Author: Campbell, Bruce

Heidi's Tale
My esteemed colleague Rick Cornish often takes some ribbing when his uses his pets, particularly his dogs, as the subject of the Welcome Message. What is not so well known is, when I hired on as a regular contributor to the Welcome Message, I was forced to sign a notarized document, where I had to swear I would never submit a column about pets or dogs. I feel the need to break that covenant – but only this once.
Recent items in the news about a NFL star’s cruel treatment of Man’s Best Friend have polarized the nation. Next to children, nothing is so defenseless and innocent as the animals we use for pets, and dogs with their seemingly infinite capacity for total, unconditional love (or adoration) are at the top of that heap (cat lovers, keep this in mind: to err is human, to forgive, canine).
I have heard Rick speak of his dogs, and their place in his family is well assured, and freely given. I have a dog, too, and since she’s nearing the end of her race on this Earth, I want to say a few words in praise of her. Whereas Rick’s hounds have fixated on him as the giver of All That is Good, my dog (Heidi) sees my entire extended family as the source of all manna.
She was a birthday present for my oldest son’s 12th birthday, about 11 years ago. My sister found this raggedy dog at a shelter, and decided, correctly, that she would be a good fit for our family. She (The dog, not my sister) had been abandoned, heavily pregnant on a road somewhere. When the shelter got her, they aborted her pups and spayed her – when she came to us, her scar was still fresh looking.
My son named her Heidi, since she was an orphan, and she had the most gentle temperament – she had apparently been neglected, but not abused. She is ALWAYS grateful for any kind words, or any attention at all. She loves people, and ignores dogs, cats – any other animal. Her reaction or any person approaching her, longtime friend or stranger, is to roll over on here back. This behavior terrified burglars, who fear tripping over dogs like in the dark, and injuring themselves.
She grew up to be a medium sized dog – about 35 pounds, black, of indeterminate breed. She has a fine coat of fur that has to be cut regularly or she begins to resemble a cross between a sheep and a badger. Plus she can’t see through the hair in her eyes.
Heidi was without many of the bad habits that some dogs possess – she was never mean, nippy, and she almost never barks, or whines. She was never one to chew on things either, and she came to us perfectly housebroken. She won’t lick you incessantly – kisses are one lick only, gently offered. But she IS a dog, so she can be as disgusting as any other dog, with weird retching noises, ravenous self-chewing rituals, and a powerful urge to rub her face in any cow pies she can find. Ugh – plus her breath is the worst thing you ever encountered. If Heidi pants in your direction across a room – you’ll know it.
In the past couple of years, poor Heidi has aged terribly. When dogs become just one of the family, it’s easy to forget that their life span is compressed into about 1/7 of our own, and it’s sad to watch their rapid decline. Heidi is basically deaf now, and getting on the couch requires some serious advance planning – never her strong suit. Her hips are stiff, and if her walks go more than a few blocks, she stumbles a lot, like she’s missing the g round with her front legs.
Shoot, I’ve gone on for over 600 words, and I haven’t really said anything. Heidi is no more special than anybody else’s dog. But she’s OUR dog. She has given our family years of unconditional love, and joy, and I don’t know if this will be her last summer with us. I hope I’ll be able to recognize when her life is hurting her more than helping her, and Lord know, I dread that day. Last dog column, folks, I swear.
Posted:  8/22/2007

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