A few weeks ago, I cleaned out the room I use as an office and writing lair. Piles of paper got shifted from one side of the room to the other, new artwork went up (thank you, Command hooks) and some much-needed tax receipts got organized. And I found a CD with the cryptic label “Photos 2004 Mexico.”

I put it aside, too busy shifting piles, and only today stuck it in my laptop and clicked to see what I had.

A treasure trove

More specifically, two dozen photos of our dogs, both of whom have sadly passed away after enriching our lives, keeping us safe, and teaching us about unconditional love.

I never wanted a dog

We got both Rex and Rudi in Mexico, at the Mascota store in the Santa Fe mall. I’d never wanted a dog, but my husband and the kids were all for it so 4 July 2001 we went to the store and my husband asked for a recommendation for a family dog. The clerk suggested a bulldog, but by then we’d already spied the German Shepherd puppy sitting quietly in her glass cage, taking in everything and not making a sound. She was about 6 weeks old. $900 later and she was ours.

Rudi the wonder dog

Rudi at about 2 years old, wearing the ill-fated slip collar

Rudi grew fast into a sleek, powerful, and all-too-smart dog. She developed firm habits very quickly; she only pooped in a certain place, when she was annoyed with us she went under the stairs, she knew lots of tricks but was never swayed by treats or praise. If she wanted to show off at that moment she would; if not she gave you a pitying look and moved on with her agenda. She was tireless in her pursuit of cats, rabbits, and herding small children. She never barked.

People either stopped us on the street to ask if they could breed their dog with her or crossed to the other side to avoid her menacing look. It took some doing to get her to walk beside us; at one point she burst a slip collar near Chapultepec Park. Bits of steel sprayed everywhere and we ended up looping the leather leash around her harness-style before she mixed it up with the park’s legion of strays.

Rex the labrador retriever

Rex, Mr. All-American. That tennis ball had once been yellow, but was now dyed with dirt and slobber. Note the well kept grass LOL

Never the boyfriend

After a year of life with the dominatrix, we thought she might be lonely, and brought home Rex, a 4-month-old Labrador Retriever. Rudi hated Rex on sight and he didn’t help by being constantly happy, drooling in her food bowl, and sleeping with his head on her tail. Rudi perfected her I live with stupid people expression and bit his leg a few times a week as a reminder that she was the queen. Rex was good at eating dishtowels, stealing toys (Houdini Dog), and woke me up at 6:00 am every morning by bumping his chin–drool spraying in all directions–on my pillow next to my face. No alarm clock needed.

2 dogs

Once Rudi showed Rex how to open the front door and turn on the outside lights, she never did either trick again. Note the plastic bottle hanging from the tree. Rudi could jump for hours. Rex wasn’t so light on his feet.

Home security

Both dogs functioned as our home security system and we never had any problems with crime directed at the house. Rex had a bark like the end of days and it sounded like thunder when all 140 lbs of him got running fast, but Rudi was Silent Death, never barking, growling, or whimpering.

The exceptions to Rudi’s silence were: 1. getting on the leash before walk time, 2. a tetherball set we set up on the back patio that was extremely thrilling until she chomped the ball into submission. She was what the books call a “determined chewer.”

After Mexico, Rex went to live with my husband’s parents, where he finally got to be king. He passed away about two years ago at the age of 10.

Wonder Dog

Rudi stayed with us, traveling the world until last December when, suffering from advanced hip dysplasia and deafness, she said her final goodbye. She was 13, the first dog I ever loved, and I still look for her on the blanket we arranged on the carpet in the living room. For years she’d slept in our room but in the last 6 months she could no longer manage stairs. I hated leaving her there by herself every night.

I cherish the time we had with these two dogs, especially with Rudi who was by my side through so many transitions and was even the star of my first and only bit of flash fiction. It is amazing to think we walked together in 5 different countries.

It’s taken me 3 months to be able to write this and I’ll need another glass of wine when I hit “publish.” But some gifts, like the lost CD, are harder to open than others. Cherish those, for they make life a little sharper, a little sweeter.

Thank you for listening to my dog stories. I’d love to hear yours.

German Shepherd Rudi

Rudi, the Wonder Dog

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