An invitation: stop what you’re doing and read about my dog. Face it – it’s been a tumultuous week for all of us. As the very last thing that could have snapped me in half, on Thursday, I lost one of my best friends. My mom was so upset that my brother bravely volunteered to inform me.
We brought Remus home as a fuzzy, clumsy, eight week-old puppy back in 2007. It was the summer before my senior year in high school. We had pick of the litter. Among the four boy pups, we chose the one who kept falling asleep while we were playing with him.
His first night away from his littermates was spent in a hotel. Worried his cries would wake other guests, my mother traded places with my little brother to sleep on an air mattress on the floor. Rem snuggled to her chest and neck all night, breathing smelly puppy breath in her face. Over a thousand miles’ drive, two eleven-hour days from Washington State to Southern Nevada, he slept in-between my baby sister (five years old) and me, on a makeshift dog bed we fashioned out of a pillow on top of the cooler. Every time the kiddo wanted a juice box, I had to pick up the pup.
Among his characteristics and habits, one dominated: his dislike of a fractured family unit. We were his pack and we belonged together. His squealing and leaping when Dad came home was excitement to see him, but I suspect it was equally to do with his happiness that we were all
once again within trotting distance.
For nine and a half years, we had the privilege of calling ourselves his humans. We’ve had six dogs to date (two Miniature Schnauzers, two German Shepherds, and two Border Collies). We have loved each dearly, but I think it’s safe to say that Remus was special. I can’t think of a single fault; he stayed close to us out of the house, he reacted to aggressive dogs with a benign perplexity and indifference, he coexisted gently with the cats, and he loved children and didn’t so much as flinch if they grabbed his nose or fell on top of him.
We joked that he was a stellar Shep Ambassador – any visitor who didn’t like or was afraid of dogs was treated to a display of manners. It was obvious what he was doing, and comically magnified by him being 85-90lbs. He’d be even more friendly and well-behaved, tail wagging, imploring them to see he was a good boy. We lost track of the number of people who told us, “I never understood why people loved dogs so fiercely…until I met Remus.” A close friend of the family went from being afraid of dogs to sneaking him bits of steak in the span of one visit.
We invented a command for him: “Go settle.” We deployed this command when we didn’t need him in our lap. To him, it meant, “I need you to keep watch and keep me company.” Rem would retreat a polite distance of six to ten feet, plop down on the floor with a customary Shep groan, and watch us or nap.
He was docile, gentle, emotionally intelligent, and friendly, with a personality so strong that I think we forgot he was a dog. If he was lying in my way, all I had to do was say, “Rem, excuse me, please,” and he’d hop up to move a few feet over. We couldn’t help speaking to him like that, asking him about the weather and what book we ought to read next. I didn’t notice how much we did it until we brought home the collies – bubbly, spitfire personalities who always remind us that they are dogs. Rem was born a gentle old soul.
The last time I saw him was in September. The morning of my flight back to London, I did what I do every time I leave home: I crouched down at eye level. I told him he was my best boy. I gave him a thorough back scratch. I pet his face and gently folded his ears down, watching them spring back up. He did what he does every time I leave home: fixed me with a stare, licked under my chin, leaned on me, and gave me a smile.
All photos in this post were taken by my mother. Thank you for letting me use them, Mom, and for bringing Remus into our family. I love you.