I no longer recall if it was Barbara Woodhouse, a notable British dog expert and author of No Bad Dogs, or someone else who pointed out that “dog” is God spelled backwards, a just linkage for the abundant goodness of that divine animal: THE DOG.
It is tempting to try to tell you about the near 50 dogs with whom I’ve shared my life. But I won’t. Those of you who are dog lovers likely could do the same. And every wonderful dog story is worth relating.
Heidi, our black and white Landseer Newfoundland, is on my mind daily. I see her swimming, cross current even–she loved that. She and Olaf, our fourth Bernese Mountain Dog, both passed away within two years of our move to Maine (2019/2020). Very upsetting. I miss them still. They were my best friends. So loving, beautiful, generous, smart, amusing, and sensitive. Celebrities wherever they went, they attracted everyone–even those who claimed not to particularly like dogs. They liked standing outside Target where a small busload of challenged adults and their caregiver would adore them. The dogs knew peoples’ needs, sometimes even before the humans knew their own needs. Heidi could milk attention from strangers like no other dog I’ve ever known. If a little child met our 150-pound giant, and patted her adoringly, but suddenly stopped, Heidi would gently swipe her paw on the child’s hand as if to say, “Hey, I need more love and I’ve got more to give!” She loved everyone and clearly knew they loved her.
Olaf, another 150-pounder, followed suit. Whenever I walked the two on campus where my husband taught, as we walked by the student lounge, students would pour out of the doors, run to the dogs and throw their arms around them. High schoolers who had just finished a difficult test and were still feeling a bit stressed, buried their heads into their thick fur, receiving needed solace and comfort.
Harley was our rescue Berner. A handsome large fellow who seemed to thank us every day for adopting him. He loved the car, loved our cats, loved our guests that came to our B&B. But these words could be said of every one of our Berners.
After Olaf passed and a few months before Heidi passed, we decided to downsize (as we had in purchasing our Maine home), to a smaller second dog. We got a Bernedoodle, thinking he’d have the longevity of a poodle (much better than Berner’s) and the sweet character traits of a Berner. Ha! After some months with our Bernedoodle, we were so in doubt we’d gotten what we paid for, that we even did a DNA test. Sure enough. Half Berner, half poodle, just like he’s supposed to be–even if he looks and acts more like a fox terrier! In coloring, he looked a lot like Heidi–black and white and in the same areas. The few months they had together before Heidi’s passing, wherever we went people thought Heidi was his Mom.
We named our new pup Beacon after the nearby lighthouse. Bill sometimes jokingly says to people who ask what kind of dog is Beacon: “You’ve heard of a Pointer? Well, this is a Disa-pointer.” Actually, this is just a very bad joke; we dearly love Beacon. But he is different than the many Bernese Mountain Dogs (Olaf, Zermatt, Geneva, Harley) and Newfies (Heidi, Gentle, North Star, and the many other Newfie litters born in my kitchen) and our Samoyed (Surprise) that we’ve had. Beacon is afraid of people (came that way), stares at you endlessly without moving an inch when you use the command “come,” but gets the command “car” instantly, would rather chase/catch balls than play with other canines, and is a challenge to groom.
Zermatt, our first Berner, was majestic, of notable intelligence. I remember the time Bill walked him and Geneva on a familiar path along the Appalachian Trail not far from where we lived then, in Pennsylvania. Tourists, often from other nations visiting New York City, which was only an hour away, would “get to the country” and come to this spot to hike. One day an Indian congregation hit the trail only to face our two big dogs running toward them. Noticeably alarmed by these two bear-like creatures coming full speed at them, they did not at first realize the dogs were on duty, racing past them going toward the 700-pound bear behind the tourists which the hikers had not seen! The dogs quickly scared the bear away and calmly went back beside Bill who was now being profusely thanked by the Indian delegation for his brave dogs saving their lives! One can only imagine the story they told when they got back home!
All dog-owners have great dog stories. Bill and I could talk your ears off. But won’t. I just know that every dog needs a good home, a kind human to care for him, and a few more humans to meet and adore on a daily basis.
Artwork: Landseer Newfie at Water’s Edge, oil, 14″ x 11″ $475. I just finished this painting recently from a photo I’d taken of Heidi one of her last days here in Maine. She loved the water. The sun was beginning to set, casting a golden glow on the rocks and waves. What a great girl!