My book nears its publication date, and I’m filled with a sense of purpose, an excitement that I can’t wait to share. It won’t just be about my dog, but about those others that have come into my life through friends, and about the complex dynamic dogs have with the human species. I haven’t decided whether my scholarly references should be included, or how. To footnote or endnote, that is the question, isn’t it?
In the meanwhile, please meet Sierra, a singular canine personality, if there ever was one…
Princess Precious With a Kickstand
When Sierra first arrived at the house of Jenn’s parents, she was a ball of dark chocolate fluff. She couldn’t have weighed more than six pounds, half of which was her head, and she regarded the world with enormous hazel eyes. They bought her to be a companion for Satchel, who was, at several months of age, already slightly insane, full of the frantic energy typical with male pups.
Sierra was a person of profound daintiness, a princess. She would retain that air of delicacy, a polite and polished demeanor, even after it became apparent that she was built like a small tank. Of course, she was also highly intelligent, so it surprised no one when—struggling to remain upright on a very round, roly-poly, and uncooperative bottom—she stuck out a hind leg like a kickstand. Problem solved. We will now wait patiently for you to notice us and share whatever that is you have there.
A Bruiser With Brains
One problem she could not at first find a solution for was Satchel. He was fascinated by this tiny roundness of a dog, which necessitated endless investigation, barking at, and sniffing. One day, as Jenn held little Sierra on her lap like a human infant—her Muppet feet and pink, delectable toes dangling over Jenn’s knees—Satchel appeared. He proceeded to molest Sierras plump tummy and the aforementioned toes with an impertinent and extremely cold nose.
This was the day Sierra learned a new skill that would stand her in good stead, one that she would be sure to teach her children. Jennifer taught her to smack Satchel in the face with her forepaw. She created the dog who would be known as The Ruthless Bounty Hunter Chubba Fett. We never dreamed of how successfully the tiny dog would learn and use this skill. As she grew older, she used her front paws much like tiny hands—smacking down Satchel when he became too rowdy and annoying, schooling the impertinence of the spring-mounted door stops in the house, and straight-arming doors when she needed to pee.
That’s the Wrong End, Satchel
Now, as I’ve said, Satchel was a sweet soul who never met a stranger. But he was also 100 percent Boy, and there was a delicate tipping point to his energetic activity. He would want to play, want attention, or just be full of exuberance for the fact that he was alive, and running would ensue. He adhered to normal, known play behaviors for a time. However, I often thought that he seemed unable to stop himself once he passed a certain point. It was like watching a machine tear itself apart—and the joyful exuberance transformed into mania.
His hind feet would eclipse his front and his ears would fly backwards in the wind of his fervor, eyes alight with kindled madness. As he galloped through the house, he’d often spin out on the polished wood floors, his fuzzy toes unable to find purchase he needed for a sharp turn. Walls, pillars, plinths, and tables were all at risk, then. But he seemed never to be hurt, simply scrambling to his feet, shaking off the shock of impact, and working up speed once more.
During these episodes, Satchel was capable of doing serious damage to household items, floors, furniture, and people. He had a habit of trying to imitate human kissing, but because he hadn’t quite perfected pursing lips he didn’t have, what usually happened was he rammed you with his teeth. When he was wound up, this could be quite painful. He often bit people, not because he meant to, but because he was carried away with the frenzy he felt.
The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
Of course, Sierra wasn’t partial to these episodes, which, unfortunately for her, also included humping. While the two produced several litters of healthy puppies over the years, Satchel required a great deal of practice simply to figure out which end of Sierra he should embrace. Sierra would quietly endure his fumbling, degrading errors with a look of aggrieved patience. However, once she was finished with patience, if Satchel were still manic—rushing around, jumping in her face and nipping her, humping her front leg or her ear—she would plan her response.
Waiting until he came by for another pass, she would rear up and smack him in the face. He loved it, or at least we must all assume so, since he would often seek to repeat the experience until she tired of the game. At which point, she would stir herself, pounce on him, biting the scruff of his neck in a canine bout of “pwning” and riding him around the room in a victory lap. His expression was usually blissed out, goofy, and oddly pleased—but then, he frequently looked like that. Satchel was just a Happy Dog.
Losing Both Satchel and Her Eyes
Sierra is now on the verge of her 14th birthday. The years since Satchel passed away have not been unburdened with loneliness or difficulty, for all that she is still very much a Princess. Her sweet, expressive face and adorably wagging tail are still just as Precious, but her eyes are gone. Serious health complications made surgery necessary, and her face now appears forever frozen in an anime smile.
She has been relocated to Jennifer’s house, because she was too old to keep up with a new pair of breeding spaniel pups—Rudy and Riley. She is Granny, and sassing her is ill-advised. Occasionally, Rosie, who is one of Rudy and Riley’s pups, crosses a line and has to be chastised. I wouldn’t want to be Rosie, for all that Sierra has never truly harmed another dog. Don’t be fooled. Sierra is in charge and largely does whatever she wants in the moment, whatever protests you might offer.
For the most part, Sierra is content to wait until she’s actively being adored to engage—the tail wags, the little blind face lifts and brightens, and her delicate pink tongue eloquently lolls from her diminutive mouth. Because Jenn’s parents elected to fix her instead of Satchel when the litter years were past, she struggles with her weight. Lying in the pool of golden light that spills over the kitchen floor from the window, she looks like nothing so much as a plump pillow covered in brown lamb’s fleece. She doesn’t get around so well as she once did, you see. Allow her the prerogatives of extreme age—Sierra the Dowager, the Queen Mother. She naps, enjoys snacks when they come her way, and spins out her remaining time neither desiring nor striving. Perhaps she will attain Nirvana one day.