Ode to Spike

On Sunday, our dog Spike bolted down the street, around the corner, up the highway offramp and across four lanes of traffic where he met his death before he got to the other side. (He had never taken off like this before; very unusual behavior for him.) This morning I felt compelled to write about our loss:

I was the last holdout in the family against having a dog. My stance was that I had four kids and a husband—already too much to do and I wasn’t willing to take on any more work. Manly Guy stood with me until December 2012, when he sent me a video of children getting dogs for Christmas. “Really?! One puppy video and you go to their (the kids’) side on this?” I was annoyed, as I suspected that the care and feeding of any family pet would fall squarely on my shoulders.

I had never bonded with a dog. Sure, we had pets when I was growing up, but they were never “mine”. My experience was that dogs barked, they made messes, they were a lot of work, they never listened. I was definitely not a Dog Person. In fact, I really wasn’t a Pet Person. While I enjoy cats, I never made room in my life to have one of my own.

Spike changed all that.

Our nanny P called Manly Guy one evening in late November 2013, asking him to meet her at her car. Inside the car, her friend T held an adorable puppy. P had taken on a project, finding homes for ten puppies living with a woman and her grown disabled son. This woman had six stray dogs and before long she had two litters of puppies. She was overwhelmed. P found donors to pay to have the woman’s stray dogs spayed and found homes for all of the puppies. One of those puppies was Spike.

I knew I was in a losing battle on the puppy front. I made a calculation that if I took one of these puppies, I’d have P’s buy-in and support. After she agreed to care for the puppy when we traveled at Christmas and agreed to help us find someone to care for Spike when we traveled the following summer, I told Manly Guy that we could get a puppy.

During the first week in December, Manly Guy went to pick out a puppy. P had showed him one that she thought we might like, but Manly Guy found himself drawn to another. He agreed to pick him up on Saturday, December 7, 2013. While I took the kids to San Francisco for a symphony concert, Manly Guy picked up the puppy, took him to the vet, got his shots, gave him a bath and brought him into our home. Manly Guy put him in a big box right before we arrived and set it in the middle of the living room.

S was the one who had pestered us the most as far as wanting a dog, so she was the one who got to open the box. She was so shocked when she opened the box—I had done such a good job convincing the kids that they were never getting a dog—that she was stunned and hardly said anything. It took a few minutes for the kids to realize that this dog was ours.

Manly Guy decided on the name Spike. The kids showered him with love immediately. Within a few days he was housebroken and he was surprisingly easy to manage. He was quickly part of our daily routine. Spike was the first thing that the kids wanted to see in the morning and the last thing they wanted to see at night.

Spike became Manly Guy’s constant companion. It was a beautiful relationship to witness. Spike loved to lie at Manly Guy’s side, and we accumulated six beds in two houses so that he could be comfortable wherever he wanted to be. First thing in the morning, I would carry Spike downstairs in his bed so that Manly Guy could get a little extra sleep. Sometimes I would take him outside to do his business, but more often one of the kids would go outside with him. The agreement was that Mommy was not responsible for the dog, but Daddy and the kids had to take care of Spike. Generally that agreement was upheld, and the only care that I gave to Spike was because I chose to jump in.

Spike let us love him in the way that each of us wanted to. S wanted to play-fight with him, so they learned to do tug-of-war with a rope toy together. J wanted to calmly hold him, and he loved her for it. T played with him, held him, would lie on the floor next to him, and he always responded with love. V wanted to lie on top of him (I had to remind her regularly not to squish him) and kiss his head. He was so patient and loving with each of them.

Spike gave me the space to learn to love him. I initially wasn’t that interested in having much of a relationship with him, but he wormed his way into my heart. Eventually, he spent part of the day with me in the kitchen, his bed in a corner. He loved being with us, dozing and then looking up with his beautiful eyes and worried expression. I would often stop what I was doing (cooking or cleaning), bend down and rub his ears. He would always just be grateful for the attention. He didn’t beg for it, but he was always appreciative of the love that we gave him.

Spike let me love him the way I would love a cat. He would curl up on my lap while I was at the computer, either on one of his beds (which he preferred) or just on my legs. Sometimes I picked him up and had him sit straight on my lap and gave him a back scratch with my nails and he seemed to really enjoy it. He never licked my face (he knew I didn’t like that), but he would give me licks from a distance.

There are so many little things that I will miss about Spike:

The sound of his dog tags jingling together, a quiet reminder of his presence.

The little throaty sound that he made as I carried him downstairs in his bed first thing in the morning.

The very occasional middle-of-the-night wakeup (by licking my hand), asking me to put his blanket over him as he hopped back into his bed.

Rubbing his soft ears. I loved his ears.

Looking into his beautiful eyes. He was so patient with me taking photos of that lovely face of his.

The way he curled up tightly, quietly asking to stay in bed, not wanting to go outside yet.

The way he popped up his head when I walked into the guest house, as if to say, “What have you brought for Daddy and me?”

His quiet acknowledgement that I had entered the room: a wagging tail and a look.

His calm demeanor. He was never nervous. He only barked when someone approached the door, but otherwise he was so quiet and calm.

His interactions with Manly Guy were wonderful to watch. Keeping Manly Guy company as he worked in the guest house, nipping at his shoelaces to get Manly Guy to play with him, following him around in the yard. Spike loved all of us, but Manly Guy was his favorite. There is no doubt that he was Manly Guy’s Dog.

His little prancing steps when he was playful.

The delicate way he took a bone or treat from my hand.

The way he jumped up on his hind legs.

The way he wiggled all over when we returned to the house, even if we had been gone only a few minutes. He was always so happy to see us.

RIP, Spike. I never knew that I could love a dog so much.

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