My Best Dog, My Next Dog

Scan_Pic0006I got Sheridan in 1976. I was visiting a friend who was living in Sheridan, Oregon when I found this puppy, through a want ad, and then at the farm where she was the most timid of a litter of mongrel pups. The ad listed these dogs as a “Heinz-57” combination: German Shepard, St Bernard, Labrador, Australian Shepard, and a couple other breeds that never stuck in my head. Based on her looks, we eventually came to describe her as “a mutt, mostly St Bernard and German Shepard.” Bigger than the Shepard, with the St Bernard mask, but not the slobbery jowls or wide head. Nor the sharp pointed ears or coarse coats of the Shepard.

She lived twelve years, although by then the “we” who raised her through puppyhood had become just me, single, with that loyal canine as my best friend and daily life partner through many challenging years. She was just entering doggy old age, losing her eyesight and getting stiff joints, when she had seizures and collapsed while we were camping on a beach. She went off in the middle of the night, dying on her own. It took a couple days to find her body along the railroad tracks. Later that year, I did some theater stuff that included coping with that death, integrated into my love of Harry Chapin. Twenty-seven years ago.

Scan_Pic0007I never liked people asking “What kind of dog is that?” I would say “She’s a Big Dog.” Dog breedism felt snobby to me. I had many interesting discussions with my father, a German Shepard aficionado, about the value of knowing a dog’s breed. My mongrel dog was as good an animal as any breed ever created. Sure, my dad agreed, but the problem then is how do you find another dog that good, if it is such a one-of-a-kind animal?

Then came that magic day, in 2005, almost twenty years after Sheridan died– I was at my vet’s office and picked up a promotional calendar, with photos of puppies for each month. December’s pup looked exactly like Sheridan. Seeing this photo, my parents instantly said “That’s Sheridan.” But he was only one of her relatives. An Anatolian Shepard Dog.

An old breed, from Turkey, used to guard herds of goats. Tough, loyal, smart. BIG. They shed grocery sacks full of underfur, dig holes big enough to bury roosters, bark incessantly. That’s my dog! We lived in the trailer park then, a huge noisy dog wasn’t practical, but knowing that someday I could have another dog similar to Sheridan has been one of the happy chips in this game that is my life.

Now, living on rural land, with more time at home, and fences that are 90% in place, the time has come. Plenty of room here for a young smart big dog, who can learn from Zeffer, my current aging smart dog. I’ll be in two-dog heaven, watching them run together, tearing around their meadow circles, digging moles! Arrf, arrf!Scan_Pic0008

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