When my 12 year old
collie Sassie died on June 27th, 2011, I wasn't quite sure if I
would ever have another dog again. The pain was so intense (my
friend Tom from "The Tonight Show" describes it as a 'knife through
the heart') that it wasn't something I was anxious to experience
again. Even if it was 10 years or so in the future.
We sat and chatted with Carol about Roxy's history. A year
earlier Roxy needed several emergency surgeries which rendered her
infertile. But she got through them all with her wonderful attitude
and personality intact. She was in the process of growing her lovely
coat back, and Carol felt that Roxy really needed her own human.
Competing for attention against the other dogs wasn't fulfilling
Roxy's intense need for one-on-one companionship.
For the next several weeks I went up to Lassie Land to take Roxy out of her surroundings for an afternoon, and enjoy some time together in the park. We stopped at the KFC drive-thru and got lunch to go, then went to the park to eat and just walk around. I discovered that Roxy loved the Colonel as much as I did! It gave us a chance to work together on behaviors, get her familiar with the leash, and getting in and out of my car.
We continued this ritual for a few
weeks, and Carol commented that she noticed an almost immediate
change in Roxy’s demeanor. She wasn’t the erratic bundle of energy
she normally was. Now that she had someone to pay attention only to
her, she seemed more focused and at ease. The first time I brought
her back home after our afternoon outing, something really funny
happened. I took Roxy out of the car and brought her up to the
front. Rocky and Bobby were there curiously popping their noses
through the gate to see how Roxy was doing. Almost as if they were
saying, “Where did you go? What did you do? What’s it like on the
outside?” Unable to resist their beautiful faces, I bent down to pet
their noses through the slats of the gate and talk to them. But then
I felt two giant paws on my back. It was Roxy reminding me who was
numero uno. Almost like a nervous prom date when the hot cheerleader
walks by. “Ahem… remember me?” Then she got down and touched noses
through the gate with Bobby and Rocky, and she snarled her lip
upwards and growled softly. Almost as if to say, “He’s mine!” My
friend Edi and I laughed about that all the way home.
With each consecutive weekend Roxy became more and more comfortable in Planet Wallywood. In fact, the first time she got up on my bed to take a nap with me was nothing short of pants-wettingly hilarious. It was like a cat with catnip. She didn’t know what to do first. All she knew is that she wanted to be as close to me as possible. She started moaning like someone getting a massage from a very talented masseuse. She wriggled around on the bed, nuzzled, snuggled, rolled around, made more crazy noises and ended up flat on her back with her feet in the air. I had to re-enact the scenario for my friend Edi so she could see that my story was true.
Roxy started to enjoy all of the people that visited, though she didn’t have a good grasp of personal boundaries right away. While I enjoyed her spontaneous leaping hugs, they weren’t for everyone. So I started working with her to only do it on command, as opposed to doing it to every poor, unsuspecting soul who walked through my door. She also liked to get right in people’s faces. She loves people, animals…everything! She just didn’t know about personal space yet. But she’s learning.
I also took great delight in taking her to the evening services at my church. It’s a casual service so people can bring their dogs if they like. It’s all good. At first Roxy was restless and unsure of where she was. She wouldn’t sit still, and she wouldn’t lie down on the floor. But as soon as I put her up next to me she settled down and remained there peacefully through the rest of the service. She just wanted to be up with me. Now after several weeks, the newness has worn off, and she’s an old pro at this churchin’ thing. In fact, she really loves it, because at the end everyone comes by to give her pets and attention. But taking her back to Lassie Land on Sunday evenings was getting more and more difficult for me. So the next move was to make it permanent.
Carol and I agreed that Roxy would make the switch-over late April. So I went to pick her up on Saturday April 28th for good. While Carol was sad to see her go, I assured her that it would be great for Roxy, (and me!) and she would only be 15 minutes up the road if she ever wanted to visit. Carol gave me a few pages of notes about the care and feeding of Roxy, and down the road we went. Roxy sat in the backseat quietly and comfortably. I thought about how much she had changed since I first met her. She used to be nervous and restless in the backseat of my car (probably expecting to soon be poked and prodded by the vet) but now she lays down and enjoys the trip like an old pro. (I'm sure she probably suspects there's chicky involved at the end of it all) Carol had done a tremendous amount of work with her in all sorts of behavioral areas. From getting in and out of the car, to riding in the car, to common manners, to the standard sit and lay down. I kept thinking that Roxy was the canine version of Eliza Doolittle. And Carol was Professor Henry Higgins! She had been cultured!
Our first stop off the freeway was KFC to get some celebratory chicky! Then it was off to Rusty's for a bath. Roxy seemed to like to find the dirtiest places to lay down at Lassie Land. She was a true dog of the land! When she was ready to go, I grabbed her poop scoop and walked walked over to Rusty's. She's always been very comfortable at my house during the weekends she visited. One of the first places she went was the bed in the Puppet Room. Only here a few hours and she's already staking her claim!
Every day she does something to make me laugh, and we’re getting to know each other better all the time. Carol promised to get me a Lassie family tree so I can track Roxy’s ancestors down the line. Who knew that from that one dog back in 1943, so many great dogs would be sired? A friend joked that I now had the ultimate “collectible” in my collection…an actual descendant of a Hollywood movie star. But Roxy’s far more than that. In fact, to quote a Hollywood classic, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship!”