Friday, August 11, 2006

Leader of the Pack

9 years ago this week, I stumbled across the path of the greatest thing that has ever happened to me*. My now-ex-girlfriend and I were visiting a friend from college in a city near our home. Ex and I had just gotten engaged, and were enjoying the end of summer. We went to lunch, and as we were leaving, a woman crossed the street with a beautiful orange puppy on a leash. We stopped to pet the pup and compliment the woman on her beautiful dog.

"You want her?" she asked. "She's looking for a home." At the time, Ex and I were NOT looking for a puppy to add to our home. We were happy with our two sweet cats, and Ex was about to move thousands of miles away to start graduate school. (The plan at the time was for me to join her a year later after I finished my master's degree.) We laughed and said no thanks, and went along our way.

About a half a block later, I stopped. "I need that puppy," I said. We waffled back and forth, and 30 minutes later, I was the slightly stunned owner of a beautiful dog.

A week later, Ex dumped my ass. Thanks to Orangedog, the depression I spiraled into was relatively short-lived. I emerged a month later, 30 pounds lighter, but with a great new circle of friends. Each morning, when I was too tired to leave my bed, Orangedog would whine until I took her for a walk. Each evening, when I dragged myself home from work, Orangedog was waiting, her puppy exuberance so overwhelming that I had no choice but to take her to the dog park instead of sitting on my couch crying. It turns out that the dogpark was full of really nice people who were friendly, and excited to talk to me each night. And, since they knew nothing about Ex, Orangedog gave me a new group of people who knew me as me, not as part of a couple. And, when we came back from the dogpark, and Orangedog was hungry, feeding her dinner was my cue to eat, my appetite was completely engulfed by the dark thoughts and clouds hanging over me.

About 6 months after I got her, I turned on the space heater in the crappy basement apartment I was living in. I went to take a shower, but Orangedog kept coming into the bathroom, barking and pulling back the shower curtain. When I got out of the shower, she nudged me toward the front door, barking. She had already gathered the cats at the front door, and was trying to lead us to safety from the glowing space heater, which smelled slightly of burning animal fur.

When Dyke Two came into my life, Orangedog begrudgingly shared her side of the bed with her. But, each night, at about 3:30, when Orangedog felt crowded, she would bark until Dyke Two got up to let her outside. At that point, Orangedog would happily jump into the spot Dyke Two had just vacated.

When Bigfella was born, we were very worried about Orangedog's reaction. We were afraid that Orangedog could decide that Bigfella was an intruder into her space, and would turn against him as she tried to protect me (and by me, I really mean, Orangedog's place as second in command. Sorry, Dyke Two, but you know you are not the alpha in our family...) But, Orangedog has definitely decided that Bigfella is her little friend, and that her friend needs her protection.

Twice in his short life, his Angelcare monitor has gone off. Both times were false alarms, but both times, Orangedog was at the crib before me, barking, nudging the crib and glaring at me for my slow reaction time. Now, whenever the monitor beeps as it is turned on, Orangedog sounds the alarm--barking, running, bumping me toward the crib. When Bigfella cries, she comes to find us and let us know. There is no way we could Ferberize in this house. Orangedog would never allow it.

But, the true test of her dedication came today. Two days ago, Bigfella rolled off our bed after a diaper change. Thank goodness it is only 10 inches to the carpeted floor. This afternoon, I laid Bigfella down on our bed for a nap. After he fell asleep, I got up and went to the living room. I went into the bedroom a few minutes later, and there was Orangedog. She was stretched out facing the spot on the bed where he rolled off. Normally, she relishes naptime as her chance to get time with me. Apparently, Bigfella has usurped me. I am no longer Head Human in Charge. Bigfella is now the leader of the pack.

He rewarded her for his new position in our family by laughing, dancing and grinning each time she came into view this afternoon. Seriously, he stopped looking at me to stare at her. I'm second fiddle to a 60 pound dog...

*My apologies to Dyke Two and Bigfella, though by the end of the story, you will realize why my dog rates as The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Me. If it weren't for her, I don't think I would have lived to meet Dyke Two or have Bigfella.


At 9:29 AM, Blogger Scoutgjee said...

That was a great post! I am still smiling.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Merr said...

Wow what an awesome dog you have!

At 12:29 AM, Blogger Northwoods Baby said...

Go, Orangedog!

I'll admit, I was expecting a Sad Ending, given how you started. I'm so happy to be wrong!

PS, dude slipped off the bed and fell in between it and the cosleeper* the other night. Didn't even phase him.

*Yes. I know the point of the cosleeper is to Put The Baby In It. I'm an idiot.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Mace said...

I bet Bigfella gets good bedtime stories too.. :) Mace

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Tamsin said...

I am not a dog-lover at all, but I found this post really touching. Orangedog sounds like a great member of your family.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Trista said...

Beautiful story!

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous christie (ww) said...

Geez! This story kills me! Orangedog is my new hero. :)

At 12:06 PM, Blogger quixoticmama said...

I love this!

My partner and I have several dogs that are unbelievable, priceless members of our family, so I understand what you mean when you say that OD is one of the best things that has ever happened to you.....

Orangedog sounds wonderful! Lovely story :)

Nice to meet you, by the way .....


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