For anyone who has grown up with pets, the family dog has always been a true member of the family.
Recently I experienced the death of an extra-special pet, one that was the first I raised as an adult with my young children.
We inquired about Chow Chow puppies from a breeder who we had dealt with in the past and found she had a litter in the same bloodline as a dog we had before.
She sent us a puppy.
I picked this little guy up at the airport after he had traveled on two flights over a long day.
My son was about 2 years old. When they saw each other, the puppy barked and growled at him (playfully) and then my son cried and wouldn’t stop.
My wife was away on business so it was just my son, the puppy and me.
That first night was full of cleaning up pee and poop. And my son crying.
What a way to start a relationship.
The puppy was a fluffy hairball of red, black, gray and white and my neighbor thought he looked like a puff of smoke, so he was named Smokey.
Eventually things settled down and we were getting along fine, and then two days later mom came home.
She came in the door and that little dog barked at her like she had no business being there. Smokey had determined that his new family was my son and I, and this new person just didn’t belong.
Chows are known to be a one- or two-person dog as they attach themselves to one family member and basically looks to this person as the pack leader. Everyone else in the family may end up beneath them if they do not assert themselves.
Properly trained and socialized, Chows are naturally protective of their family, and when treated with love and respect, will return that love.
With this knowledge, I attended puppy obedience classes with Smokey, which proved to be very effective and rewarding for both of us.
His strong-willed personality almost got the better of him during one class when he was determined to take a toy from a much larger Akita puppy.
Dog owner and instructor intervention saved my determined puppy from some well-deserved whoop-ass that he was about to take from the other dog.
He was good with the kids, and they loved him dearly. Smokey was there for my son and through the births and childhoods of my three girls.
He was a good dog, a very good dog.
Early one morning in his 14th year, before the kids got up for school, he woke up my wife and me.
He had gone to the bathroom in the house. I didn’t think too much about it at first as he was getting old, having trouble getting up the stairs and needing more frequent trips out to go.
I let him outside and cleaned up the mess.
When I went to check on him, we looked each other in the eye and right then I knew this was it.
He knew it as well.
I covered him with a blanket and sat on the floor with him.
Stroking his head and speaking softly to him, I listened to his rough breathing and wished for his passing to come quickly and, I hoped, with little pain.
He never complained about any pain or discomfort before and wasn’t now. As his final breath passed through his nose I whispered to him how much I loved him and that he should go now and rest.
Rest in peace, Smokey. Good dog.