Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lessons from Grover

I had named her Grover, after the character from Jim Henson’s “The Muppets.” Grover was at the time my favorite stuffed animal, my favorite TV character, and so the name of our dog. She was an enormous dog, at least 90 lbs, which included about 50 lbs of fur. She was part Afghan, supposedly, and the rest had to be Old English Sheepdog.

I had thought that my memories of her as a large dog were overstated because I was a small child; however, seeing pictures of her in my adult years has confirmed that she was a monster.

Grover could get out of any yard. My mother was pulling her hair out trying to build a pen for the dog to stay in where she wouldn’t jump the fence. All of this was to no avail, for we soon found out that she was climbing the fences we built.

She would haul her enormous frame up and over any size fence my parents constructed, and she would be off searching the neighborhood until she heard our car or truck come barreling down the streets.

In a flash, she would stop whatever she was doing and come running, sometimes from two or three blocks away. She would race to the pen, trying to get back in before my parents (usually my father) would catch her on the outside. Then she’d sit there, panting with tongue rolling, and give my dad her big doggie grin and an innocent look.

“What?” she seemed to say. “I’ve been here all day. I swear.”

We loved her anyway; well, Dad and I did. My mom probably could have done without. Most of my memories of Grover were of her causing hell, so you can imagine that it was Mom that had to deal with most of that.

Grover also had puppies. At the time, the spay/neuter movement was just beginning. Spaying her never seemed a priority, and so the inevitable eventually happened. She had nine puppies, and one died soon after birth. Of all of my memories of her, the puppies I only remember by pictures.

You would think as a young child this would have been the highlight, and I always wonder why it wasn’t. Maybe I loved Grover too much to have my only memories of her be of the six or so weeks we had her puppies.

Our basement had a terrible habit of flooding in that house. The type of flooding where the electrical outlets are up off the ground four feet and you still wonder if the water got high enough to electrocute you.

One night, while Grover’s pups were still under two weeks old, the basement began to flood. We had a whelping box down there, and we had no idea it was flooding. Grover worked hard to save her puppies, not surprisingly. What was surprising was how she did it.

She refused to bring the puppies up to the landing where it was safe unless she could bring them all up. Since she obviously couldn’t carry them all at once, she moved them a few feet at a time to the stairs. Then she moved them all up the stairs one step and one puppy at a time.

The result was that the water “chased” them up the stairs, to the point where one puppy was found wet. However, she got them all to safety without leaving anyone behind for more than a second at a time.

It must have made perfect sense to her. The puppies were one huge being to her, and she couldn’t process carrying one to safety, coming back, getting another, etc. The puppies were not puppies, plural; they were a litter, singular. They were one group instead of six individuals. Is it any wonder our dogs either accept us as part of the pack or don’t?

We are either part of their world, or we are part of everything else. And what rewards they have for us if we are part of their world!

In an emergency, we are never left behind for more than a second, and if we are going to go, we are going to go together.

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