Looking back on it now, I really can't believe my Dad let us get a dog. I mean, really. The stoic Swede who relishes his quiet and his trains and his time to word-nerd really didn't need a dog to disrupt it all. But it's in retrospect that I realize it's just another example of his quiet love for his kids. I knew he loved us. I really did. But looking back as an adult, I can truly appreciate all the sacrifices of comfort that he made.
I don't know how long we'd been begging for a dog. To me it seemed like forever. I can't remember what finally convinced him, but convinced he was and we took that opportunity and pounced. As I recall (and my recollections have not always been spot on, I must admit. Some family members read this blog and have (gleefully?) pointed out some slight inaccuracies. Just because I exchanged the West River for the Severn River as the location of Annapolis does NOT mean you shouldn't believe my story...) ANYWAY, we got Salli at seven months from a co-worker of his. She was the last pup of the litter and their favorite whom they had planned to keep. This was perfect for Dad because she was 1) FREE and 2) from a known source and therefore not an abused shelter dog who'd be a heap of trouble.
Ha. The first night home, we put her in the basement where The Reluctant One had said she could sleep. She immediately began to howl. Not a puppy, whimpering howl that can be ignored, but a coyote worthy HOWL that none of us could sleep through. I begged to have her in my room. After all, it would end the howling. NO. If you want this dog, you'll sleep in the basement (not the finished part, with a couch, tv, and carpet, but the unfinished concrete part) with her to stop the howling. Ok. So I did. For what seemed like a week. But this had its eternal reward. You dog folks out there know that a dog always picks someone in the family as their “person”. After sleeping with her, feeding her, walking her, loving her, Salli picked ME.
Part beagle, part lab, she was just a darling. Not as big as most labs, and with the black and white markings of a beagle, minus the brown. What a wonderful companion she was. I was 14 when we got her, and we went on many, many walks. Dad had built a separate fenced in area for her “business” that was directly out the basement door. She of course knew how to use that, but she loved her walks, and I loved walking her. Especially by Lance's house. Over and over again, thinking he might notice me. Alas, he did not, but Salli got her exercise, and I had my fantasies.
All this came to a crashing halt the day she was hit by the car. She was such an obedient dog that I got quite lazy with the leash. One of my favorite things to do was ride my bike down to Sligo Creek with her on the leash beside me. Once we'd get there and it was just the winding path with the creek between us and the traffic, I'd let her off to do some real dog exploring. None of this being watched at every turn. Free to sniff that rotting, dead bird for as long as she pleased. Free to speedboat back and forth (we also thought she might have been part greyhound – she was scary fast) and round about. One of those speedboat runs led her into the creek, through, and up on the wrong side and under a car. My world stopped. In shock I threw my bike down and ran to her (would have been much faster getting there on said bike, but when the love of your life is under a car, your brain is in neutral, if at all connected.) It's mostly a blur, as it was even then, but a kind person stopped her van and bundled my pup in her own coat, and drove us to the vet.
Salli had a broken front leg. It would heal. But the recovery was long and hard. Lots of me carrying her up those basement steps to her area, holding her casted leg for her, desperately waiting for her to finish her business. But she did heal, and only limped a little. Much better than the lifeless body I'd seen on the road, eyes staring straight ahead. There was nerve damage, however, and she would obsessively lick that paw until it was raw and bleeding. We tried all kinds of different solutions, but none of them worked. Into the cone she went. It was much harder to sit beside her on the couch while watching tv. Much harder scratching her favorite spot behind her ear. But she was alive, and a conehead dog we had. For the rest of her life.
Such is love. One person gives up on a dog-free house, the rest respond in gratitude with all the care and love that beloved dog needs. I know a lot kids promise that “I'll take care of _______.” I did. And when she finally was at the end of her life and I was a “grown-up” married woman, I still grieved her loss deeply. And I think my stoic Dad might have, too. She was a great pet. And a great friend. I think every childhood deserves a pet. Mine was Salli.