couple needed. That one lasted 10 days, and before I
was able to commit her name to memory, we had to return her.
Paisley was a better dog experience. She came to us later in our
marriage and, unfortunately for her, just before the baby factory
kicked into production. As anyone who has done time parenting will
tell you, to do it right, kids require things like patience,
affection and the occasional walk. That meant Paisley got less of
all those. But she stuck it out for many years until, eventually,
her health began to deteriorate. Fortunately for her, my
brother-in-law and sister-in-law stepped in at that time and became
a nice retirement home for her. They more than made up for the lack
of loving she got from us. The main subject of this writing,
however, is my second childhood dog experience. Several years after
my first dog Sandy bolted for safety, my parents had sympathy on me
and blessed me with a second beagle, who I promptly named Sandy.
Sandy 2 was a much more patient animal than Sandy 1, and she stuck
around for many years. She was a good and loyal pup, and she had
that beagle mothering demeanor. Sandy would follow me to friend’s
houses and, when I was safely delivered, would go back home on her
own. I can appreciate now what a good dog she was, but as a boy,
her loyalty was taken a little for granted. As a little boy, I had
things to do, like kick-the-can, dirt biking, chasing
cootie-covered girls, and playing on 300 foot high
train trestles. Sandy 2 got the short end of things and was
relegated to either hanging out at home, or overseeing my antics as
a bystander. This is a thing most dogs are happy to do, especially
beagles. But it’s boring work for an aging dog, and in her later
years Sandy began to tire of my shenanigans and spent more and more
time loitering around the house. That is when she met our neighbor,
Mrs. Lawson. Mrs. Lawson was an elderly woman who lived two doors
down and she was a little bored with life herself. She would
fritter about in her yard occasionally, but that was about as much
as we saw of her. One day, as Mrs. Lawson was trimming
some vegetation Sandy must have wandered by and the two spent
some time being old and unappreciated together. That was when the
critical juncture was reached and a treat exchange was made. After
that Sandy became a regular, and Mrs. Lawson stocked her cabinet
with Milkbones. Before I knew what was happening, Mrs. Lawson,
Sandy and my mom had a meeting, and my dog, who once would have
died to protect me, moved out. I didn’t even know dogs were allowed
to do such a thing. It set me to wondering how the whole world
worked. People become friends and then, sometimes, switch to
enemies. They get married and divorced. Thats human relationships,
but dogs? Dogs are possessions, are they not? Should they really
get to chose to break a relationship? I mean, if a dog decides its
had enough of a human, wouldn’t running away be the noble thing to
do? This dog cheated on me, and then, right in front of my face,
moved out! Don’t pretend you can sympathize with the feeling a kid
has when his dog chooses to move out, because you can’t. It was the
ultimate betrayal. I’m here to tell you, I’ve spent most of my life
blaming Mrs. Lawson for stealing the heart of my beloved pet but,
if I’m honest, I’m the one at fault. Selfish neglect was at the
core of our broken relationship. After that, I can remember many
times biking down the street, and seeing my dog watch me from the
window of another’s home. The stab of jealousy and disdain ran
deep. I can only immagine what was going through Sandy’s mind.
Probably something like, “Hey, a kid.” Today, I have to be
satisfied with just loving dogs and not having one. I watch them
from afar and imagine what it would be like to frolic in
a pasture of fresh daisies with one. I see myself tossing a
slobbery tennis ball, falling asleep on the couch with their little
snout resting on my hip, and being rescued from a dried up well by
one. But I know better. After being burned by Sandy, I can never
give enough of myself to one whose love is supposed to be
unconditional. Because, in the end, I for one, know that their love
is indeed conditional. That is if they can find a dried up old hag
with a bowl of kibble to lure them away. In the end, I still must
agree that it is better to have loved and lost, than to not have
loved at all. Or as Proverbs 27:6 puts it, “Wounds from a sincere
friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” The moral is
this. Every relationship takes work. Humans of course, but dogs,
birds even fish need commitment. Cat’s don’t. Most of them would
probably rather their owner be dead so they can have the run of the
house. Heed my warning on that one. Anyway, you can’t just slip
through life not putting any effort into sustaining the
relationships with those you love. Work hard at them, don’t take
anyone for granted, and those sweet little old lady neighbors are
wolves. Treat them as such!


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