By Craig Hastings
Four or five years ago the last German Shepherd I owned passed away. I’ve stayed determined to not ever own another dog. Over 31 years I’ve owned nine or ten German Shepherds, sometimes three at a time. Two of those dogs were trained to detect illegal narcotics and I used them right here at the Tuscola Police Department. We all bond with our dogs like they are our own children but, try taking them to work with you most days. Not only was I taking them to work but they also were part of my work. They were a factor in my own success or failure at work. This becomes a whole new kind of bonding between my dogs and me. As I grew older losing each one of them became a bigger event for me. It became more and more painful for me.
The last two were put down at my home with me present supporting their heads and comforting them as the series of injections were administered by a veterinarian. After the last one I said, “No more! There is no way in hell I can ever do this again!” After the last one died, his dying played with my brain for several months after. I could be anywhere doing something or even driving when the memory of holding his head and him looking back at me would make me cry. And here I go now just thinking about him as I write! As much as I’ve always loved dogs I was done, no more for me. I’ve buried my last one.
Over the years since the last, I have had many people offer to help me find another. I even had one of the GSD breeders I had bought two of my dogs from offer to give me a $1200 puppy. I refused the kind and generous offer. As much as I enjoyed having, training, loving, and bonding with my GSDs, the thought of one day once again having to put one down is too much for my emotions. Plus, housebreaking and training a dog is a process that takes much time and effort. The housebreaking won’t take that long if you are determined and diligent. By the end of the first year I can have my GSDs obedient to a point of all I need for me in my own home.
I do have two cats and a chinchilla living in my home now with Payton and me but, none of the three were brought into my home because I wanted them. The chinchilla? He belongs to Payton but I’m the one that tends to his daily needs. He’s a pretty easy house guest to take care of though. He doesn’t smell, eats very little, and doesn’t make any noise. The most complicated thing I have to do for him is prepare dehydrated apple pieces in my air fryer which I’m doing tonight. The disappointing thing about the chinchilla is, he doesn’t want nor require much personal attention. He will let me pick him up but, it’s not as though he really enjoys it or needs it. The cats like him and that’s important because I’ll get the chinchilla out for thirty minutes at a time and let him run in three rooms of the house. If all three were in their natural state of environments, the chinchilla would be prey and a meal for the cats. However, the cat’s bellies are always full so there is no need to exert themselves chasing a chinchilla around. That’s way too much work.
News flash; there’s a dog living in my home again. “but you just said…..” Yes I did and this dog is not mine. Payton had been bugging me for some time about letting him get his own dog. I had always told him “No” but he has continued to persist. However, when Shannon moved back to Oklahoma and son Lukas moved to Charleston to attend Eastern Illinois University, if ever I was going to let Payton get a dog, now was the time. This is a big house and with just Payton and me living here it would be a good now or never moment. So now I also share my home with Broadie the Labrador. He’s a white and champagne color combination, seven months old, and already sixty pounds of wound tight and ready to go animal!
Broadie has been with us for about a month now and so far all is well. As hard as I’ve tried to keep my distance and let this dog be Payton’s dog, I’ve failed. He does have a 9:00 p.m. curfew from the upstairs portions of the house. Now before you think I’m mean, Payton lives in the basement, all of the basement, so he is with Payton from 9:00 p.m. on. He’s crated until we both come home for lunch and back in his crate until Payton gets home at 4:30 p.m. If Payton is going to be late I get him out. He’s out most of the time all weekends. He shut out of the upper rooms of the house at 9:00 p.m. so the cats can return to some normalcy of life for the rest of the night. They aren’t being harassed by a puppy that wants them to play and sniff all over them.
So how is the new dog working on my brain? Am I able to keep my emotional connections at bay? Is Payton keeping his promises to really and truly be his master and only his responsibility? Yes and yes. I’m coping by reminding myself that the expenses, taking him to a veterinarian, feeding him, and cleaning up after him are not on me. Most of all when Broadie passes it won’t be me holding his head or digging a hole to bury him. It could be I may even go before him so how much easier could that be for me! But I hope that’s not the case! I confess that when Broadie pays attention to me I return the gesture. I do buy him things, walk him, feed him, take him rides in my truck, let him lay on my bed, fight with him as he destroys my wrists and hands, and make sure there is always fresh via recently flushed toilet water in the bowl should he need a drink when close to my bedroom. So yeah, he’s not mine so I’ll continue doing nothing for or with him right? I’ve got this. That dog won’t penetrate this tough guy’s armor! Nope, not happening.