The arrangements were all set. I would be at their house in Mogadore for what I thought was a meet-and-greet on a Saturday afternoon.
I was filled with excitement and trepidation as my granddaughter, Layla, and I made the 30-minute drive, seat dancing to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams while belting out the chorus. It’s our favorite song.
“Because I’m happy.
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.
Because I’m happy.
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.
Because I’m happy.
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.”
In truth, I hadn’t felt very happy at all lately. If you have followed my column and crazy life for any length of time, you know that I have had three beloved dogs that I’ve had to put down in as many years.
First it was Lulu, my 5-pound heart with fur. She used to sit on other people’s laps just so she could stare at me. I joked that she was “memorizing my face,” which she did for all of her short 3½-year life.
Little did I know that encephalitis would take her from me in March 2017.
The next was Tori, a miniature Schnauzer that my kids grew up with. She was famous for eating a 12-inch sub sandwich, a blueberry pie and licking the liver spots off former quarterback Joe Montana’s hands during an interview I did with him for Fox 8. She also set me up for one of my all-time funniest lines when actress and comedian Molly Shannon was also on my morning show and Tori vigorously licked her legs on live television.
“What did you do? Rub your legs up with Liver Snaps this morning?” We both laughed heartily and I considered it quite a victory that she laughed harder than I did.
Sweet Tori’s ashes are right next to Lulu’s on a shelf in my living room.
Last Sept. 6, it was Chico’s turn. Chico was a 90-pound German shepherd who made me fall in love with the breed. When degenerative myelopathy finally rendered him unable to walk, my son and I took him on the long drive to Litchfield, where our vet once again would help me help my best friend cross the Rainbow Bridge.
Shortly after he was gone, someone sent me a beautiful picture of a German shepherd with the following printed next to it:
“God said, ‘I need someone strong enough to work, brave enough to fight crime and find bombs, yet gentle enough to lead the blind, play with children and love a family. Someone with eyes to lift the spirits of a broken heart or the look that will strike fear in a criminal.’ So God created the German Shepherd.”
That was my Chico. He was kind, he was brave, he was regal and he loved me unconditionally in the way that all dogs do. He was constantly at my side, protecting me and then my granddaughter from the minute she came home from the hospital. If he didn’t like you, I knew there was a good reason. And so I have carried a heavy heart since his passing.
At the end of October, I bought a German shepherd puppy. I named her Mika, which turned out to be prophetic because she certainly lived up to her name for she was indeed meek. Very meek.
She spent two months hiding behind furniture and cowering in her crate. She only thrived when she was outside or with another dog roughly her size. Friends who know the breed well agreed with me that she was going to take a massive amount of time to socialize and train. Time I didn’t have.
I feared who she might be sold to if I returned her to the breeder so I gave her to a friend who lives on a farm. She has two German shepherds, four and two months older than Mika. My friend says she is making slow progress but doesn’t cower behind the furniture anymore. She is with her pack and she is happy.
I thought about her and I thought about Chico as Layla and I continued our drive. Chico was perfect in every way and Mika was so beautiful. A long-haired shepherd with soft brown eyes. Could I find another dog as perfect as Chico and as beautiful as Mika?
When Layla and I arrived at the house, I heard the familiar deep bark of a German shepherd.
My fellow dog-loving friend Nancy had told me about an older couple who were looking for a good home for their 6½-year-old shepherd, Samm, and here we were, about to meet her.
The couple opened the door and graciously invited us into their home where Samm sniffed us until I thought she would pass out.
She had the same markings and roughly the same coloring as Chico. Black and tan with some gray around her muzzle, she was slightly overweight. She had one ear up and the other was folded over. Both ears are supposed to stand erect. Clearly, something had happened a long time ago.
As Samm paced, I asked questions about her and they told me what they knew, having had her for only a year themselves. At one point, she stopped pacing and sat down right next to me.
“Well look at that,” the man said. “She likes you.”
“Do you want to go for a ride, Sammie?” the man asked.
As she leaped to her feet, I asked with a shocked voice, “With me?”
Minutes later, Layla, Samm and I were walking out of their house. What I thought was just going to be a meet-and-greet turned into a greet-and-go.
She jumped right into the back of my SUV, peered over the seat and never uttered a peep the whole ride back to my house.
It’s been two weeks and she is fitting in beautifully. She is very protective of us all, saving me from strangers at the door and a Great Pyrenees puppy who tried to come too close to my little 4-pounder, Milli, on the town circle.
She is patient with Layla and keeps an ever vigilant eye on me, just like Chico did.
A friend of mine told me that everybody loves a puppy but an old dog loves everybody. She was right, with the exception of the occasional bad person.
I know she already loves us and we love her, floppy ear and all. We found each other and we have our pack.
That makes me happy, indeed.
Contact Robin Swoboda at Robinswoboda@outlook.com.