Life seemed to be good at the time, but little did I know how an event that was soon to be put into place in my life would change my path in ways that words cannot explain. What kind of event could be so immense in its importance to impact the future of a human being? Nothing more than a small, warm, fuzzy puppy with eyes that had the soul of something much bigger and wiser than he. He came to me as a surprise Christmas gift, at the bottom of a large shopping bag. ” Go ahead, reach inside” my husband said to me. Cautiously I reached in to feel the pup inside I was to know as Alex! That one single moment changed the course of my life in an instant. His story will explain how it all came about. So please dear reader…read on as I fulfill the promise I made to him.
Slowly, with a little apprehension, I reached in to feel something unbelievably soft that made a certain grunting noise as I pulled him out. If my memory serves me right he had a rather large red bow around his tiny little neck. Later on, we know he probably hated that on him. He certainly had too much pride to have to wear such things. He was magnificent! A small face with a white blaze going from the tip of his nose to the top of his head looking something like the image of an arrow. An artist could not have painted it on there with such perfect precision. His eyes had the glimmer of wisdom, and a touch of mischief I was going to learn he possessed. Yet lying underneath was also the stubbornness of his pride. He knew he was going to be KING of this place.
I named him Alexander P MacBeth. The middle initial, of course, was self explanatory, only for a short time though while he adjusted to his new home. Enough said! Our days were filled with such joy that only beginning friendships bring. The “getting to know you” was an amazing journey. Every day was a new experience. We found that one of his favorite games he liked to play was chasing wadded up paper on the bed. No need for expensive toys for this boy! He would be wild eyed with excitement, as he would run faster and faster chasing wrinkled paper. He would be crazy with delight, as we would laugh harder and louder. However, more times than not the game would end abruptly as he would have a close call with the edge of the bed. He knew no bounds in his tiny world.
He was quick at learning any command we gave him, always wanting to please the masters of his world. We were his Gods. Somethings he never had to be taught…he just seemed to already KNOW. We always believed the soul we saw in his eyes was an old one. The extent of his knowledge and ability astounded even us. Prince, he was even in the beginning. He never expected to be anything less. His stubbornness was a pitfall though, always raising its ugly head, the only flaw in his character that ever caused him or us a cross word. At the start we faithfully fed him vet approved dog food. His first year we struggled to maintain his healthy diet. Unfortunately, later on, his stubbornness brought about a diet that even when our friends and relatives came to dinner they said, ” I’ll have what he is having!” We knew we were in trouble from then on. Alex proved to be quite a connoisseur of “people food”. He insisted that his food be cut up into delicate bits. If he didn’t get that he would lie down by his bowl and pout, looking at his bowl and then at us, over and over. We were slaves to his strong will. We were afraid to just ignore him, believe me we tried! I think he knew his persistence would win out in the contest of wills. He would even go so far to refuse a bite of a hamburger if it appeared to large. The term “wolfing down food” never applied to him! He would wait for us to tear the bite into a smaller morsel closer to his desired size. Alex was very neat in his manner of eating though, well befitting his regal attitude. After he was through with a meal he would go over to one of us and stare until we would wipe his mouth off with a napkin. This is absolutely true and was never something we taught him. Such strange behavior was very puzzling to us. So often he would show almost human qualities that seemed to come from nowhere. Many times I tried to get him back on a healthy diet of regular dog food even trying to spoon feed it to him. It wasn’t until much later when the love of his life came into the picture did he finally relent.
My parents also had a sheltie. His name was Mac. Visits with his much older friend had a mixture of good and bad experiences. Mac saw Alex as a nuisance, but one he knew he was expected to endure. To Alex, playing with Mac was an opportunity to run in endless circles, jumping to nip the older dogs nose, and try, without much luck, to be chased! It was the best fun ever! Mac, being quite a few years older, had long forgotten his puppy years, and this tiny fur ball that ran yipping and bouncing was almost more than he could bear. However, Mac, being a thoroughbred not just in pedigree but in his soul knew it was beneath him to do less than what was expected from his own master. Mac’s plight was not lost on all of us though. Many times we had to intervine on Alex’s “fun” times just when Alex thought they were getting interesting. We kept their encounters short as it was apparent they took their toll on the aging Mac. Eventually my parents moved to Florida to live and so went Alex’s only friend. A number of years later Mac’s body started to give out and my parents couldn’t bear the thought of their faithful friend suffering. He had become incontinent and had trouble getting up and down due to having a lot of discomfort. He was put to sleep with my father lovingly holding his head in his hands so the last thing Mac would see was the love in my father’s eyes. It’s sometimes hard to imagine exactly what it is that makes you believe a dog can have a soul until you see the glimmer of their eyes slowly leave the body. It seems that all that they were is gone in a second. And yet, for me, it is easier to believe that the wonderful God I worship gives dogs a special kind of soul very different from ours. Holding on to that, it is my hope that when our time comes we will all see our pets that gave so much to us on earth. We will see them waiting patiently to see our faces at the proverbial pearly gate as if you are just coming home to once again romp and play for eternity. After Mac’s death and even to this present day, they cannot speak of him without a certain catch in their voice. Such friends are almost never found amongst the human world. I believe dogs are a special gift from God to teach us the “way of a dog” and what a friend truly is. Unselfish in their own desires, with love so enduring it really doesn’t make sense ” why” they love us. They don’t care how much money you make, if you can sing or dance or if you’re the funniest person in the world. All you have to do for a dog to adore you is just to “be” there. That’s it! A dog can know your mood, good or bad, sometimes even before you are aware of it yourself. Their only goal in life is to make sure they are a part of yours. For them that’s enough!
Many people don’t believe dogs show human emotions but for so many reasons I beg to differ. An example of compassion, when my sister-in-law passed away very unexpectedly, Alex could sense something was terribly wrong. It happened on my birthday. The house was solemn, as if a cloud hung over us that wouldn’t leave. She was my husband’s youngest sister. A massive coronary took her in a matter of minutes in her father’s apartment where she had been visiting with him. Alex seemed to know it was not the time to demand games, or other types of entertainment. He was content to nuzzle us with his nose. Allowing us to quietly rub his head and ears, all the while, unconsciously soothing our own pain. Another example how his love and compassion for us, his Gods, brought us to stop an argument right in the heat of the moment. My husband and I were going back and forth in an intense,lets call it a discussion, when we both at the same time looked down at our dear little friend. He had been looking at each of us as we spoke, the tone of our voices had brought him to dispair! It was all over his face! Noone could deny when looking at him that our fighting was very upsetting to him. “The way of a Dog” once again showed us to hold our tongues and let forgiveness begin. Many times we acted or should I say didn’t react because of what it did to him. He was our teacher in so many ways.Alex was a game player…the games were of his own making. In happy times, his “human side” would show up because he LOVED to tease me. He would often jump up in “his Daddy’s” lap and give all the kisses asked of him, and I might say rather eagerly! When I would say to him “Alex, come give Mommy kisses!” he would jump in my lap only to snort at me and slightly curl his lip as if he was disgusted at the thought. We both knew it was his game and he almost seemed to laugh as he did it. “Daddy” would say, give your Mommy kisses Alex” and then he would but it had to be HIS way. He always seemed to know though when those kisses from him were really NEEDED and it was not time to play. Affection was handed out generously during times when my soul ached. His eyes always full of some unseen knowledge he kept inside that he somehow understood. There is nothing in this world that can soothe a broken spirit like your arms around the neck of such a chum that he was.
Alex grew to be the most beautiful dog I had ever owned. His coat was always massive in its texture. The color was rich in hues ranging from dark gold to mahogany. It contrasted the brightness of his full white ruff. His ears tipped forward as is the way of many a champion. His tail had the fullness of a waterfall with the tip again showing the contrasting white as if he had just dipped it into a snowbank. Splashes of black along his backside and on his tail only gave his outlines the look of magnificence. His face was outlined in the typical black frame of a sheltie, around the ears, down the side and around his eyes. I think he knew he was glorious. Whenever we would have company he would go to everyone and let them pet him looking every bit as if he deserved all the attention. Smart as he was he had a hoard of tricks he would perform without coaxing. Sit, lay down, hen it went to sit up lay down and roll over. Ending every show with barks of excitement knowing he had done well in our sight. He knew once again, he brought us GREAT joy! That was always his greatest reward. As I have said before though, the ugly stubbornness never failed to show itself when lex was told to “Stay”. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand it, he did. His pride refused to allow him to do it. Even with multiple scoldings of ” bad dog”, Alex would not give in. Later on I will tell you how it almost brought him to his own ruin. All the training in the world could not get my beloved dog to do that “one” thing. The trick he came up with on his own well made up for refusing to stay, at least in his own doggie mind. On a particular quiet afternoon, my then teenage daughter came running into our room saying something about Alex singing. It seems a song that had just played on her radio had gotten Alex’s attention and might I add out of a dead sleep. It was a song written by Dolly Parton but sung by Whitney Houston from the movie “The Bodyguard”. It was I Will Always Love You. Tell me dogs don’t understand! We had the movie on tape and proceeded to play the part in the movie where the song is sung. Alex came alive!! With his ears up, and his eyes bright he would stand by the speaker on his back legs and sing with the voice any would envy. When the words were sung he would bark but he would also hold the notes in a long ,wonderful howl when she held the note but with his own definite vibrato. It was amazing! From then on it didn’t matter who sang it he would proudly sing with his waterfall tail always wagging to beat the band. In fact, as the years passed all we would have to do is sing “I love You” and he would raise his head to howl as long as you would keep singing it. I cannot tell you the moments of absolute bonding and joy we shared in those moments of song. I’m not sure exactly what it meant to Alex, but I knew it was something wonderful.
Another feat he accomplished with almost no effort at all was taking food from me in an unusual way. It seemed to me that he knew how to do this without me even prompting him. I would put a morsal of food between my lips and say “mouth Alex” and in the gentlest manner he would take it from me touching only the food. I would make the pieces as small as I possibly could and the result was still the same. He liked doing this because of the eminent praise, and yeah, it was a food thing too.” People food” was his biggest downfall and ours too. The trick though was not one every dog can do , although I have seen others do it, maybe not with as much grace. However, my parents sheltie Mac….Wow…it was like looking into the jaws of death coming at me. I was sitting next to my father on the hearth of their fireplace when I put a piece of food on my lips and said ” mouth Mac”… Well , it turned out to nearly be my face. I almost fell backwards as I saw this trick for Mac was going badly for me. My Dad got a huge laugh out of the whole scene. It was the last time I ever tried it with old Mac. You can’t always teach an old dog new tricks…unless they were all like my Alex! To be continued……………