In the Summer of 1993 my oldest son’s grandfather and grandmother, while I was slaving away at my job as a Team Leader & Mental Health Therapist at the local clinic, took Danny, my wife, and the other two children shopping for a dog. After serious consideration two dogs they really liked made the final cut. Both dogs were small and cute, but one dog cost a lot more than the other; thus, Danny, Nani, & TJ selected the less costly little black & white, male Shih Tzu. The new dog belonged to Danny with the stipulation that he share the dog with his younger sister & brother. As the children all got along very well and shared many things together, the grandparents saw no problem with this verbal contract with their grandkids. The kids named him Sparky Star and that name went onto his registration papers. When I came home from work I found a cute, fuzzy ball of fur romping around in the kitchen entertaining the children. The kids were so happy, laughing and playing with their new friend. In no time at all Sparky Star became a member of our family requiring all the care of feeding, bathing, going to the vet for shots and check-ups, and the hardest job of all, trying to domesticate the wild beast under his very thick, and constantly growing fur coat. And he became the grand-dog of my parents. The very first thing my mother would ask me when she called was how Sparky was doing.
I knew nothing about training a pure bred dog as I never had one. My dog as a boy was a half breed and always friendly and easy to coax into getting him to do what I wanted him to do, which wasn’t very much. Sparky was cute but very independent for a dog and high strung. He was extremely possessive of anything in his territory and guarded it within an inch of his life. His teeth were as sharp as razors as I soon found out. I really didn’t know how to handle the little fellow. He remained stubborn and obstinate all his life. My wife became his master after a while and provided some of the discipline necessary for a happier dog and family. The children became his playmates, and later, after a few big fights between us, I became his best friend. I think we accomplished this by learning to accept one another’s stubbornness and determination not to be dominated by the other.
As it happens in so many families before us, and will continue to happen after us, the children grew in size, strength, and intellect and left home for college and/or work. Now it was just my wife, me and the dog, Sparky. My wife continued to take Sparky to the vet, bathed him, and cut his hair. Somewhere along the way I began to daily feed him, fill up his water bowl, and provide treats for him that supposedly cleaned his teeth. He always had good teeth, so I hope my diligence paid dividends. Every morning before going to work I would say goodbye to Sparky and upon returning home he would greet me, wagging his tail excitedly and wanting to play and romp. Little by little we formed a close bond with one another. Although Sparky was a moody dog he always wanted to be patted by me every morning and when I arrived home from work in the evening. These routines of ours became an important ingredient of the man-dog relationship, which are so natural in our everyday normal social interactions. Being a smart dog he trained me to allow him the independence of choosing the times when he wanted to approach & interact with me; but when I left the house or came home, he was always there, which is the way of the dog family.
As everyone knows a dog’s life span is a lot less than ours, and they don’t stay around generally as long as we do, so it was with Sparky. I began to notice that Sparky’s energy diminished steadily as the years went by, that his eyes clouded over, his fur looked dull, and he slept more. He spent more time by himself underneath the kitchen table sleeping and resting. Slowly but surely his energy became less & less. Despite this fact, no matter how little energy he had, as long as he lived, he always found enough energy every once in a while to become young again for a short time and play like he did as a pup. How I beamed as I watched him lay his ears back and begin his romp around the kitchen floor slipping & sliding on the linoleum as he came close to me in an invitation to join in the fun. These times became less & less as he aged but never stopped. On the last day of his life before he died, he approached me for the last time and bowed his head for me to pat him, then scratch behind his ears, and lastly massage his neck. I didn’t know we were saying good-bye for good. Although he looked bad, I could tell he still enjoyed my attention and the touching.
In my last blog I wrote about playing basketball and how I had a burst of energy recently that encouraged me once again to take to the court and express myself for a moment in time as I once did often during my youth. Yes, all of my skills had deteriorated significantly, but the old feelings of pleasure, and the memories of how I use to play were as vivid as an HD video with a pleasing soundtrack. How I long for and miss those wonderful and glorious years when the reservoir of my youthful energy was abundant & renewable. Like Sparky in his old age, every now and then, I have a burst of energy that I once felt frequently as a young man; and when that happens to me these days, it is bliss. Little by little that reservoir of energy available to me is being filled in by the silt of time until one day in the not too distant future that precious commodity will cease to be available; and when that day finally happens, I will join my ancestors & Sparky. Until that day I hope to enjoy those rare occasions when a burst of energy overwhelms me again, and I enter the exuberance of my youth and shoot the basketball at the hoop, and hopefully with a net on it. garland dale