Saturday, June 6, 2009
I’m not an entirely happy camper lately. My back has been giving me hell, and I haven’t been riding much because of it. But there’s someone in the house who’s not bothered by this, and that’s Tread Life’s editorial assistant and morale officer, Daisy.
I got Daisy nine years ago from the local animal shelter. I’d been looking for a buddy for my Golden Retriever, Winzer, and stopped by the shelter to see if there were any likely candidates.
I walked down the row of pens containing dogs that were either barking loudly enough to deafen a rock, or cowering in the corner as far as possible from strangers like me. Daisy was different. She sat silently by the door of the pen, her tail twitching tentatively, looking sad and scared, and yet a bit hopeful.
I leaned down for a closer look, and saw her left ear had a wad of what appeared to be Scotch tape on it, holding together a ragged tear in the tip of the ear about an inch long. Some sort of goo had been slopped on the ear before the tape was applied. It looked like first aid applied by an office temp. It’s a good thing there hadn’t been a stapler handy.
The shelter worker told me that was the way she’d been found. No one knew how old she was, but they guessed about six months. She looked for all the world like a very young Golden Retriever, the exact same color as Winzer, and with the same hair, of the same length, in all the same places.
But I wasn’t ready to take anyone home that day, so I left. Next time I drove by the shelter I stopped in again, and Daisy was still there. It struck me as odd that no one had taken her yet. She was apparently well behaved, and as cute as a dog gets.
I remarked on this to the shelter worker. She couldn’t understand it, either. It was a shame, too, she said, because Daisy had been there a while, and if no one took her home in the next week or so her next stop was the small room out back, where dogs go in but don’t come out.
I think at that point I might have been ready to take her home, but I left and went home to think about it some more. Adding another dog to the family was a big deal. Would she and Winzer get along? Would I have the time to train her to the extent that I’d trained Winzer? Could I afford to feed and pay the vet bills on two dogs? (Money was tight back then; but when isn’t it?)
It wasn't long before I decided everything would work out somehow. That, and the thought of her getting The Needle made up my mind. I picked up Daisy at the shelter, paid the adoption fee, and took her—torn ear and all—straight to my vet, who pronounced her healthy and gave her a series of shots; there was no way of telling when or if she’d had shots last, but there was no harm in repeating them.
It was while we were sitting in the vet’s waiting room as the paperwork was being filled out that Daisy got her name. The rabies certificate had a space on it for the dog’s name. At that point I hadn’t picked one out yet, figuring I’d let her tell me what she should be named in her own time.
But bureaucracy would not be denied—no name, no rabies certificate. The other people in the waiting room began suggesting names. Most of them made me want to puke. Then I thought about the comic strip "Blondie," and the dog in it. The dog at my feet looked just like that dog.
“Daisy,” I said. “Her name is Daisy.”
As I said, that was nine years ago. Since then, several things have become apparent. First, Daisy is part Golden Retriever and part something else—maybe Border Collie, but certainly something high-drive and obsessive.
Second, she was as big as she was going to get the first time I saw her. She weighed 35 pounds at her last vet visit, and her weight has never varied more than a couple of pounds either way.
Third, she is a very smart dog. I haven’t trained her to the level I did Winzer, who earned an AKC CD title, and one leg of his CDX before both of us got tired of the fussy precision of the sport and hung it up in favor of getting good at chasing tennis balls. But Daisy does all the things a well-behaved dog needs to do—sits, stays, comes when she’s called—and does them willingly.
And fourth, she’s a lot happier when I don’t spend hours riding a motorcycle, but instead hang around the house throwing things for her to bring back so I can throw them again.
I have to admit I kind of like it, too. Winzer passed last year, leaving Daisy an only dog. Since then, free of the anxiety of having to share my attention, she’s become a calmer, more mature dog, who no longer tries to run away or dig under fences, and who heels nicely on a slack leash, and likes to go with me to the coffee shop and sit at a table outside and lean against my leg, sniffing the breeze.
So although I’m not happy about not riding, it’s not as bad as it could be. Daisy has been keeping me amused. But even she has to sleep sometime—she’s napping on the floor behind me as I write this—and while she’s dozing I’m wondering just how she’d like riding in a sidecar.
Because I have to believe that if riding motorcycles is as much fun as it is, and dogs are as much fun as they are, how much more fun would the two them together be?