2011 Resolutions Go To The Dogs

Susan Page
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Wednesday - January 12, 2011
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Jerry Coffee, the author’s husband, with their dogs Lucy and Rufus

Rufus, one of our yellow Lab-mix dogs, sheds a whole new dog every week. No kidding. Thankfully, his litter-mate sister Lucy, by comparison, for whatever genetic reason, is a “hair lightweight,” born with a shorter, more manageable coat.

They’re 10 years old now and are partial to lounging on our best Oriental rug (yes, our fault for permitting it), which in turn requires constant vacuuming.

So, this morning I found myself grumbling as I gave Rufus yet another brushing with the FURminator (the world’s most powerful deshedder, as the ad claims). Rufus isn’t as spry as he used to be. Because his hips bother him, he’s on a myriad of treatments including acupuncture (which he and Lucy, after her 2009 knee replacement, adore), but today he had a painful limp, so I decided to brush him right where he was, on the good rug.

“Turn over Rufus,” I said sternly. “My back hurts, too, you big lug.” He answered with a playful grunt as all 75 pounds of him rolled, legs up, pawing for more petting.

By this time, Lucy, feeling ignored, inserted herself into the chore, resulting in their ritual play “face fight.” Then, every vigorous wag of her thick, powerful tail began to send Rufus’ carefully collected fur flying across the living room - onto the sofa, up my nose and in my mouth. My uncontainable laughter only egged them on. “Stop, you two. No!” I barked in my strongest “alpha” voice. They licked me and wagged all the more.

Thus, there in the mayhem of flying fur and doggy delight I got one of my New Year’s resolutions:

In 2011, I will try to be the person my dogs think I am.

I once saw the quote on a bumper sticker, but it wasn’t until this moment with all three of us gimpy creatures of God (one two-legged, two four-legged) laughing in our own special species style, that it made any sense.

My dogs think I’m happy, playful, kind, giving, tolerant, loving and forgiving. Can’t I at least just try to be all that which I am often not? Can’t I try to live up to their totally positive, though undeserved opinion of their master?

Because of the illness of their mother, Jasmine, Lucy and Rufus have been ours since they were 5 days old. They’re more than pets. They’re part of us, sensitive to our every mood and move, always available in our need.

Two nights ago, while we were watching TV, Lucy, lounging at our feet, clearly saw something and, without barking to disturb us, began stealthily following it down the stairs.

Rufus, whose senses are less acute, lumbered behind her as is usual when she catches a scent or sound. My hunch was right: a rat. Since the mango trees aren’t fruiting and since our doors are often wide open, our leftover holiday treats were too tempting for the hungry critter.

As the dogs sniffed and searched, Jerry and I tried to root out the rat from under the downstairs bed, where it had taken refuge. Per their instinct, neither dog wanted to harm the small rodent, which must’ve been petrified, they just wanted us to know where it was. Labrador retrievers aren’t genetically disposed to killing, rather just retrieving the deceased. Errant doves in the house and even a wild pig in our fenced yard have drawn no more than a few barks, tail wags and serious glares from Lucy and Rufus.

Hence, New Year’s resolution No. 2: I will try to be more like my dogs in 2011.

They don’t whine, they’re helpful, vigilant, do no intentional harm, never get mad, are loyal, they value relationships, are sensitive and have fun. Also, they sleep a lot, stay very hydrated and deeply stretch every time they get up.

However, one of a few traits of theirs I plan not to emulate in the new year: shedding.

Side note: I highly recommend “Dogs Decoded,” the NOVA special that aired on PBS Hawaii in October 2010, which explores the incredible bond between humans and dogs.

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