83: A Good Nanny

83: A Good Nanny

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

A Good Nanny

Fun fact: “Nanny dogs,” also called “nursemaid dogs,” are especially fond of children.

After our dog, named Bear-doggy, died, I had to admit I enjoyed the peace and quiet. There was no more letting him in and out, no feeding and watering, no cleaning up after him. Of course, I missed him terribly, but I did notice the reduction in my workload.

I hoped my husband would notice how nice things were now. The hallway tiles were clear of metal bowls and spongy puddles. There was no giant animal to step around everywhere we walked, and there were no more wee-hour treks outside for a canine gut sickened by sneaking chicken food. I hoped the children would relish the fewer daily chores: no more feeding, watering, or bathroom breaks in the rain or freezing darkness of our Alaskan winter. Maybe we could be done with dogs.

Alas, one Saturday several weeks after poor Bear’s death, my husband and eldest son, fifteen at the time, came home with another animal rescued from the shelter — a scary-looking dog with a huge head and lots of muscles. Even his tail was strong. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I blanched.

“He’s sweet,” they said.

“Look at his face,” they said.

“All he wanted to do when we took him out was sit next to us,” they said.

“They’re called nanny dogs in England,” they said.

My son named him Hondo after a favorite Louis L’Amour character.

But I didn’t trust the dog, and I was mad at my menfolk. I remained tense and constantly on alert for two days while everyone else welcomed him and glared at me.

Then one afternoon, I stretched out on the couch with our baby, both of us exhausted after a poor night’s sleep. Hondo, who refused to believe that I didn’t like him, marched over and sat right down next to us, facing outward like some sort of protector. I remembered the nanny-dog sobriquet and softened somewhat as I wondered if it was true.

After a minute, my baby, now heavy with sleep, shifted, and his bare arm flopped down to hang over the side of the couch. And the dog noticed. He turned and gently — so very gently — nosed the baby’s chubby arm back up and into the crook of my arm. I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds. He lifted his eyes, and we regarded each other for a short time: Hondo calm and serious, and me surprised and contrite. He then turned back around and remained our gentle sentinel for the duration of our twenty-minute rest. I never did sleep that afternoon, but marveled over the unexpected degree of compassion this dog exhibited. I smiled for hours afterward. What a good nanny.

And he remains so, five years later. Where our children gather, there he sits. When someone naps on the couch, there he quietly keeps watch. Whatever the kids want him to do, he complies, from hours hiking on mountain trails to hours lying still if someone thinks his tummy makes a good pillow.

This scary-looking beast has become a cherished watchman. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate Bear-doggy when he was with us. I’m certainly appreciative of the way Hondo, our good nanny, has improved our lives.

~Allison Howell

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