For the Love of a Dog

by Cindi on November 10, 2015

I tried really hard to be sure I never read the book Marley and Me. I tried even harder not to watch the movie. And then one day, I checked into a hotel room, turned on the television, and there it was – the last five minutes of a movie that rivaled the Love Stories and Brian’s Songs of my childhood. I sat by myself in a New York City hotel room and wept.

There’s a reason books and movies about losing pets are so sad. If you’ve ever had a pet, you know those reasons, and I don’t have to tell you – how you become so attached to them, how they have their own personalities that are different from dog to dog, cat to cat, and gerbil to gerbil, and how they are members of the family down to when (and what) they eat and where they sleep.

So if you understand all that, you understand why I’m filling my blog – usually about teaching – with a dog story.

Today we lost my buddy.

My granddog Chance was with our family for thirteen years, and his personality was as big as his massive chest and his 80 pounds of muscle. My daughter got him in 2002 when she was still living in a college apartment and working on her undergraduate degree. He was a goofy little puppy who loved everybody…and he grew fast.

For the next 13 years, he lived with her, a constant in her life, a life that moved her to five cities across the country while she earned two more academic degrees and finally got a big girl job in Dallas. He was there, guarding every apartment and house, with a bark that was more like a roar. If you didn’t know it was coming, your heart would skip a beat at the sound.

Even the neighbor’s car driving up the street would start a chorus. When I babysat for him, I had to threaten to put him in time-out sometimes because of all the barking. I would point to the upstairs bedroom, and he would hang his head as if to say, “Okkayyyyy. I’ll stop.”

He was a beast when it came to toys, too. I used to time him on the new ones. They never made it longer than 30 seconds.

He was such a sweetie, though. More than anything he loved snuggling with his humans and, for the most part, taking up the entire bed.

And he was so patient with Kelli, his human, who dressed him up on every occasion and even painted his toenails!

My favorite memory of him is of his greeting whenever I came to visit. He would bark first (of course…see above…) and then upon recognizing me, he would shimmy and shake and wind himself up in a knot. He would contort himself to the point he looked like the letter “C” so I would rub him and say, “Make a C, Chance. Make a C!” Once he was done shaking around, he would run for the toy basket and bring me a toy to pull. And if I didn’t tug at it, he would, well, bark.

Of all the places he lived, I think he loved the house in Charlotte with the fenced in yard best. He could run, chase squirrels and baby rabbits, and guard the house from outside where he could really see what was going on. It was there he had his “fall photo shoot,” as Kelli called it.

Chance beat the odds so many times he was more like a cat with nine lives. He had an eight pound tumor on his spleen removed – the vet said it was the size of a basketball, and years later more tumors were removed – they were attached to his ribs and pressing on his heart so he had ribs removed, too. He had a history of collapsing, seizures, a stroke, but he always bounced back, ready to greet a guest with a toy, always at the ready for a would-be intruder.

Chance was an American Bulldog that was often mistaken for a Pit Bull. Although many who saw him out during his walks were terrified of him, he wouldn’t hurt another creature, human or animal. He was so scared of kids in Kelli’s apartment parking lots (riding bikes or skateboards) that the minute we’d take him out, he would start pulling to get back to the door. If he was asleep on the floor and a human foot touched him, he would jump a mile and growl, and there was no sweeping the floor with him around; brooms sent him running. Those latter two made me wonder if his first owners had kicked him and hit him with a broom….but he was kind of a scaredy cat in general. When I walked him in beautiful Miami on the Biscayne Bay, he was terrified of the sounds – traffic two blocks away would cause him to drag me back to the building. And storms? He was inconsolable during those, and that thundershirt was a waste of money for him.

In a way, he was like some of the students I have taught – the loudest barkers were usually the ones who were scared or the ones who had been kicked. Just sayin’…

Chance, I thank you for watching over my child for all those years. I always felt better knowing you were there. Thank you for being her companion when others came and went and for always greeting her like you hadn’t seen her for days…even though she was right down the street at work. You were a good boy, Chance. And the hole that you will leave in our human hearts will take awhile to mend.

In the past few days, Chance has been on my mind so much that I’ve even dreamed about him a few times. In those dreams, he’s running like I remember him, galloping across the yard. But he’s not alone. He’s running with my college dog Scruffy and my childhood dog Toto. My cat Fluffy is watching him from afar. He is a scary beast, after all.

But there’s one who went before him, one he recognizes – my cat Missy is sitting on a cloud swatting and hissing at him like before.

And he just wants to play….


Not the least hard thing when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives. John Galsworthy

If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. Will Rogers

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Barbara Warnecke November 10, 2015 at 1:28 am

God- I have had an allergy to cats and dogs most of my life with a few exceptions, and I have the STRONGEST urge to go out and get a dog after reading this. I couldn’t drive, though, because the tears are making that impossible…..


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