Baby was the first dog I ever owned. Well actually my dad owned him. I was young when Baby was in my life. Like 8 – 11 years old young. Baby was a mix of what seemed to me a Rottweiler and some type of small dog, a hound maybe? He was moody, territorial, and fiercely loyal to my dad (and him only). So much so that as a kid, I complained that my dad showed more affection for the dog than for me. My dad loved that dog and to a certain degree I did too.
His loyalty to my father however created some strife between me and babes than there should be between a human being and an animal. To the point where it was not uncommon for us to fight…(oh yeah, he would bite and I would punch…I’m not proud of this fact given how much I adore dogs today, but back then I was not privy to the fact that dogs are faithful companions).
Enter Whiskey the 1st
Whiskey I guess you could say was my first dog (as opposed to Baby who in spite of his proximity to my humble abode, was not loyal to nor interested in me.) From time to time we would play (or fight) but Baby was clearly my dad’s dog. Whiskey on the other hand was a dog I found on the road on my way home from school; lost and in need of rescuing (in my mind anyways). He was a fury brown (hence the name Whiskey) mutt with a disposition for playful mischief. But, he loved me and I loved him. I would get home from school to see Whiskey and play with him for hours. Or just sit in the backyard (which was pretty big) and let him lick my hand. He was a character. If I was sitting in the backyard (or anywhere for that matter), he would come, lick my hand, let me pet him, stay by me for a bit, than go wrestle around with baby, then come back to me and start the whole process again. I found it amusing. Baby did not.
And neither did my dad, who was growing weary of such a “wussy” dog. In fact my dad did not want anything with Whisky from the get go. The fact that Whiskey stayed in our house was a miracle in it of itself brought upon by the tantrum like begging of a kid who is pleading for his new found friend. But even miracles have an end. This end came one frustrating night. I can’t quite remember what whiskey did but whatever it was it annoyed the heck out of my dad. I remember him grabbing whiskey and carrying him into the car. I also remember crying for my dad to let Whiskey out of the car. Almost as if he knew my pain, Whiskey barked from the back seat of the car, as if saying “let me out, he needs me”. I did need you Whiskey. However, before I even realized it, dad was in the car, driving away. I later found out my dad tossed Whiskey out in the streets to fend for himself. I was heart broken. One of those scars life throws at you that no matter how much time transpires, it never really heals.
Enter Whiskey the 2nd
As life would have it, my dad’s annoyance would one day extend to me too, and true to form, I too would find myself taking an extended an unwilling trip to Dominican Republic. I was 11 by this time and I still remember the loss of my dear friend with a layer of added loss; that of my country and my human friends. I was brought to a foreign place from whom my roots find their existence. In hindsight it was a blessing in disguise (maybe another post might explain why) nevertheless I was heartbroken to be there. Little did I know that lightning could indeed strike twice. This happened one fateful afternoon, as I was spending time in my caretaker’s (whom I shall call “Doll”) neighborhood. One of the neighbor’s dogs had recently given birth to a litter and so this neighbor was in the process of giving the dogs away. I happen to catch wind of this news and immediately went to check out the pups. If I remember correctly there was only one left. One brown speckled with black puppy. The most adorable sight I have ever seen. Doll agreed to keep the dog
in her mother’s house (I could not keep it in my house because I had no yard) which meant I could not see him every day. However, every weekend I would go see my brand new friend whom I had named Whiskey. The neighbors made fun of the name (communities in Dominican Republic are much different than the ones here in the US. My business was everyone’s business…much like a small town if you will) nevertheless, that’s the name I chose and that’s the name that stuck (of course I named him after my first true dog :). His personality was almost identical as Whiskey the 1st. and the bond was instant. It came to a point where Whiskey would know the days I would come to “Invy” which is the name of the neighborhood Doll’s mother resided in. I’ve been told that Whiskey, on Friday afternoons would go and lie by the door and hardly move from that spot. The funny thing is that Friday afternoon is when I normally arrived into Invy and stayed there for the weekend. I still remember a specific corner in the neighborhood which I had to turn in order to start heading towards Doll’s mom house. Not long after I would make this turn, you could see Whiskey from the distance, flying like a rocket towards me (in the DR dogs are rarely confined. In fact Whiskey had become sort of the neighborhood dog. Everyone knew and loved him). How in the world could he tell it was me at such distance, to this day I don’t know. But his purposeful running towards me told me he knew it was me. And what a glorious reunion it was when he reached me! I would hug him and he would lick me and it was amazing! We would take long walks around the neighborhood and play games that usually consisted of me trying to hide and him finding me. I could never hide from Whiskey he would always find me (I could write a whole book about
Whiskey but for the sake of this post I won’t lol). Whiskey and I spent 3 years together. But at the age of 14 my dad decided that it was time for me to come back to the US. It all happened so fast. One moment I was finishing school. The next I was finishing packing, with a maxicab on its way to pick me up and take me to the airport. I was convoluted in my emotions. In this case I had the opportunity to say goodbye to my friend, promising him to come back and see him. However, this did not make the departure any easier. Once again Whiskey and I were separated, except this time, I was the one leaving. I was told later that Whiskey still waited by the door on weekends for some time after I left.
Enter the dog desert
Back in the, US I was reunited with my father’s dog, Baby. Not that I particularly enjoyed the reunion. At first sight of me Baby started barking and growling at me. Apparently, he did not appreciate a renewed competition for my father’s attention and I did not appreciate Baby entirely. I missed Whiskey and I thought of him constantly. When I had the chance to call the Dominican Republic, I always asked about him and they assured me that he was doing fine. I particularly loved the times where I would catch him barking in the background. I loved my dog and I wanted him to be with me. Yet he was miles and oceans away and for 9 years, it would remain this way.
Back to the Dominican Republic, a quest to find Whiskey
As the years went on, I lost my connection to Dominican Republic. College started demanding my attention. Moreover, I now worked a full time job at the YMCA as a fitness coach. Life had started to teach me about the reality of responsibility and survival (a lesson that would devour my childhood innocence and replace it with a mature cynicism and mistrust of others). But even in this time of worldly maturity I often thought of my Whiskey (the dog). There were times when I would stop and reminisce of my faithful dog, remembering his little quirks and happy go lucky attitude. Then at the age of 23, I finally got the opportunity to fulfill my promise to Whiskey. A break in my schooling and some financial good fortune enabled me to take a trip to Dominican Republic. As hard as it may be to believe, one of the main things on my mind was to see my long missed pal. It had been a long time since I last saw him so I wondered if he would still recognize me.
Dominican Republic Revisited.
Whiskey was not the only reason why I was at Dominican Republic. I was there to visit my grandmother and to take care of other family businesses. However, once those matters were resolved, I darted on a cab headed to “Invy” to find and finally keep my promise to my friend. This however was not meant to be. I reached the old neighborhood. After 9 years, people hardly recognized me. They marveled at my size and my changed features. I have to admit, I enjoyed the admiration. Nevertheless, I wanted to see my friend more than relish in admiration. The want quickly turned into regret as I was informed that Whiskey had died one week before my arrival. I was one week too late. I did not fulfill my promise to my old friend. I was told that, after I left to come to the USA, he waited for me at the usual spot, every Friday for a period of about 3 months. Afterwards he did not wait there anymore, but people say he wasn’t the same go lucky kind of dog. The grown up in me tells me that such behavior was probably due to his aging. However, something within tells me that it was due to the desire to see me. I truly believe he was waiting for me. That day, I had lost my friend, and this time, for good.
Three Loves, Two Dogs
Two years had passed since that dreadful day in which I found out that my long lost and faithful friend had left this life without his friend fulfilling his promise. My life had continued, yet, I hesitated in getting a dog. I could not stand the possibility of another attachment (and loss) like Whiskey. Nevertheless, try as I did, a dog found its way into my heart…two actually. It was in this time in my life that Lee came into my life. No, Lee was not a dog, He was the man I fell in love with (now this is opening up a can of worms
which I can’t fully explain in this post). Lee was the owner of two cute little girls (dogs). The first one was Sashi. She was (still is) a Jack Russell mix and the second was Mimmer (short for Minny mouse, and Cinnamon….yes she had several names and we used all of them lol). The first time I went to Lee’s place, was the first encounter I had with the girls who would instantly steal my heart. Sashi
immediately accepted me without reservation. The Mimmer on the other hand was definitely more cautious and timid. As time progressed however, she came around to love me too. In time “the girls” (as Lee and I call them) developed favorites. Sashi, favored me (apparent by her desire to be near me all the time) Mimmer on the other hand favored Lee to the point where we both labeled each one our daughters respectively. Therefore when Lee talked to me about Sashi, he would say “your daughter did….” Or “your daughter ate….”. When I talked to Lee about Mimmer, I would say “your daughter ran….” Or…well you get the picture. However, in spite of this name calling, we both loved our dogs (even though technically they were both his).
Quirks of “The Sashi”
“The Sashi” is not a typo. I use to refer to Sashi as “The Sashi” to delineate her uniqueness. Sashi is (present tense since she is still
alive…thank God) one of the most intelligent dogs I have ever known and the bond that Sashi and I made is beyond a shadow of a doubt strong. I recall the time when I had to have my wisdom teeth removed (all four of them). The surgery knocked me out for a day, chained to my bed drugged beyond belief. However, Sashi laid in bed with me the whole time (I’m not exaggerating, she literally laid in bed with me, the whole time with the exception of going out to potty) and only when I started moving around the house did she leave my bed side. The comfort Sashi provided…well I can’t even put into words.The terrier in her makes her particularly prone to cat chasing, so when we would walk the girls, I would always take Sashi so as to make sure she would not fly out and chase a cat and catch it…..I’ve seen what happens to cats when Sashi catches them. Let’s just say that cats don’t have nine lives…at least not when Sashi catches them. For a little dog, Sashi was (is….she is still alive) ferocious. You can say that she’s like my little beast. So we were always careful with walking Sashi. Eventually, I got accepted into the University of Florida’s architecture school, which meant I now had to move to Gainesville, FL. Lee and the girls made the trip with me (A sacrifice on his part that I will never forget). Sashi wasted no time in proclaiming her new territory…on our carpet. A problem we would face for Sashi’s remaining stay with me. Maybe it was the new place? I think it was her way of being stubborn (and that she was…Lee says she learned that from me. I disagree and I digress).
School started to take its toll on me as soon as I arrived in Gainesville. Architecture is not an easy major as I soon found out. In
order to complete my projects I would spend days in the studio (and this is really not an exaggeration). Nevertheless when I arrived at the apartment, Sashi was always there to greet me in her typical way….by jumping on me until I picked her up (trust me, she would not stop jumping on me until I picked her up), In order to satisfy her need for attention, I had to stick out my left hip so that her hind legs rested on my hips. Then I placed her front paws on my left shoulder so that her face looked behind me and her back was towards my front. Than I would proceed to vigorously scratch her back as she “laid” on me. After a good minute or so of scratching, I was then able to put her down on the floor, THEN and only then was she content. If I did not do this, two things would happen. First thing: She would jump on me for attention. If I failed to give her attention, she would then: walk away (slowly) and jump on the couch and lay there until I gave her attention….she would not move off the couch until I did….weirdest thing ever. But you know what? I LOVED that about her. How many people can you honestly say will give you that much attention and want your attention that much in return?
Quirks of the Mimmer
Mimmer was another case entirely. While Sashi proceeded to beg for my attention as I walked through the door, Mimmer would run
(and I do mean run) and jump all the way to the upper part of the couch and lay there, until I came by and vigorously gave her a back scratch and what I called a “Mimmer pat” which basically was me patting her rump. She loved it! Bath times for the Mimmer was always an opportunity to test our creative skills. Mimmer, hates baths. And somehow she would always know when I was planning to bathe her. Even if I tried to hide things like the towel and
shampoo, somehow she always knew. And when the time came to actually pick her up to put her in the bathtub, she would go hide underneath the bed. I literally had to prepare everything one hour in advance, so that if by chance, she came out of the bed; I would take the opportunity to catch her, give her a big hug, and then, toss her in the tub (not really toss her, she was kinda sensitive so I had to gingerly place her in the tub). And after her bath was over, straight to bed she would go. Lol.
The Mimmer loved me, but she ADORED Lee. They both did. I don’t know if dogs have bionic powers but I could swear the Sashi and the Mimmer did. Somehow they could determine that Lee was arriving from work minutes before he actually parked his SUV. To understand the awesomeness of such a feat, you have to realize that we lived on a second floor on the back part of the building’s divide. I would never ever hear Lees Jeep pull up. However, the girls somehow did. You could tell that Lee was about to be home when the girls would start to walk
towards the door and wag their tails. And when Lee opened the door, forget it, those girls would go crazy. Even crazier than when I got home. I must admit I was a bit jealous J (not really, they were his dogs after all).
Both dogs brightened up my life in ways that fail my description. However, the bond between them and I was and is something that I still cherish.
A heartbroken, reborn bonded
It is said that “you never know what you have until you lose it”. Well I don’t think that you have to fully lose something to realize that. You just have to think you are going to lose it. This opportunity came to me one fall afternoon. I was busy working on an architectural rendering of a 3D model I had just finished putting together (took me a looooong time to do it. You can see it at http://plaza.ufl.edu/jc3719/Lifeline.html, it’s called “Life line”). I had just pressed the render button (one of many more presses to come) when I saw Mimmer dart into my room. The only time Mimmer “darts” anywhere is when there is food (she’s a big girl), when either Lee or I got home, when we were about to go outside (unless it was raining, then it would be like bloody murder to get her to go with anywhere with you), or if there was a cat or another small animal around. She normally moved around calmly and quite distinguished. Today however, she ran into my room, stopped right beside me and laid on the floor. I looked at her a bit surprised but pleased for her presence, when suddenly I got the feeling that things were not all right. I got off my chair and bent down to touch my Mimmer, when I saw her eyes and felt her body. She was having a seizure. Lee had told me that she suffered from seizures which she would get from time to time. However, somehow every time they happened, I was absent. This time, I was the only one in the apartment. Her poor body was trembling uncontrollably. She had lost her ability to control her bowels and her eyes were half way rolled over. At that moment the world for me stood still and rushed all at the same time. My thoughts were spinning too fast for me to comprehend anything and too slow to come to a solution fast enough. I grabbed my Mimmer and held her, as tears poured out my eyes. “MIMMER” I said loudly. I cradled her and started to pray. I was certain I was going to lose my Mimmer. By this time, Sashi had realized what was going on and stood by the closet door obviously wanting to come near Mimmer but knowing that I had things under control…I’m glad she had that confidence on me, I didn’t. I continued to do
the only thing I knew to do, hold my Mimmer. If she was going to die, she was not going to do it alone. I was going to be there and hold her. The Lord however, heard my prayers. The shacking slowly started subsiding, and her eyes came back to me. She was still “tranzy” but she seemed a heck of a whole lot better. I started stroking her face and rubbing her belly. Until she started moving on her own. She was going to be fine. The whole ordeal lasted for about 30 minutes, but it felt more like 3 hours. I was exhausted, mainly emotionally. I was slapped in the face with the possibility of my Mimmer being gone. I saw then and there how much these dogs meant to me. They truly where my girls (even though, technically Lee owned them). I took that opportunity to show Sashi some love (she’s such an attention hog I swear lol).
Exit the Sashi and the Mimmer
The fateful day came somewhat expectedly. Lee and I had to part ways (but our friendship remained thank God). This meant that he would be taking the girls with him clear across the country to Austin, TX. I helped him move and so I was able to spend a few days more with my babies. In the truck they behaved fantastically (they mainly slept)! This was somewhat shocking since Sashi can be a bit rambunctious (Lee says that she gets that from me…I agree, moving on). At the new apartment, they seemed a bit out of place. They proceeded to smell every corner of this new territory and try to stake out their domain (or so they thought lol). We placed all Lee’s furniture in the apartment, a feat that we accomplished in one day (the same day we arrived). It was a pretty miserable move because we had to take a lot of heavy items up very steep and shaky steps (one of those items being a 400lb rolling tool box….I’m not
exaggerating on the weight, I looked it up). After stubbed toes, sore backs, and cranky attitudes, Lee and I decided to rest. We plopped down to watch a movie (The TV was one of the first things we made sure to set up, Lol). Sashi and Mimmer both took their respective owner’s side, Sashi on my right and Mimmer on Lee’s right (nope you read that right, Sashi was dividing me and Lee…I tell you she is an attention hog). So, I guess you can say it was a movie night for the whole family.
Dawn of the new journey
Morning came, and it was time for me to head over to the airport to board my plane back to Gainesville, FL. I made sure to hug my girls and to tell them how much I loved them in a way I hoped they understood….scratching them vigorously (this sounds way harsher than what it is). I had to struggle not to burst out crying as Lee closed the door behind me. It truly was a sad day. On the one hand I was saying goodbye to my best friend (Lee) and on yet another hand I was saying good bye to my babies (Sashi and Mimmer). I was so torn and besides myself. However, I held my composure (somehow) as Lee drove me to the airport. I almost lost it when I saw a tear coming from his eye at the drop-off site, but I remained strong. I gave him a hug and I rushed inside the airport. As soon as I saw the black Jeep Cherokee drive away, I allowed myself to lose it (a bit embarrassing since people where staring at me). It’s a good thing it was an early flight and there were not that much people in the airport. I decided to write a poem as I waited for my plane to arrive (ill post that later). But all I could think about is how lonely I all of a sudden felt.
A lonely start
I arrived in Gainesville, FL amidst a flurry of awful customer service. Or maybe it was because I was so sensitive, lol. I arrived at my apartment and opened the door. I waited for Sashi and Mimmer to come out and greet me. 5 seconds of denial turned into a harsh start to my new reality. My Sashi wasn’t going to greet me anymore. No more back rubs for the Mimmer. I lost it again (I honestly don’t think I have ever cried so much.) The next few days where filled with my own moving as I changed apartment complexes and moved in with a new roommate, who did not have a dog (and who claimed did not like dogs….).
So why do I want a dog again?
It’s been about a year since Lee, Sashi and Mimmer stepped out of my sphere of proximity. We still keep in touch through the phone
and Facebook. Lee makes sure to send me pictures and videos from time to time of the girls doing the thing they do best, being absolutely adorable. I save every single one of them. My phone has on the screensaver a picture of the Mimmer and
on the background a picture of the Sashi, that way I always in some way form or fashion have them near me.
So why a nearly 5 thousand word blog about why I want a dog? Simple. It may seem silly for someone to place such importance in owning a pet (unless you own a pet, than you can easily identify with my sentiment). The fact is, once you own a dog (I believe) you can’t ever really not own a dog again. They become integral to who you are and become. In this, they seize to become pets, and more like a part of you. And yes this is specifically for dogs only; cats can’t share this bond since they are so independent, or a horse for that matter. They are good pets, sure, but they do not become as integrally necessary as a dog does. It actually has been scientifically proven that a dog understands you like no other animal can. This includes cats and apes. Dogs develop a bond with a human that is unique in the animal kingdom. Not only do they understand you, they chemically/biologically react to you. Don’t believe me? Check out http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/made-each-other/201005/dog-good. Also check out National Geographic’s video entitled “Science of Dogs” and also check out PBS’s “Dogs Decoded: Nova”.
So why do I want a dog?….I guess that’s not such simple question to answer after all.
Juan Castillo Jr.