77: All for the Love of Patty

77: All for the Love of Patty

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

All for the Love of Patty

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

~Josh Billings

I knew we were in trouble. Our family’s old Shepherd-Rottweiler mix, Grizz, had died. Now our middle-school-aged daughter wanted a replacement.

“Honey, we still have one dog,” I said, pointing to Tundra, our Shiba Inu.

“She’s yours, Mom,” Patty said. “I’d miss Grizz less if I had my own dog.”

That weekend my husband, Jake, showed me an ad for hybrid wolf cubs. “We won’t buy one,” he assured me. “We’ll just go for a ride in the country to look at the pups. It’ll help take Patty’s mind off Grizz.”

I should have known better.

When we arrived at the breeder’s acreage, a large white pup with black saddle-like markings raced to greet us. He covered Patty’s face with exuberant doggy kisses. It was love at first sight for both of them.

While Patty romped with the puppy my husband asked, “How big will he get?”

“He’s the alpha male. He’ll be around 150 pounds,” the breeder replied cheerfully.

One hundred and fifty pounds?

I turned to my husband to say, “Absolutely not,” but it was too late.

Patty was bouncing in her father’s arms. “Pleeease, Daddy. I’ll take care of him. He already loves me. I can tell.”

We drove home with the pup snuggled in her lap.

“It’s stormy today,” our daughter said from the back seat. “Maybe I’ll name him Stormy.” The pup woofed in agreement, and it was settled.

When we arrived home we discovered Stormy was already as big as Tundra. The new pup playfully pounced on her. Tundra growled a “back off, I’m top dog here” warning. Stormy complied, and from that point on they were buddies.

Patty took on the task of housebreaking. For the first three nights she woke multiple times to take Stormy outside. The fourth day Patty collapsed on the sofa and exclaimed, “If taking care of a dog is this much work, I’m never having kids!”

Against my better judgment, Stormy slept in Patty’s room. I’d find them snuggled together, her arm draped over his warm body, both sound asleep.

One evening I peeked in to find Patty curled in a blanket on the floor. Stormy snoozed on her bed, his furry head resting on her pillow.

“What’s going on?” I asked in disbelief.

“He’s so big now we can’t both fit on the bed,” Patty explained.

I expelled the dog with the strict instruction, “Stormy is not to sleep on your bed anymore.”

The next afternoon I found them nestled together, napping comfortably on my king-sized bed.

Patty loved her new dog, and he returned her love multiplied. She taught him to stand on his hind legs and brace his forelegs against her. At first his little puppy paws reached her knees. Patty continued to employ his “up” command even when Stormy, at 160 pounds, far outweighed her, and she had to brace against a wall for support.

Stormy proved himself intelligent and curious. His exploratory missions included the kitchen garbage. I moved the trashcan to the broom closet, safely enclosed behind a wooden sliding door.

Stormy watched intently the first time I slid the door open to toss out a tantalizing pile of chicken bones. I shut the door, and Stormy immediately pushed his nose into the door’s circular finger hole. He slid the door open with his muzzle, and triumphantly plunged into the trash.

When he was young, Stormy entertained himself by redecorating. He pulled pictures off the walls and knickknacks from the end tables whenever we left the house. We’d come home to claw marks in the drywall, and chewed candle stubs on the carpet.

Stormy didn’t understand the correlation between his destructive behavior and our dismayed reactions. While Tundra quivered in fear in the middle of the mess, Stormy raced to meet Patty with his “I’m so glad you’re home” kisses.

We began purchasing our decor at Goodwill.

The breaking point came the day Stormy greeted us at the door wearing a smashed lampshade around his neck. He’d eaten part of the lamp, including the bulb.

He couldn’t squeeze into a dog crate, so we set up an outdoor kennel in our once-beautiful finished basement. Patty filled the chain-link kennel with his favorite blankets and chew toys. We congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity and left for church while Stormy settled into his plush new crate.

That afternoon Stormy greeted us at the front door, a piece of wire dangling from his raw mouth.

He’d chewed through the chain-link fence.

My husband reinforced the kennel with thick hog-wire paneling. After a few weeks of kennel training, Stormy gave up “remodeling.”

When Patty left for school in a neighboring state, Stormy was inconsolable. He stopped eating and refused to play with Tundra. Stormy wandered the house looking for Patty, often staring out the window as he waited for her return.

With our daughter away, I worked overtime, sometimes coming home as late as 3 a.m. Those quiet, pre-dawn hours became my prayer time. The dogs dozed as I paced the living room, lifting my petitions to heaven.

Whenever I prayed for Patty, Stormy rose to pace with me, step by step. The moment my prayer focus shifted to someone else, Stormy lay down again.

Unnerved, I told my husband about it.

“Stormy’s walking with you because you’re saying Patty’s name,” he reasoned.

“No, Jake, he does it even when I’m praying silently,” I explained.

Stumped by Stormy’s uncanny knowledge, we attributed it to his love for Patty.

Years passed, and Patty laid aside her “If puppy care is this hard I’m never having kids” declaration. She gave birth to a beautiful son, Asher.

Stormy was careful and gentle around the baby. Although Stormy showed no special devotion toward little Asher, the dog kept watch over the baby. I believe he did it out of love for Patty.

When Asher started toddling, Tundra steered clear of him, leaving Stormy to suffer the indignities of a drooling child dogging his every step.

All for the love of Patty.

As Stormy aged he developed joint problems. Medications worked for a few years, but the day came when the old dog couldn’t go on. Patty made the heart-wrenching decision to put him to sleep.

While Stormy lay on the table in the veterinarian’s office, Patty stood at her dog’s side. She stroked his fur and spoke words of love as the vet gave Stormy his final injection.

“He’s gone now,” the vet told Patty, and left her alone in the room to mourn.

Choking back tears, Patty whispered the words she’d repeated since their first day together, “You’re a good boy, Stormy. I love you.”

Her sobs cut off unexpectedly as Stormy’s huge, limp body slid off the table into her arms.

The vet returned to find Patty cradling her dog’s slack form.

“He was already dead,” the vet said. “It must have been a muscular contraction.”

My heart tells me otherwise. I believe that even as death pulled him away, Stormy heard her, and gave one final, mighty effort to snuggle closer.

All for the love of Patty.

~Jeanie Jacobson

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