If you are a regular reader you might know that this blog began as a way to record recipes for my kids. And stories. And stuff. So this is a spoiler alert. There isn’t really a recipe here unless you consider it a recipe for love. It’s a real simple recipe. It requires 1 black Skye Terrier and a family of four. That’s it. Plus about 11 years. That flew by. And also seemed to take forever. What a contradiction, I know. They were years of happiness and years of pain. The kids grew and my husband struggled. But we’ve weathered the course, and begun anew. And George saw it all.
George flew to us at the age of eight weeks in March of 2003. It took forever for me to find a Skye terrier puppy, but I did. And though he never replaced our other Skye, he carved a new spot in our heart. He arrived here in a crate with black furry ears that were as long as his length. He came with the name George and we never saw fit to change it. He was a George. A King George. And he quickly ruled the roost.
He loved to play tug of war. And he always won. He discovered snakes in our garden and came running at me with one in his mouth. I screamed. He freaked. I think it was the last time he caught one. He chewed up our rug. He acted like he owned our furniture. And being good, responsible pet owners, we allowed it. He attempted to jump on the bed but didn’t quite make it and never tried again-except once. I’ll tell you about it later.
He couldn’t climb stairs. Or go up stairs. He was too long. And it freaked him. George was 36 inches long and 10 inches tall and weighed about 45 pounds. He had long, lustrous black hair and giant pointed ears. His eyes were pools of chocolate. They were gentle and dreamy and easy to lose yourself in. I often wondered what went on in his head. But I think I know. His job was to keep us safe.
He worked hard at that. Whenever I worked in my studio, George would trot out the upstairs door, run down the lawnmower ramp and meet me downstairs. He always met me with a giant bark. George had a very big bark and if you ever rang our doorbell, you knew. George loved to bark. I think he considered that another mission in life.
George loved us and was loyal beyond belief. When Alex was younger and had many visiting friends, George always let them know who was boss. He would chase them into the basement and then bark at them while also trying to grab their feet. These were big guys and George let them know who was in charge. Trust me. When you see a long black dog with giant canines running after your feet, well, it can be a bit intimidating.
George was not a foodie. But he loved meat. He loved his baby burgers and whenever the grill was being fired up, he never left my side. But honestly, he really never left my side. He was my barometer and if George was good, then I was good. If I wasn’t good, George wasn’t good. He became anxious and protective.
George was the first puppy I had as an adult. Actually, he was the only puppy I saw make it to adulthood. I had puppies as a child but my father was not a good puppy man. He liked his rugs and furniture. And so, many of my pups found other homes. After Mitzi and Pussy and Peppy and Cokie and Clarence and Angel and Jangles and Honey and Reggie and Brady and Chelsea, well, then there was George. It took a lot of years to get ready for him. It will take a lot of years to let him go.
George filled my heart when my kids left for college. He filled my heart when my husband left the next day. Without George I’m not sure I would have made it through. Some days were tough. I was lonely. George filled my void. He made me get up in the morning. He made sure I got up in the morning. He slept on my bed. He listened for sounds at night. He listened to me rant. He listened to me sing. He listened when no one else was there.
George was my dog. But I was his human. Some people say that dogs are just animals. They are so wrong. George was a reason for my being.
For 11 years I’ve had a bathroom buddy. George always came to me for a pet as I sat on the throne of thrones. He laid next to the shower door as I took my shower. Or he poked his big, black nose in through the opening between the wall and the pocket door. George was always there.
The funny thing is that George never learned how to push a door open with his nose. But that never stopped him from being close. Patience was his middle name. He always stood guard if I was behind that door. And if Zoe was home he always kept an eye on her door, too. He adored his Zoe. She was his princess and he was the king.
When we walked on the canal people always were intrigued. Imagine a dog not 10 inches from the ground, proudly parading with his tail wagging and bouncing behind him and all that gorgeous black hair dragging in the dirt. They often commented that he looked like a giant dust mop coming in their direction. George always illicited a comment. He was just that kind of boy dog. (The last time I was at the vet’s two people took his picture.)
George had a quiet presence. He greeted you with exuberance and often scared friends with his loud bark. He also liked to jump up and George was not just tall, but he was big. After the visitor made it inside and George had his prerequisite sniff, George would calm down. But he was always in the room with me. He loved visitors and always anticipated their arrival by barking before they came.
After a few years with the kids and Manservant being gone, I decided to add to our family. We adopted a Havanese that was as tall as George but probably 1/3 of his length. George never liked big dogs and always showed them who was boss, which wasn’t always such a good thing… Freddie was the perfect size for George and he adopted her quite easily. George took care of Freddie. He licked her ears that had countless ear infections. He played with her which was a miraculous thing to watch, as Freddie was not intimidated by George’s size. And this from a little dog with only one eye!
With Freddie as a new addition, George had to compete for our attention. He did it quietly and with great grace. Freddie loves to play and is forever bringing us the tennis ball to throw. George often brought the ball, to us too. But not to play. He just wanted attention. That was his way of showing that he needed us too. But in his younger days there were those games of tug of war with the tennis ball. George loved it if you tried to pull the ball from his mouth; though not everyone loved to stick their hands into that giant mouth with such big teeth. He never figured that out.
George woke me every morning. He greeted me by placing his front paws on the bed and sighing. And when I looked over he practically crawled on the bed to kiss me and smell my eyes. He wagged graciously and the moment my feet touched the ground he bounded through the house to be let outside. Freddie always followed and George always went out the door first, but Freddie always made it off the deck before George. Long bodies do not necessarily equate with speed.
But that never stopped George from trying. He loved to chase rabbits. Much to Manservant’s chagrin though, he never caught them. He spotted them as he sat on the deck and then quickly bounded down the lawnmower ramp to get into the lower yard. Sometimes there would be as many as four and they would scatter quite rapidly as George approached. He never knew what direction to run or turn. But boy, did he bark! He would then come trotting back up with his proud gait as if to say, “I took care of them this time, Mom!”.
Manservant often complained that George was always between us. He did lay between us on the bed and he always stood between us during an argument. The only time that George jumped on the bed was when I was laying on Zoe’s bed and sobbing my eyes out. He knew I was in trouble and in one giant leap, he jumped on the bed. A twin bed. It almost wasn’t big enough to hold him. But in my shock of him jumping, I stopped crying and truly realized the power that this dog held. He worked his magic in mysterious ways.
George was a greeter. Walmart greeters should take lessons. He always said goodbye and he always said hello. He would meet me at the door with an enormous, loud, very loud bark and jump up to kiss me on my nose. Keep in mind that this was also whenever I went just to check the mail. Some might say it was because I always gave him a cookie when I left and when I came home. I choose to believe that George was just happy to see me.
George knew when he was a bad boy. He knew how to talk back. If he accidentally nipped you in rough play and you screeched, George would screech right back in that high pitched bark he had. He knew. But he also knew that he was talking back. And George always talked back.
Brushing him was a chore, though it was not hard to brush him. George’s hair was like people’s hair and fairly easy to comb. However if I did manage to snag him he always showed me his teeth. And sometimes he would try to nip me. (I know if he wanted to get me, he could have.) And when I made him turn around on the table, he did it grudgingly and he always gave me that bark. First a big, gruff bark, and then a high pitched bark, and then he’d stick his massive head with those big brown eyes into my face and lick it. He was sorry for being mean. Really sorry. And he would feel really, really bad. And the funny thing is that I knew he really did.
As much as George hated little aches and pains, during this last week I’ve never seen a stronger, more stoic dog. He tolerated not breathing until he couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Even in his last hour he barked at the boy walking down the sidewalk. He barked when the vet walked in the door. George was protecting his turf. George was protecting me.
Even Manservant was allowed to pet George in those last days. George always knew Manservant loved him but I’m not sure that Manservant knew how much he loved George.
George had a love/hate relationship with Alex. When Alex was younger and came into the bedroom to tell me good night, George would chase him out the door, nipping at his heels. He stopped as he approached middle age and we never quite knew why. I think it was because George wanted me all for himself. Or maybe it was his way of saying to Alex, “Hey, I’ve got my eye on you.” I’m not sure we’ll ever know but I’m also not sure that Alex will ever stopping looking both ways before he leaves our bedroom.
What I do know is that George loved to be on the bed. In his next life I hope he comes back as a lap dog. When he was sitting with you he wasn’t just sitting with you. He was sitting on you. He was in charge of you. He wanted your full, undivided attention and he made sure you knew it. He laid on you. He sat on you; until he got too hot and moved off. It was hard to read or watch TV if George was near. Those quiet times were his favorite times. Once you were in one spot it was like an invitation that George took advantage of. He had you where he wanted you.
It was just a week ago Wednesday that I took George to see Jeff and David, our beloved vets. They’ve seen a lot of George lately. It was last year that we discovered George had Cushing’s disease. I thought we were going to lose him then. George had never been sick a day in his life and that scared me. But these guys figured it out and with some expensive meds, George was fine. So last week when George was panting and stopped eating, I decided we best get him to his friends.
After not too many tests, it was discovered that George had lung cancer. It probably spread from somewhere else. There wasn’t a great need to find out as at that point there was nothing we could do. Nothing except try to get him to eat. Nothing except try to make him comfortable. Nothing except to love him and pet him and sleep with him. There was nothing we could do.
George did it all. He went for 2 1/2 days without eating last week and last Friday he had his last meal of roast chicken. By yesterday I knew it was time. Imagine being suffocated for days on end. That’s what George was experiencing. He couldn’t catch his breath. But he never showed fear. He never showed pain. He only showed concern for us as if to question what all this fuss was about. And so he took care of me. Until the end. Jeff suggested that maybe George knew his job was done. After all, my manservant is embarking on a new job with a new beginning. George got me to this new beginning. Maybe George knew. Maybe George didn’t. George was just doing his job.
Last night was lonely. Last night he wasn’t there. When I woke during the night his furry black body wasn’t laying in the bed beside me. He didn’t get out of it when I walked to the bathroom. He didn’t come to the throne to receive his pet. He was gone. And he fought it until he just couldn’t fight it anymore. He was my champ. He was my giant dog that stood ten inches tall. He was my king. He was my dog. And I was his human.
A Baby Burger
Yield: 1 serving
Time: 10 minutes
1/8 lb of grass fed beef
1/2 T of butter
Salt to taste
Form beef into a patty. Pan fry or grill until medium rare. Crumble into pieces. Serve to a treasured member of your family. Pet them and tell them you love them.