A Tribute to a Faithful Friend ...
We were on a mission; the Calgary Humane Society was our first stop.
Tammy, my wife, was looking for a dog to fill a void left by the loss of her faithful buddy, Gus, a tiny Schnauzer she’d brought with her from North Dakota.
As we walked down rows of enclosures occupied by canines of all descriptions, big, small and in-between, we had our work cut out for us. We didn’t really know what kind of dog we were looking for. We just hoped something would turn up.
And there she was…
A forlorn German Shepherd-Lab sat in her stall and, as I approached her, she leant her head against the grill and invited me to scratch under her ears. I was in love.
"This is the one, Tammy," I exclaimed. Tammy quickly shared my enthusiasm and we decided to adopt her. In hindsight, I sincerely believe it was Honey who adopted us.
Apparently, she had two previous owners. The first, who had her as a pup, was transferred out of town and was obliged to part with her.
The second brought her back within a three days on grounds she was uncontrollably belligerent towards the other dogs in the household.
Indeed, the Humane Society people warned us to keep her on a tight leash; that she simply went berserk at the mere sight of another dog. They expressed grave doubts about her ability to fit into any home (she’d been earmarked for euthanasia) and suggested I spend some time with her on their premises just to make sure. However, we had already made up our minds. Henceforth our new family member was going to be known as Honey. Her original name was Sandy but she accepted her new name with characteristic grace.
Initially, she was a little afraid of me. She’d cringe little when I approached her. We put this down to her unpleasant dealings with her previous male owner. Subsequent events were to bear out this suspicion. We could only show her love and kindness and hope for the best.
For her part, Honey effortlessly became part of the family. She made friends easily and everyone took to her. She responded by doing everything she could to please. We only had to say ‘no!’ to her once. She stopped defecating in the yard after Tammy told her not to only once . She’d hold herself until I took her out in the back alley, which I did on a regular basis.
I’d be up at the crack of dawn to exercise her and, thus, walked into her first gift to me. With a pocketful of what I called honeybags, I wandered the neighbourhood with her, and, in doing so, got to know, see, appreciate and enjoy a variety everyday sights: carefully and beautifully manicured gardens, the scent of lavender - everyday things we tend to take for granted. Yes, life suddenly had a refreshingly new meaning. What’s more, the increased exercise helped me lose weight.
After she was satisfied I would never hurt her, Honey and I bonded; she’d follow me everywhere in the house. I’ll never really know why, but she decided I was her ‘dad’. She’d accept treats from anyone but would always have her eyes fixed on me.
Pooping was a special occasion for Honey. So much so, she reserved this ‘honour’ exclusively for me. Friends and neighbours would walk her once in a while but she’d wait for me to take her out before going. Indeed, all I had to say to her was, "Aren’t you going to poop for Daddy," and she would - just for me.
We took her with us everywhere. She enjoyed car-rides. Put another way, she loved napping on the back seat. She came to dances, restaurants and shopping sprees with us. We parked our car with the added assurance that no one was going to even think of breaking in, what with an 80+ pound dog in the backseat. Which brings me to the US consulate incident …
Honey and Free Speech
We were driving downtown with Honey, as usual, ruling the back seat. Traffic was particularly heavy this Saturday afternoon and we resigned ourselves to another feature of Calgary’s streets: interminable traffic delays. As we neared the US consulate, we stumbled on the reason for this traffic jam.
President Bush had recently made a decision to attack Iraq. Calgary’s unwashed, anti-American masses, along with a gruesome collection of half wits idiotized by their left-wing politics, were exercising their right to free speech at the Olympic Park adjoining the consulate building.
As luck would have it, the traffic snarl placed us a few yards from a demagogic speaker ranting and raving about US aggression. I stuck my head out of the window yelling anti-Saddam slogans. Heads turned. A large segment of saddamists surged towards the car, clearly intent on bashing me up. Obviously the concept of freedom of speech didn’t apply to me.
We were trapped; it didn’t help that our van bore US license plates. In paraphrasing Voltaire, I made one short prayer to G-d, "O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous." And He granted my wish.
It started as a low, menacing growl. I was startled - nay, terrified - as the sound increased to a primeval, ferocious and spine chilling snarl. And it came from behind me.
Honey deduced her Dad and Mum were in danger and decided to exercise her right to free expression. The sight of a huge, wolf-like, snarling, barking, frothing-at-the-mouth dog shocked the advancing crowd to a scatological standstill. Like the cowardly festering puswarts that they were, the mob retreated a safe distance and, aside from desultory curses and significant one-finger signals, had clearly concluded it was safer to bash Bush.
We drove off as soon as it became possible but halted a couple of blocks away to take stock. Still shaking, we realized Honey’s uncharacteristic ferocity had just saved our skins. We hugged and kissed her over and over again; she happily accepted our praise before settling back to resume her nap. For our part, we were glad our dog shared not only our dislike for verbal sewage posing as human beings but also a distaste for unthinking apologists for Saddam Hussein’s terror and tyranny.
It was in the course of our long walks, however, that Honey manifested her deep-rooted hatred for other dogs. Every time a dog happened along, she’d practically froth at the mouth and it was all I could do to keep her under control.
Then, I saw another facet of this fascinating friend. One morning, I was walking her down the alley and, as luck would have it, a neighbour walked by with his dog.
Honey went foaming-at-the-mouth crazy. She had to rip that dog’s throat out and I could barely control her. (Did I mention she was a German Shepherd-Lab - big and powerful?).
Suddenly, a gaggle of kids walked by on their way to school and Honey spotted them. Oy Vey. Talk about Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde!
In an instant, her expression changed from unbridled savagery to one of sheer pleasure. If I ever saw a dog smile Honey was doing it right then. Her tail waving furiously, she just had to say hi! to the kids. She invited them to stroke her, which they did after a momentary hesitation. Soon, every kid in the neighbourhood knew Honey. She loved people but Honey had a special place in her heart for children.
She would have been perfect for sick kids, bringing a certain therapeutic joy along with her. It was touching to see how tolerant she was with children who’d pull her ears. She’d practically roll over and invite them to rub her tummy.
Honey filled out beautifully … maybe too much so. In the loving environment she now became part of, Honey thrived.
I have never seen such an intelligent dog. She carried her toys around with her. If we sat out on the deck, she’d bring them along and sit in the midst of us. She’d follow us indoors at the end of the day but, at a command from Tammy to "pick up your junk!" she’d run back and carry her toys indoors. We could swear she understood every word we uttered.
Within a month of getting her, Tammy taught her to play dead. Tammy would point her finger at her, gun fashion, and yell, "Bang!" Honey would roll over on her side and lie still. There was the odd time when her tail would wave. "Dead dogs don’t wag," Tammy would admonish her and she’d lie rock-still until Tammy gave her permission to ‘live’ again.
Around three months after bringing her home, the Humane Society phoned. They were checking on the dog’s progress, fearing the worst. They were surprised and gratified to find out how happy Honey was with us and how happy we were with her. I’m sure they’d be scratching their heads if I sent them pictures of her happily co-existing with our other pets which, at one time, included 5 poodles and a ferret.
It took me about a year of walking Honey to realize what drove her to hate other dogs with such venom. It was fear. Despite her size and appearance, Honey was really very timid.
I started carrying dog treats in my pocket on our outings. Every time a dog happened by, I’d hold her to me, calm her down and give her a few treats. The results were miraculous. Within a few weeks, her antipathy for strange dogs was replaced with curiosity. In fact, she actually befriended them. Thanks to this ‘therapy’, I no longer needed to leash her on our walks. If that weren’t enough, she once brought home a stray dog. Yes, Honey really was special.
Honey had another quality that set her apart. She was a truly good-natured. She accepted Tilly, the thoroughbred Poodle, as well as Tilly’s pups.
In the Summer of 2007, Pepito entered her life and gave it a new lease. He was an ‘import’ from Mississippi.
Only two months old when he arrived, Pepito immediately sought out Honey and frolicked with her endlessly. Honey loved him and cheerfully allowed him to nibble her ears, and his tiny body to run up and down her massive frame. It was a touching sight: a lumbering 90-pound dog cavorting with a tiny 1-pound puppy.
Jessica, my younger daughter loved Honey and they’d spend hours together.
Fourteen-year-old Jessica drew pictures of her and pinned them on the wall of Honey’s ‘apartment’ - the landing leading to the basement.
Honey was six years old when she adopted us in 2003, but, within a month, we knew she was living on borrowed time.
She had an extremely sensitive stomach and couldn’t eat ‘normal’ treats like bones, and other popular dog foods without having violent diarrhea attacks. We took every precaution to regulate her diet but she experienced bouts of stomach upsets on a regular basis.
Four years later, we began to notice strange growths on her belly. In addition, her worsening arthritis made walking up and down stairs an increasingly agonizing experience. For selfish reasons, I kept postponing the inevitable. Jessica and I once prayed over her and she improved somewhat but we knew the end was near.
It came December 5, 2007. She went to sleep peacefully and painlessly on the vet’s table.
The anguish and heartache we feel is indescribable. We take comfort in the knowledge that when we make it to the mansion our Lord, Jesus Christ, has prepared for us, Honey will be there, waiting to welcome us.
In the meantime, Farewell, faithful friend.
- Peter & Tammy Pachecos