Everyone says they have the best dog, and everyone is right
Trixie and me then and on her last day
Like many young couples in their 20s my parents got a dog before having kids. My dad is the one who named him, Luke, after cool-hand Luke. I only have a couple of memories of Lukie. I was 4 when he died at age 16 after a very short battle with cancer. I remember my mom telling me he had died, tears in her eyes. I remember not being upset about it. I don’t think I was old enough to understand what had happened. And, Luke and I were not exactly the best of friends.
You see, Luke (left) did not like kids. My aunt rescued him from a farm (yes, a literal farm), and gave him to my parents. She had two daughters and couldn’t take in a dog who did not like children. Luke’s dislike of kids was warranted. At the farm, there were some kids who were not very nice to Lukie at all. They would poke him with sticks and throw rocks at him when he was in the crate.
When I was still in diapers I crawled over to Luke while he was eating. My dad had his back turned as he was cleaning dinner dishes. Luke air snapped at me. Him standing near his food, and me crawling, left us at just about the same height. His snap connected and I was bitten in the face. It really wasn’t major, but I still have a scar on my face from it. At the time, my parents knew that he hadn’t bitten me on purpose, if I had been older or even walking he would not have made contact. Luckily, they knew that their lack of supervision was at fault and Lukie suffered no consequences.
When Lukie died my parents were devastated. He was their beloved companion for almost 15 years. Luke was the best dog.
When I was in elementary school I had a friend who had a few shih tzus. One of them, Tucker, was NOT friendly. Tucker was always put in another room when I came over and was not allowed to greet visitors. One day when I came over, I left my bike in the yard and walked up the driveway. Tucker broke free from the tether he was on, and chased after me. I ran. I tripped over my bike and cut myself in a couple places. I remember it hurting and I remember my friend’s grandfather running over to collect Tucker. I don’t think he bit me, but boy oh boy did he scare me.
I remember some time later my friend’s grandparents deciding that Tucker needed to be put down. I don’t remember all the exact details, but I believe he bit another person or two. I remember how devastated my friend was when he told me. I honestly didn’t get it. How could he love a dog who was so mean? My friend loved Tucker dearly. Tucker was the best dog.
In middle school, we carpooled with some neighbors to and from school each day. They had a big German Shepherd named Lady. She loved her people and nobody else. If you entered the house Lady jumped up on you, all her force into her paws that were all of a sudden on your shoulder, as she barked in your face. Needless to say, I was terrified. I had never had a meaningful connection with a dog and had no idea what to do with her. They always said that Lady was acting that way because she knew we were scared. But I was scared of Lady because she was acting that way.
When they would put her into the bathroom to avoid the jumping and barking, she would scratch at the door so intensely she took the paint off. They told us to lift our knee and make sure that it hit her in the chest when she jumped. We tried it, it did little to deter her. But it did become my automatic reaction to a dog jumping on me.
Lady unfortunately died young. She got cancer. They tried everything they could to save her. Different foods, different medicines, different vets. Nothing worked. Lady was the best dog.
After Lukie died my dad said he never wanted another dog. He loved Luke too much and couldn’t deal with that type of loss again. After lots and lots of convincing he finally agreed we could get another dog. My mom, sisters, and I searched petfinder for a young rescue who would be good with kids. We found a litter who was ready for adoption. The puppies were almost 6 months old, and were supposedly Airedale/ Wheaton terrier mixes. Their mom had been found as a stray and rescued along with her babies.
Before this, I had basically never had a good interaction with another dog. I don’t know why I was so excited for our new puppy to arrive when I was scared of dogs. I still find it kind of ironic.
Jenna, Stephanie, and me with Trixie in 2005 and in 2014.
Trixie Annabelle Lane joined our family in April 2005. She looked a lot like Luke, it was uncanny.
My mom and my sister had driven from Massachusetts to New Jersey to pick her up from another family who adopted her littermate Jack. They had generously driven Trixie and Jack from Virginia. Trixie arrived home at about 2am (on a school night I might add). I was supposed to stay in bed, but I was too excited. I heard the car pull into the drive way and I ran down stairs excited to meet our new puppy.
My mom, sister, and Trixie walked in through the front door. My mom let Trixie off her leash so she could explore her new surroundings. Trixie came over to greet me, and she jumped up. I reflexively lifted my leg and kneed her in the chest. My first interaction with Trixie was kneeing her in the chest. I still feel bad about this. Luckily dogs are very forgiving and she forgot about it almost instantly.
Trixie quickly became a beloved member of the family. She was so very sweet from day one. But she was also shy and a little bit of a scaredy cat. Like most good puppy families, we signed her up for puppy classes.
As the oldest child, I was expected to help with caring for Trixie. I took her on walks after school, took her out to go to the bathroom right before bedtime, and attended every single puppy class.
At puppy class, we learned all about obedience behaviors like sit, stay, down, and come. We learned all about the different types of collars. They warned us never to use choke chains as they could injure your dog’s throat. We were shown how to make bath time fun with peanut butter or cream cheese. And the dogs all had a chance to meet the other dogs and people in the class.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I realized that having a dog was a ton of fun. I was still scared of other dogs, but Trixie was great! She enjoyed her training classes. She mastered the basics quickly and we moved onto some fun tricks. She learned the difference between left and right paw, how to spin, how to speak, and I even tried to teach her to smile (this didn’t work out too well). When I was bored Trixie was always ready to play. She had a favorite stuffed toy we named Ocky (he was an octopus). And she was up for any adventure. She loved walkies almost more than anything in the world. She could destroy an extreme kong or any sort of dog chew in a matter of minutes.
Trixie playing with Ocky
I don’t know exactly how we did it but Trixie turned out pretty amazing. She was almost bomb-proof. The only things that scared her were fireworks, thunder, and vibrating phones. She was initially scared of people, especially men, but as time passed she liked every person she met. She would ask complete strangers for her favorite butt scratches. She was also really great with other dogs. She demanded their respect and was definitely the queen of the castle. She could correct a young dog with nothing more than a look, and remind an older dog of their manners with nothing more than a quiet growl. We all knew Trixie was in charge.
Trixie with some of her doggie friends
Over the years there are hundreds of Trixie stories I could tell. Like the time we heard her doing her “naughty walk” in the kitchen, and when I went in I found her with an entire Christmas Eve roast beef hanging out of her mouth. My shocked gasp was enough for her to drop it instantly. She was a habitual counter surfer until she could no longer jump onto her hind legs.
But, the most important story for me to tell is how Trixie changed my life. I was scared of dogs. Trixie taught me how to like, and how to love, a dog. I learned that training classes were enjoyable, and working with Trixie was entertaining. We only did the one puppy course with Trixie and I wish that we had done more.
When it came time for me to apply for colleges and think about what I wanted to do with my life the only thing that ever came to mind was to become a dog trainer. Of course, teachers told me to think of something else and apply to traditional colleges. And I did that. I moved to New York, and I did a double major in digital design and advertising / public relations.
As I worked through school I also worked full time, and did all the things I needed to do to become a dog trainer. After graduation I pushed my degrees to the side and became a full-time dog trainer. I love my job. And I am so thankful that I love my job. And I owe it all to Trixie. Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like if we had never adopted her and I don’t know what I would have done. Getting Trixie was one of the most important things that has ever happened in my life.
Trixie was only 6 when I left for college. Leaving her behind was one of the hardest parts of moving. I came back several times a year. I would make sure I took her on fun, special adventures every time I came home. Walks in the woods, or on the beach. Fun tricks, training time, and all of her favorite foods. When I would come home she always wanted to sleep in my room, like we had done her first 6 years. But, each time I could see how she was aging. It was more apparent to me than the rest of the family because I was not seeing her on a daily basis.
As the years past she became greyer and less sturdy on her feet. At around 11 we really noticed that she was an old lady. It was sad, but we knew that part of loving a dog was knowing they were going to age. We weren’t sure how much longer she had left, but after some dental extractions she bounced back to her youthful self.
She was never sick a day in her life.
With an older dog, the rule of thumb is that when they have more bad days than good it’s time to let them go. Only July 4thTrixie suffered a stroke. She was rushed to the emergency vet and we were told to give it a few days and see if she recovers.
Trixie’s last day
Her final day was a beautiful sunny July day. A clear bright sunny sky with a nice ocean breeze, warm but not too hot. We filled her last day with as many of her favorite things as we could. She saw all her friends- dog and human, and she gave kisses to her favorite people. She ate all her favorite foods- steak, ice cream, hamburgers, chicken, and cheese. She got butt scratches (her favorite type of scratches) and lots of time in the sunshine. She went for one last walk down the street, in her new wagon.
Her favorite walks were always on the beach, but she was not steady enough to make it. And her favorite treats were raw marrow bones, she no longer had the coordination to eat them. She didn’t get either of these things on her last day, but didn’t seem to notice.
As she got worse that afternoon, the sky turned grey, and just like a movie, the rain poured and the thunder boomed. My sisters both came home from work and we headed to the vet. After 2 days, she was not improving and it was clear that she wasn’t going to have any more good days. We let her go around dinner time on July 6th.
She was the best dog.
© Leash and Learn 2019