Posted by: Lee Rowan | December 4, 2011

Be careful what you ask for…

After my best-dog-ever succumbed to kidney failure — she was sixteen and a half, and for a German Shepherd/Chow cross, that was a respectable age –I went into depression.  Waya, my soul-mutt, came to me at 6 months and I never got to see what she’d have been like as a total baby.  I can’t describe what she meant to me, but to say she kept my heart alive for years when I had no other hope would be an understatement.  The sun went out when she went to her final sleep in my lap.

The emptiness was too much.  I told my wife I wanted to raise one more “full-size” dog from a puppy, but she was worn out from the mess of dealing with an immobile, geriatric dog and thought a grown dog would be easier.  She was right, and Cassie, named for her cinnamon coloring, is a doll who arrived housebroken and pathetically eager to do whatever we ask of her.  A rescue, she still, after 2 years, never seems quite certain she’s home for good.    She’s beautiful, smart, a little shy, and … totally unlike Waya in personality.  She is the perfect dog for my wife, who is basically a cat person.

Pippin Can Not Haz Bone

But even though I love her–it’s impossible not to–I missed the joyful rowdiness and ready-for-anything attitude Waya brought to my life.  Only a dog-owner who’s loved and lost is likely to understand this — the hole in my heart needed a puppy.

My wife deserves sainthood for going along with this…  I started scouring Petfinder and missed out on two gorgeous puppies.. I was just not quite fast enough.  Then I saw a little dude who had a really sad tale:  he and his 7 littermates were being given away on the street in a First Nations reserve, at the age  of 4 weeks.  A rescue worker from the Animal Rescue Foundation of Ontario (ARF) happened to see this, and scooped up the whole litter, distributing them to 3 foster homes until they were old enough to adopt.  This little guy nearly died from a digestive problem of some kind.   His face said “Shepherd,” the body said who-knows… when I went to see him, at 7 weeks, he was a medium-sized puppy.   He licked my nose, and my mama instinct kicked in.   He was a charmer:

Beware the Big Feet!

And he had the runs, because of a hookworm infestation the shelter missed.  That took another month to clear up, and the less said the better.   But the little sweetheart was housebroken in two weeks, all credit to Cassie.  It’s true that an older dog will train a puppy for you.

But I should never, never have said “full-size dog.”  Watson was about 14 lbs when we got him.  Then he started to grow.

HA! Touched UR paw! 5 months--and growing

Mama was a German Shepherd, Daddy was a Lab/Collie cross.  He’s bigger than any of the parent breeds, and has the sweetest disposition I could ask for–a good thing; he’s almost 95 pounds and not quite 18 months old.  Walking him, even with a no-pull harness, is a challenge, especially if we pass another dog because he roars like the Hound of the Baskervilles — even though he’s playful and submissive at the dog park.  We’re still working on street etiquette; Cesar Millan I am not.  (Cesar, if you’re ever in Ontario…)   But I have to say that he is startling to settle down, and if I can just get him to stop relating to the world on a basis of “is it edible?  Okay, can I chase it?”  he’s going to be a damned good dog. Waya didn’t settle down until she was almost 4…  and she taught me that a crazy, chew-happy puppy is worth every minute of aggravation.    This is what he looked like at 10 months.. he’s taller now, but I don’t have a picture that shows that.  Imagine another 2 inches of height at the shoulders….

His name is Watson because I wanted to name him Holmes — he reminds me of Mike Holmes, the home-renovation guru:  Big, blond, muscular, and the look of someone you don’t want to argue with.  But he’d been taking contrary lessons from the cats; he wouldn’t respond to “Holmes.”  I tried a bunch of other names, he ignored them.  Finally, I said, “Okay, how about Watson?”   The left ear went up.  (The right ear never quite made it to vertical…)   I said, “Are you my Watson?  He came over and sat, on his own, with a big doggie grin.

So Watson it is. Not a bad name for a faithful sidekick, when you think about it.

But don’t ask me to explain the ears….

c Lee Rowan, 2011

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