Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Knew Then....

My first dog was not exactly "my" dog.  Taffy belonged to the family....but my sisters didn't seem as excited about her as I was.  We got her for a Christmas present.  While she wiggled around the Christmas tree at my grandparent's house, whining and pawing at presents and looking as cute as can be, everyone in the room wrote a name on a piece of paper, and all the suggestions were put into a hat.  "Taffy" was a good name.  She looked like a dachsund/spaniel cross. 

I wanted to teach her tricks.  She learned to "sit up."  But I didn't really know, back then, how to teach a dog tricks.  Back then dogs were "just dogs" - many of them ran loose in the neighborhood, and no one bothered to pay too much attention to them.  In the 50's you couldn't look up "dog tricks" on the Internet.  These days Everything-You-Ever-Want-to-Know-And-Then-Some is on the Internet, and many elementary school children are totally wired in.  

But back then, if we were curious about something, we had to get information from our parents or school teachers, or from our friends and neighbors.  Or the Encyclopedia Brittanica (although we were not lucky enough to have a set), or the downtown library.  

Sometimes I wish the Information Highway was still the same way.  Talking to friends and neighbors...asking them questions....can be wonderful.  Heck, my own kids might ask me more questions.  I'd like that. 

Taffy was your basic SoCal Suburbia backyard dog.  She was kind-hearted and eager to please.  If I knew then what I know now, I would've taken her more places, and played with her more often. 

But she managed to teach me how to love dogs.  Both love and be loved by them.  So maybe I wouldn't really change a thing. 

One of my "chores" was to take her on walks around the neighborhood.  I felt so proud, walking down the sidewalk with Taffy on the leash.  Sometimes I wished she had longer legs, though, because some of our neighbors thought she was funny looking.  Some of the neighborhood kids laughed at her and called her names.  If I had known, back then, that it didn't matter what they thought, it wouldn't have bothered me enough to fight with them.  Taffy hated yelling. 

Back then, one of the neighborhood kids had a beautiful TALL tri-colored dog named Wags.  I wanted Taffy to be more like Wags, but I never said so outloud.  If I knew then what I know now, I never would've even thought it. 

One day, when we were delivering Girl Scout cookies around the neighborhood, we tried tying Wags to a little red wagon so we wouldn't have to carry all those boxes.  Taffy was too little.  It worked great for about five minutes, until Wags gave chase to a cat.  We were really afraid of getting into trouble, because when we picked up the boxes we could hear a lot of broken cookies.  We kept it a secret, and delivered the boxes anyway...but it wasn't a secret for long.   If I knew then what I know now....

Taffy was a good dog.  So good that we could give her a bath in a little wash tub.  Would I do such a thing today?   

I remember one time Taffy came home from the vet with a new haircut.  They'd left a pom-pom of hair on the tips of her ears, and on the end of her tail.  She looked like she was trying to be a poodle.  We laughed and laughed.  I wouldn't laugh like that today.  Poor Taffy hid under the bed for a week.    

As we grew older, we got busier with school activities.  Like boys and clothes and dances and - sometimes - studying.  Through all of it, Taffy quietly kept an eye on us. 

That sweet little dog lived to be eighteen years old.  After my parents divorced, and we girls high-tailed it out of town as quickly as we could, her daily care fell to my father.  He lived in a small upstairs apartment, and carried her up and down the stairs several times a day, so she could do her "business." 

If I knew then what I know now, I would've visited them more often.  I'd go see my dad in his little apartment, and talk to him about his life.  I'd sit in his kitchen, and ask him all kinds of questions, and I'd lift little Taffy up onto my lap, and pet her.  


vici whisner said...

You made me cry Celest. Oh I remember the dogs of my childhood and feel the same way about my dad.

corgi2bc said...

What Vici said. I am crying. We had a little dachshund named Wagger when I was little, and what I wouldn't give to be able to sit down with Wagger and my Dad and ask my Dad questions. Thanks for writing this!

Nancy Gyes said...

Celeste, my first dog was Tuffy. Taffy and Tuffy, I bet they woulda been buds:)

Nancy Gyes

Elf said...

Oooohhhh, so sad, and so sweet, and so wise. I need to call my parents.

Steve said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and personal remembrance.

WonderPupsMom said...

what a great story! amazing how deeply animals touch our lives. Taffy was such a cool little dog! I'm a big-time fan of the mixed breeds. I love how she looks like she's posing and smiling in every photo. Thanks for the departure from all things agility. It's a nice reminder that our partners are so much more than just our agility teammates. LOVED your post!

Celeste said...

Thank you, everyone. You made my day!

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