Marshal Dillon Dingle came to us about a week after my soul dog, T, left.
I still well up thinking of T. Still smile at his memory too.
A beautiful long-coated German ShepHerd.
Nearly human eyes that could pierce your being.
Absolutely, 100 percent devoted.
The rest of the world?
It made him nuts. And he needed to protect himself from it.
He was dangerous. Every expert we worked with began with high hopes and oodles of confidence. And then, eventually, I’d see ‘the look’. They all arrived at the same decision. There was something wrong, very wrong, with him. His demons were too many.
I held him in my arms and fed him the best treats, as his… my … wonderful vet and I sobbed on his last day.
I am welling up as I type this.
God I loved that dog.
I cursed the rainbow I saw on the way home from the vets that day … screw the rainbow bridge, freakin’ rainbow … went home and hugged The Dogs of the Dingle house back then – Fred, Monty, and Blaze. And I felt all the things you feel when a great dog was in your life, but no longer is.
And I felt all the things you feel when you fail.
When you do everything you can think of, everything experts tell you… when you grasp at straws and reach for hope… and the straws bend and the hope fades.
The feeling was awful.
In a strange confluence of events, the next week a puppy came to us.
Another German ShepHerd.
Twelve weeks old and temporary.
Well… it turns out… temporary to me.
In a very strange role-reversal situation, I would not have kept this puppy. I was happy to return him to my friend, a breeder who was uprooting her existence after a terrible divorce, and didn’t want the puppy stressed more than he needed to be. I took him for two nights.
JoHn fell in love almost right away.
He hadn’t had his own soul dog since the great Mistress Vom Kiko.
A dog that I met when I was 18 years old, and can say, without any of the romanticized prism of ‘the perfect childhood dog’, this dog was about as close to perfect as you could get.
Best friend to my cat, ‘Bugs’, and partner in crime with her against the fiendish village cat who lived across the street.
A neighborhood wanderer, back when dogs could do that. Welcome in others’ homes, guardian of others’ kids.
Misty was JoHn’s Great Childhood Dog.
After we moved out, we would visit Granny and Grampa each week, partially to hang with them, but also so JoHn could see his dog.
And when she died a couple of years later, it was the end of an era.
It would be twenty-two years.
Twenty-two years, and a marriage, and four jobs, and three kids, and moving back and forth to Australia, and starting his own company, and sending two kids off to college, before another soul dog would show up, almost but not quite literally, on JoHn’s doorstep.
And he fell hard.
It was nuts.
This man who had seen many a puppy, and loved many a dog over that 22 year span, fell for this little fuzz ball almost immediately.
I have written that he picked Marshal up that day and didn’t put him down until the damn dog weighed sixty-five pounds.
And for me?
Marshal Dillon Dingle has been slowly but surely helping me to trust myself with a non-piece-of-cake dog again.
Having and working with – and then losing – T was a devastating blow to my confidence in dealing with a handful of a dog.
A well-bred German ShepHerd is smart, and determined, and needs a job. The family can be the job, and if they take to it, they can be the most amazing family dogs on the planet.
What? I’m not biased!
I’d never had a male ShepHerd before I had T. And when nothing I did, and nothing others helped me with, worked for him… well, a fear settled somewhere deep inside me.
I had a ‘danger’ alarm, and it would trigger… even when it didn’t need to.
Anything that could be seen as aggressive behavior would spring my nerves to attention. Even his ‘big boy bark’ would do it.. and, you can imagine, this was a fairly regular thing for Marshal to employ, being a dog bred to alert you when something is wrong!
Did I mention dogs can practically smell nerves springing to attention?
So Marshal would alert, my nerves would spring, Marshal would think, “Well, something must be really wrong, can you smell her nerves? ALERT MORE! BARK MORE! GET BIG AND SCARY BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT WE’RE BRED FOR BLAZE!”
Or something like that.
And so I worried.
But, slowly, I also learned to trust all my years with dogs before T.
And over all this time, now three years, of me being with Marshal, and watching JoHn with him, I realize that I needn’t have worried.
He’s a social guy.
And a silly guy.
Sure, he German ShepHerds the frack out of anyone who walks through the door unexpectedly.
But he doesn’t eat them.
Plus, when we used to yell at him to stop, Grampa used to yell “Leave the God damned Dog Alone! That’s his God-damned job!”
This silly, strange, disembodied-stuffed-animal-head-distributing, still-gets-stuck-in-the-sofa dog won JoHn’s heart right away, and has slowly taught me to trust my own dog abilities (and sensibilities) again.
And I’m still waiting for my own, next soul dog to wander into my life. It’ll happen. But in the mean time, I appreciate the gifts Marshal Dillon Dingle brings to JoHn, and to the rest of us.
What? Every special little boy deserves a nick name. :))
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