We think we know the beings we share our lives with. Sue’s story reminds me of how much we really don’t know about those we know the best.
The secret life of a dog
by Sue Robin, Los Angeles, California
Shomrei moved with us to Topanga in the spring of 1985. I had a gate put in to close off our small backyard so she’d have an outside space while we were at work and school. She did not like it. She broke through the gate the first day and, after I had it repaired, she broke through again. I decided not to do it a third time. She loved being in the house with us and was gentle with Hobbes, our orange kitten. They even slept curled up together. But if we left her inside when we went out, she would break free. I paid to repair the French doors down in the housemate’s room and I paid to have the window repaired in my bedroom. Thankfully, despite her antics, she never hurt herself. The seat belt repair in my new car was costly. We had stopped to pick up a propane tank and left the window open for air. When we came back, less than five minutes later, she had chewed through the belt. She had, finally, taught me that she was a free spirit and did not want to be locked in anywhere.
One day in the late 80s, Seth and I were in Woodland Hills for lunch at the deli. As we headed to the car, Seth suddenly yelled out, “That’s my dog!” He pointed to two old guys putting Shomrei into the back of a van. We hurried over and sort of recognized the guys as neighbors. “Why do you have Shomrei here?” we asked. The men were apologetic. They said that she hopped in as they were leaving and hoped we did not mind and that sometimes they take her for a ride when we are not home. Really?! They were heading home immediately, and we were not. With just a bit of trepidation, Seth and I decided it was okay for them to continue their outing with Our Dog. They lived right at the corner in an old boxy house just across the street and down one from us so we figured we knew where to find them. This was our first hint of Shomrei’s secret life.
She had proved her weight as a ‘provider’ and was awesome as a guard dog and an escape artist. Not only did she walk us down to the car every morning, but she was always right where we left her when we returned. One night I had a date with a doctor. He was over an hour and half late and I no longer wanted to go out with him. My phone rang (long before cells!) and the doctor said he had been at the house a few minutes ago but a big dog would not let him up the stairs. I told him that his late arrival and the fact that if Shomrei—who normally greeted everyone with a wagging tail and doggie kisses—wouldn’t let him in, I certainly was not going to go out with him. Shomrei got an extra treat that night.
When Shomrei was about 8 years old, Seth found a lump on her leg. We took her to the vet and had it removed. It was cancer. The vet was optimistic that they could amputate the leg and Shomrei would do well as a three-legged critter. The cost was high. I remember Ruth calling and generously offering to loan me the money to help. As I pondered the surgery and loan, Seth discovered another lump on another leg. We were devastated. The vet felt that a surgery would not be recommended now.
Shomrei lived almost another year, most of the time doing what she always did, being a sweet and loving companion and guardian. The house was up 72 stairs and Shomrei had always run up and down them, but now she could not climb them and just stayed in the house. She no longer tried to break free. She stopped eating, and I made the decision to let her go. Painful and difficult, but it felt like the right thing to do. That same week, Hobbes disappeared, and Seth moved in with his Dad and SMR. Lots of losses, tears and sadness. Russ went with me and I held Shomrei and thanked her for her love and said good-bye and Russ held me.
The next day, I went down to the two old guys who I knew would miss seeing Shomrei around and let them know of her passing. They then proceeded to share with me the secret life of Shomrei. As soon as our car pulled away in the mornings, Shomrei would head over to the guys’ house where, they assured me, they never fed her because, after all, she was our dog—but they did have a room for her with her own waterbed! She would spend hours there lazing around and getting petted and loved and, as soon as she heard our car heading up the hill, would dash out of their place to sit on the stairs, as if she’d spent her day there waiting for us. We never had a clue!