September 3, 2007

Labor Day Memory

Labor Day always reminds me of my Josepheenyphoophoo, our first dog. We were looking for a dane because I always admired them. As a child I aspired to having a Siberian Tiger when I grew up, but when I grew up I rethought that and got a Great Dane instead.

We had looked at a few litters and none of them really touched us. Then we drove out to the country to see a litter of 11. The place was a complete wreck. It was a farm house with large barns out back. As we got out of the truck, we heard a tremendous barking coming from one of them that set us back on our heels. The entire visit that day was marked with the thought, "What the heck is in that barn?" The lady was an older lady who said she took in foster kids. She also took in animals. Inside of her house there was an uncountable number of animals, mostly birds. There were cages everywhere. In the porch, in the kitchen, around the dining room table - everywhere. Josie's mom, Lakota Indiana, was laying on a twin mattress on the kitchen floor. She was a long skinny two year old harlequin dane who was completely disinterested in anything going on around her. But I guess I would be too if I had 11 5 week old babies surrounding me.

The lady took us all outside in a little corral so we could get to know the puppies. They were every color. It seems that the father, who was also a harlequin, had some fawn in his lineage, so the puppies came not only true harlequins, black, white, and black and white, but also tan and white as well. I was drawn to the blacks, but one tan and white puppy just wouldn't leave us alone. She was so friendly and interested in us - and probably interested in leaving the menagerie in which she was living, so we ended up taking her home. We gave Josie an Indian name too, like her mom, Chenoa. Josie Joy Chenoa means 'God will add joy and peace'.

The owner was not a reputable Great Dane dealer, but we loved our little fawn and white puppy and she loved us, so we didn't care. We took her home at a very early 5 weeks old. At the time, I had a three year old boy and believed that he and Josie were going to be my only children. My mom called Josie her granddogter. She was so lovable. She and Seth were very much like brother and sister and as she grew, their playing got rougher and rougher. Every t-shirt he owned had tears and holes in the back from her chasing him. He teased her and she got him back every time. This is what she did: She stood in front of him, put a front leg behind his knees and pushed him in the chest with the top of her head. He'd fall backwards and she'd grab the sole of his sneaker and proceed to drag him around the yard on his back. I usually stood laughing, as he deserved it and she was a masterful disciplinarian. He loved every minute of it, too. I always wondered, though, which the neighbors would call first - the Division of Child Welfare or SPCA.

She didn't like Luke much when he was born. I don't quite know why. I think she had no idea what to do with Luke, but she had a pretty good feeling she shouldn't drag this one around the yard. So instead of harming him, she stayed clear of him whenever possible. Once, as she was running through the house, she turned a corner to find Luke, as a baby, laying on his back right in her path. She immediately and amazingly lifted her hind legs and walked on her hands to miss hurting him. That's not something you will see a lot, a Great Dane walking on her hands, but she did it to avoid hurting Luke. Both Luke and Sean learned to walk as babies with their arms stretched out waving in front of them to avoid being slapped in the face by a potentially painful whip of a tail. There was even a small window of time where they could walk under Josie like a bridge, but she found this annoying.

Once, after Seth got a real shark jaw as a souvenir, Josie got a hold of it while we were out. When I walked through the front door, there was blood splattered all over my pale aqua living room, the rug and the couch. I called the vet to ask how long she had to live. The vet told me not to worry, that dog's stomachs could deal with that no problem. The only worry for a dane is their paws, you want to make sure their paw are healthy. Her paws and mouth healed just fine. And the blood came out of my living room too.

Whenever I took her for a walk, I felt like a spectacle. People stared, cars stopped, people pointed, and someone would invariably say, "Get a saddle for that horse!" Josie was a giant dog, 65 lbs heavier than the average female dane. She didn't carry an extra pound of fat at 185 lbs. Her dad, I'm told, was 220 lbs. I saw a picture of him and he was massive. She suffered with degenerative disk disease, as many danes do, for most of her life and it's what finally caused us to put her down. She was so happy that morning and it was tremendously difficult. Luke hid up in a tree. My dad came to be with the boys. It was the first time I ever had to do that and it felt horrible. I ran from the room crying into the parking lot, where I found that Stan, in his sad state, had left his van door wide open when we took her in.

It took two years for us to get another dog, because Josie was the perfect dog. She was such a sweetheart and a gentle one. I'm going to rustle up some pictures of the old girl this week.


more cowbell said...

I'm here via Gina's blog, and this is the first post of yours I've read. Great Danes ... they are my favorite of all dogs. I have 2 adopted labs now -- my house is too tiny even for them -- but Danes are the dogs of my heart. They're wonderful! When I was a kid, we had 3. The first was when I was in 2nd grade, I don't remember him as well, but the other two were my favoritest childhood dogs. They were a black male (show quality, mom had been a dog handler) named Eli, and a blue female who had been on the verge of being euthanized when Mom brought her home from the vet's office where she worked. Flossi (she came with the name) had one floppy ear and a bunch of warts on her muzzle (mom had her boss remove them for free). She was the best dog in the world. She slept on my twin bed and pinned me against the wall. She "sat" on the couch with her front paws on the floor. She didn't mind when we dressed her up in our PJs. Nobody bothered us when we took the dogs on a walk. Ever.

Anyway, didn't mean to write that much, but Josie's story brought back memories. What a great dog to have had in your life! Thanks for sharing.

rosemary said...

Our special dog was Charlie....loved that dog beyond said it beautifully about Josie....

I used to catch pollywogs at our local Library....I thought that frogs were so ugly that if I caught them and took them home they would stay woggy.