“People, let me tell you bout my best friend. He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my up, my down, my pride and joy…” (1969) “Best Friend” (Theme song to ABC’s “Courtship Of Eddie’s Father” sitcom.) Written & Recorded By: Harry Nilsson
When I spent my days without a dog, it would only be a few weeks here and there through my 61 years. I’ve had a few dogs in my life, many sizes, shapes, and breeds. As an only child, living most of my childhood with a single mom, my dog was indeed my best friend.
Back in 2011, after a dogless year, or so, it was time to get serious about adopting a little pal. My best buddy for 16 years was a Corgi/Dachshund mix. I thought I would look up websites in my area for Corgi mixes, just to see if any up for adoption resembled my childhood pal. It didn’t take long to find such a website. They certainly had many to offer. The Corgi mixes available came in all sorts of varieties. They were all adorable, but none caught my eye as I scrolled through the long list of little orphans. After scrolling through fifty to sixty, I came to the very end of digital the show & tell (tail). There, on the very last listing, a 12 month old pup who surely could have been the brother of my dog from 1967. I am soooo glad I didn’t give up in my search and looked at the very last dog on their page. His name was Shorty, a brown, brindle Corgi/Dachshund mix.
Shorty had been adopted by a foster mom from a kill shelter two counties southwest of me. She had a mission to save as many dogs as she could. She had a dog ranch where she cared for them while listing them for adoption.
I drove some two hours to meet Shorty. He was with other dogs being shown at a pet store for a few hours. It was love at first sight.
Here, at this point in my post, I should say I could write of Shorty, his personality, and his well behaved manners making for a very long post, or maybe a three-part blog. I will not do that to you. Yet, I will spotlight the little buddy who renovated my life with a couple of stories.
I’ve had some dogs who needed some counselling. I’ve owned dogs who just couldn’t learn to behave themselves. At other times I’ve enjoyed highly intelligent dogs that often wowed me. Let me tell you, Shorty is one of those dogs. His intelligence level runs rings around all other four-leggers from my household past. He stares at me with wanting eyes, ears up, without vocals, and I usually will know what he is asking for. If it’s feeding time, I will say, “Tell me. What is it you need?” Only moving his head, he turns his face to the left, looking toward the kitchen, and then back at me. I will follow up with, “Is it time to feed Shorty?” He then gets off his rump, wags the tail, and tries to talk using a grunt, or a soft whine. So, off we go to the kitchen for dinner. Later, like clockwork, when he finishes his meal, he tosses his metal bowl with his nose, making a clanging sound as it lands up against the fridge. I then know when he is done. It’s a bit of a routine.
Shorty knows the difference between the sound of our engine, and any other vehicle driving by. He can even knows the sound of our car door shutting, unlike other cars.
Although, on the day I adopted Shorty, driving two hours back home without incident, he always got car sick when coming along for a ride in the following months. I tried everything to help him with motion sickness. I gave him Dramamine, sedatives, Pepto chewables, even the Thunder Shirt, advertised as “the answer”. Nothing worked. One day, out of the blue, he avoided his nausea. After a few more journeys in the car, with a puke-free trip each time, I noticed he would keep his head down while the car was rolling. When stopped, he would raise his head only to put it down again when driving. I soon realized, Shorty had troubleshooted his own nausea issue. He discovered on his own that he could not look out the window while the car was in motion. He figure that out before I did. What a keen sense he has.
Many of those rides were to one of his favorite places. The local dog park. What a happy place. He loved running around with the other dogs with full horseplay going on. Once a rude Boarder Collie, who was the alpha dog of a group of dogs running around with a soccer ball, chased Shorty away from the group, barked at him, then went back to his pack. I felt so sorry for him. Shorty, was obviously told he didn’t belong with this little pack and to stay out. He looked so rejected. So, off we went to get an ice cream cone at a Dairy Queen. Problem solved!
Shorty and I lived in an apartment complex. We would walk around the area, next to a greenbelt creek, three to five times a day. He loves people, and I mean any person out and about. One day, a very courageous squirrel came too close to our path and the length of leash. Before you can say, “Hello”, Shorty stopped, looked up at me with a the squirrel in his mouth. He wasn’t biting down on the little guy, he was just holding him in his jaws as if to say, “Look, dad!” I immediately and sharply told Shorty to put him down. He did. The squirrel was in shock and just froze. Later I found out an elderly lady in the complex had been feeding the squirrel by hand right off of her patio. I think the little thing thought I was going to feed him.
Shorty’s kindness to other animals was always on full display, with the exception of an afternoon at my dad’s house. My dad lives out in the country in west Texas. For many years he had goats in his small pasture. Each time I let Shorty off his leash there, he made a sprint to the goats grazing off in the brush. To our amazement, Shorty herded the goats, right and left, backward and forward. It was like watching something in a movie. We always had to go retrieve him from his herding duties because he wouldn’t come back to us when we yelled at him. It was as if he had been trained to herd. Somewhere in his DNA, something told him not only how to herd, but that he must do it! LOL
Throughout the last ten+ years together, he has been by my side as a constant loving companion. He was there with me through a very abusive 2nd marriage which ended in divorce. He was there when I had my near-death experience back in 2013, and sweetly waited for me each day to come home while hospitalized for six weeks. Shorty fell in love with an old high school friend I was dating. In fact, when sitting together for a romantic night, watching a movie, or listening to music, he would insert himself between us and nest himself for snuggling. A couple of years later, when we married, Shorty and I moved into my wife’s house. He was enamored with his new, very spacious, backyard. She had her own dog, who was queen of her castle, and she made sure Shorty understood the boundaries. She was fairly cold with him, even to the point of not wanting to be touched by him. Shorty from that point on, always gave her first place in everything, as if he had been trained as a gentleman. I know. It’s nuts. Before you know it, she began to see him as a protector, a snuggle buddy, and friend.
When I was told I needed a quadruple bypass, he once again watched out the front window, patiently awaiting my arrival back from a three week stay in the hospital. As usual, our reunion was worthy of video. He always knows when I am sick, sad, or at a loss. His demeanor changes, coming quietly to my side as if to comfort me as only he could. We truly have been through so much together. There have been so many life events we have shared. Too much to list here.
A couple of years ago, Shorty developed some issues with his liver. Some medication seemed to ease his battle with it over a month or so. Frankly, it frightened me at the time. I’m not a med student, but I do know what it is to have organ failure and what it can do.
Around the 1st of March this year, Shorty began to show familiar signs of a struggling liver. He began drinking water by the bowl until he was ready to pop. He began to show a bit of bladder mishaps, mainly due to all the water intake. Soon the panting started, ears stayed behind his head, along with an unwillingness to snuggle up on the couch, or on the bed. Shorty sought a cold wooden floor to go up against his belly area all the time. A couple of days later, he no longer wanted food, and was sleeping way more than usual. It wasn’t long after that, he began tossing up his cookies. Shorty never ignored commands, or my voice, but he began to about the same time. It was telling when Shorty would go hide in closets, facing the walls, or crouch down in rooms all by himself. It broke my heart when outside, he began to hide away under shrubs, or a back corner of the yard, lying flat with his face toward the outside fence. I’m not unaware of the instinct deep inside of him. It worried me deeply.
On March 8th, by the time we took him to the vet, he was hardly walking. I could see in his eyes he was in pain, even though, as in Shorty’s manner, he never complained. The x-ray showed Shorty had a massive enlarged liver, almost twice the size it should be. In fact, it even reached his sternum area. The doctor said it could be a birth defect, but more than likely, considering it’s relatively a new problem, it’s a cancerous liver. The only way to prove it cancer was involved was to do a sonogram, a biopsy, a stint in a hospital away from us, etc. He would be in pain, and would wonder why we weren’t with him. If it was cancer, depending upon the severity, chemo would be next. As the doctor spoke, Shorty began to quiver, and refused to face us, unless we positioned him ourselves. He was dying and he knew it better than we did. With much agony, tears, and with broken hearts, we made the hard decision to put him down. We comforted him to his last breath, holding him, petting him, scratching his ears, speaking softly words of comfort that he knew. I wanted to be sure he was cared for and loved to the very end.
On the cold drive home from the vet, I came to a stirring thought I will always keep with me. Back in August of 2011, out of love, I rescued Shorty. As God as my witness, I know Shorty rescued me each and every day since.
There is a love that is closer than a brother found inside fuel for the race.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17 (NAS)