Good Dog

My late husband had been a longtime admirer of the canine breed, the Rottweiler.  He loved big dogs and especially liked the strong, stout physique of this particular breed.  We discussed getting a new puppy, but I had my doubts about bringing home a Rottie.  (I had seen news reports of Rottweilers attacking children and adults.) I do believe, though, that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.

Late in the summer of 1995, we brought Fritz home.  (I got to pick the name, which was in honor of his German heritage and my mom’s half-brother, a true animal lover.)  For the next ten plus years, life would not be the same. The thing about big dogs is that they don’t stay little very long.  Fritz quickly grew into a 110-pound, slobbering, eating machine. He was quite destructive around the house, and he liked to play rough. When his rowdy play began to include “humping,” he was sent off to the vet’s office for the old “snip, snip.”

He was just nine months old when he started vomiting frequently.  A veterinary specialist diagnosed him with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  The treatment of choice was a change in diet and a drug called, Prednisone.  We now had a Rottweiler on steroids!

He was the center of our universe, our only “child” until our human offspring was born in 1998.  The day after our son came home from the hospital, Fritz bit my mom. Her injuries were not severe, but she did require a trip to the ER and her hands had to remain bandaged for days.  We were responsible for this scary behavior from our pet.  He had become the “alpha” and we were his faithful servants.  One cannot raise a huge, powerful breed like a Rottweiler as some kind of doll or toy.  The owner must be in control-always.  Instead of putting him down, which we did contemplate, we signed him up him for obedience school.  Our lessons were private, and we worked one-on-one with him for weeks, as we re-introduced ourselves as the boss.  He never bit anyone again-ever.

Fritz literally went from puppy-hood to elder statesman in a matter of about three years. Once his destructive, rebellious toddler and teen years had ended, he morphed into a lazy lump. He rarely greeted any of us at the door when we returned home.  He would just swing his head over the side of the couch and acknowledge that you had finally remembered where you lived.  He loved EVERYONE. He never barked when someone came to the door.  His stub would just wag, and he would beg to be petted.  He was oblivious to other dogs, especially those little yippy ones with the small man complex, who would shriek at him and even nip at his legs. He loved to go on walks, but we had a difference of opinion about the pace of these outings.  He preferred to stop and smell the roses, or the grass or some other dog’s rear end. I was out to break a sweat and get the old heart rate up.  He always won.

Over the years, I grew to love that gentle giant like no other dog before. (I will write more about past dogs I have loved another time.) When my husband was alive, Fritz was truly his dog.  They were as tight as a human and a canine can be.  It was Fritz who was bedside with my husband when he passed away.  In the days leading up to my husband’s death, I had spoken with our veterinarian about Fritz possibly having a flare-up of his IBS.  Sure enough, within hours of my husband’s last breath, I heard the familiar churning of Fritz’s stomach.  I had to increase his Prednisone dosage to help him cope with his grief.

My son and I had Fritz to ourselves for five years.  Our bond only deepened during that time.  I am thinking about Fritz today, because this week is the third anniversary of his death.  His ashes have remained on a shelf in a small white box provided by the pet cemetery.  I have thought about sprinkling them over my husband’s grave or releasing them into the wind at a park nearby, but I have done none of the above.  I have kept him at home, close to us.

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