JEFF ELL: You’re Only Allowed One Truly Great Dog

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There is an immutable law of the universe that not many people care to talk about. An incontrovertible principle that we all quietly accept, but rarely choose to acknowledge.

Dog owners don’t like discussing this truth, because when we do, we all get a little sad.

The truth to which I refer is this: In your lifetime you will be allowed to own only one truly great dog.

A True Tug Hill Wonder.

Call it canine kismet, or doggy dogma; call it whatever you want; but every human being who has ever owned a truly great dog knows it.

Even now you’re thinking about dogs with names like Kim, Bud, Honey, Ralph, Muggs, Potsy, and Buster. Just hearing their names will make us dab our eyes; as I said, we don’t like talking about it, but we all know it’s a fact.

Don’t ask me how it works, because the only one truly great dog policy of the universe is as inscrutable as black holes, event horizons, and television remote programming. Maybe there is a finite number of great dogs and rationing one per owner is the fairest way to divvy them up, I don’t know.

But if your family photo albums are like ours, they look like a pantheon of super dogs. But only one dog will hold that place in the pet owner’s heart reserved for the one. Maybe this is why history has documented the same phenomenon, think about it.  Homer had Argos, Laura Ingalls Wilder had Jack, and the Jetsons had Astro.

Sometimes, we are aware that a particular dog is the one while the four-legged legend is alive; like a living Doggy Lama. But more often, we realize that a dog was the one only after it is gone. But either way, we affix their images to the tip-top of our doggy totems and after that, all the other dogs find themselves growling for second place.

I write of this truth of the cosmos today, and with a heavy heart, because our beloved friends lost their one great dog recently. Her name was Cheri

Oh, but don’t let her glamorous European name deceive you, because she was, perhaps, the ugliest dog to ever walk the earth. I myself found it impossible to eat in her presence, and the very sight of her made many who saw her doubt that she was actually a dog at all.

One theory about her true genetics, that may also explain her stench; is that a stray miniature Musk ox wandered south and had a fling with a lost poodle. Perhaps this is why the best way to describe her was a Muskadoodle.

She had a Brillo pad mane that collected bits of putrefied bone and fat from the neighbor’s butcher shop better than an old man’s beard. Her face had a two sizes too big snout, and her eyes were redder than a college freshman’s on Sunday morning. When she was born they had to tie a pork chop around her neck, so the other puppies would play with her.

Early every summer her owner would shear her matted coat with cow clippers. But the task was so difficult that it usually took nearly a week to accomplish. Anyone who had the misfortune of seeing that partially sheared creature knows that some things were never meant to be seen. Mothers would shield their child’s eyes, and even now the thought of that half-shaved ghoulish specter sends bile gurgling up my throat.

Now mind you, this dog lived at the end of a dirt road, out of the public eye. So not many folks had the misfortune of seeing her. I have included a picture that has been extensively retouched to comply with decency laws.

Not only was she hard on the eyes, but she lived sixteen years in the backcountry of Northern New York. She was skunk sprayed, stuck by porcupines, run over by tractors and trucks, tormented by toddlers, rained on, snowed on, chased by coyotes, and even survived emergency surgery carried out by a farmer and a mechanic on the floor of a garage. Sixteen years is a good long life for any dog anywhere, but when her age is adjusted for location, she was actually two hundred and eight in doggy years.

So the question remains, why was she the one? If it wasn’t her looks, legendary exploits, or longevity, then what was it that elevated her to her lofty status?

It was love. Cheri, like all dogs that are the one, are loved. She was the velveteen Muskadoodle, beloved by one, the ugly dog at the end of a gravel road, who never bit a soul, and drummed her tail when her master came home till the day she died.

Like I said before, I can’t explain why we can only own one great dog in our lifetime. But what I can tell you is that these dogs seem to wander into our lives when we need them the most. Those rainy seasons of the soul when we need some living thing to smile at us with their eyes, and who will listen to our heartaches without barking back advice.

Jeff Ell

– Jeff Ell