Those of us fortunate enough to have been blessed with the happenstance of living in a dog-controlled home know only too well the deep attachment that can form between human and canine.
Those of us of voting age (and beyond) who have lived more of those years with dogs than without will most likely have experienced life with a number of dogs. While all are indubitably loved, dare I suggest that some might just have been loved more than others?
As I was growing up, dogs seemed to come - and disappear - rather rapidly. I recall a dachshund with Saint Vitus' Dance (hold her up in your lap and she'd wave nonstop). There was a mad boxer whose sport was clearing the coffee table as often as he could. A very light cocker who wasn't quite white and so immediately acquired her name of "Dusty." A stray delivered by a local cop - and named for him, Jep seemed to have better staying power than most. A few cats got into the mix as well.
New to the choosing, my first dog was Sheba, a quixotic basset who was happy being anywhere - mostly not at home. "Come back little Sheba" frequently made the rounds of the North Platte radio station. Then I adopted a gorgeous part-weimaraner from the San Francisco pound. Mandy loved my daughter and me and violin music but she had to be muzzled when any man entered the house. This was a problem when my parents came to visit. She was simply too much of a gamble and peril to be kept too long.
Then I wised up, read the books and discovered goldens.
Penny (my nickname which I had always detested), Honey (I remember the workmen who loved to call out "Honey, I'm home!"), Hoover (named for his appetite that ultimately did him in much too prematurely), April (a biting monster but deeply missed when she accidentally died), and then - begging forgiveness for any I've forgotten - my Major and Minor.
Others' dogs, like others' children, usually don't quite measure up to what is properly ours. My daughters have all had dogs, generally adorable but theirs, not mine.
Gus was the exception. A couple of years ago I wrote about the Christmas he spent with me as a brand new pup. He was special then and always kept that little corner of my heart.
A magnificent retriever once grown, he had a massive strong head with a lovely body tagged on behind. He also had personality pouring out of every pore. Perhaps part of what made him special was that first Christmas we spent together though, from the comments I've been reading recently, I think his heart was large enough to encompass many.
I remember one visit where he pushed open the bedroom door, jumped up on my bed and covered me with kisses until I had to call for help.
He was here this past Thanksgiving. Eager to jump up to plant those kisses (though obviously we both knew that was a no-no), he was happiest as he spent hour after hour in the water. Retrieving a ball or a stick was good sport but if no thrower was available, he'd swim just for the joy of it. I certainly wasn't going to begrudge the water a large long-haired dog can deliver inside as well as out.
His visit was only a few days long, coming with his people and a younger dog, the brother of my Minor. Sad as I was to watch them depart, I looked forward to a return visit in the spring or early summer.
It will be different now.
Gus died December 6, 2012. Waking in obvious pain, the emergency surgery located a tumor on his liver. A second was later found on his heart.
"He didn't make it, Mom."
Many dogs grasp our hearts.
My Major was special - perfectly behaved from puppydom and a lover to boot. He too was felled by cancer in 2012.
But then there was Gus.
Rest in Peace, Aonghusa Weston.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org