When I was thirteen years old, my friend, Lorrie, and I were walking to her house which was on a peaceful side street in our small Wisconsin town. It was almost dark and we weren’t paying a whole of attention to a whole lot of anything as we talked and giggled as teenage girls are wont to do.
In fact, we were so preoccupied we didn’t even notice that as we neared the house next door to hers, the front door was opened to let a dog out. A big dog. A big, unfriendly, aggressive dog.
He came shooting toward us out of the dusk and before I knew what was happening, he had whipped around behind me and clamped the back of my left knee into his huge, angry mouth, filled with huge, powerful teeth.
As those teeth sank deeper and deeper into my skin, puncturing flesh and drawing blood, I screamed and tried to get away. Lorrie did her best to help, but what could a petite teenage girl do in the face of such aggressiveness?
And then, as quickly as he had appeared, the dog let go of my leg and turned and disappeared back into the darkness.
Thirty seconds from start to finish. Not a real big dose of trauma, compared to what other people have faced with dog attacks.
However, from that moment on, I became afraid of dogs. Really, really afraid.
My family had had various dogs while I was growing up, so I had definitely seen their fun and loving side. And yet after that traumatic encounter, whenever I saw an unfamiliar dog, my legs turned weak and I immediately flashed back to that angry dog attacking me so unexpectedly out of the darkness.
After Steve and I got married and started traveling around the country, we ended up taking our evening walks in a lot of different towns and neighborhoods. Steve would sometimes kid me that I possessed a Dog Radar that would rival the best radar equipment produced by the military.
Every single time we walked, every single place we walked, my eyes would be constantly scanning our surroundings. I would look beside me, I would look behind me, and I would look way, way ahead--always searching for any telltale flash of a tail or a furry snout that might appear anywhere within twenty miles of where I was.
And if I did spot a dog? Especially one that was big? I would freeze in my steps and quaveringly whisper, “Steve! There’s a dog! Do you see him? Do we need to run?”
I mean, really and truly, I could spot a dog in the vicinity before the dog himself even knew he was there. I was just that paranoid and that fearful and that vigilant.
And then. Enter Snowy.
Snowy came into our lives as a two month old, roly poly ball of the cutest fluffiness you have ever seen; he weighed just two pounds when we got him and was in that darling, clumsy, floppy puppy stage. At that particular time, I wore a pair of fluffy, white socks when I was indoors and everywhere I walked, Snowy faithfully and steadfastly followed those socks around, quite certain that they just had to be his mother.
As he grew out of that early Sock Following Stage of life, he managed to figure out that the human whose feet those socks were attached to was not his birth mother but his adoptive mother. And better yet, he discovered that this new mother of his was a person who spent time in a special room called a kitchen where something delectable called food was prepared. And occasionally (accidentally!) it was even dropped to the floor where he hung out.
It was a revelation.
Snowy bravely traveled around the country with his crazy new family, logging more road miles in four years of full time travel than most dogs see in several lifetimes.
When Sarah was diagnosed with cancer and started treatment, Snowy immediately christened himself as Nurse Doggie. He was always on the alert and when Sarah was feeling especially bad, he was especially there for her, curling up near her, snuggling close, emitting waves of friendly, happy, compassionate dogginess.
When she got better, he once again divided his attentions between the four us; however, his most fervent attentions were always directed my way whenever I stepped anywhere near the kitchen.
And when I started to blog several years ago? He realized that I couldn’t possibly think of the words I needed unless he came and lay beside me in the chair while I typed. Even today when I headed to the chair to start writing, he was already circling the area with anticipation, tossing his head and throwing glances at me like, “Come on, already! We’ve got work to do!'”
So. How exactly did this small dog change my life?
Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t fully realize what had happened until several months ago when Steve and I were out on one of our frequent bike rides. It suddenly occurred to me that it had been a long time since I had even thought about scoping out a neighborhood to spot any lurking canines. And now, when I do happen to spot a dog? My immediate thought is no longer, “Oh no. That dog is going to run right over here and maim and kill me.” Instead, my first thought is, “Oh, what a handsome dog. I wonder what his name is.”
And these days, if I go to someone’s house and they have a dog, instead of shying away from it like I used to do (pre-Snowy), I’m anxious to pet it and talk to it and make all sorts of annoying “doggie conversational noises” with it.
My heart has truly been changed by one single ball of fluff. In his eleven years of being a Smith family member, Snowy has slowly but most certainly replaced the fear I’ve felt with joy.
Sure he’s annoying and expensive and inconvenient. But our family has often commented that we have laughed 45.78 percent more (a rough estimate) with him in our lives than we ever would have without him.
Because dogs are funny. And they’re loving. And they’re sweet.
And only a very few of them are as mean as the one that slammed into my life as a 13-year old girl.
And speaking of that long ago incident, Snowy has faithfully taught me that it’s never wise to judge a whole group (whether canine or human) by the actions of just one member.
And he’s taught me that unconditional love and acceptance are a dogs’s greatest gift to the people in his life.
And lastly, he’s taught me that any food item that falls to the floor is automatically is.
Snowy turned eleven years old yesterday. In dog years that means he’s entering the middle aged/elderly stage of life. And even though we’ll miss him when he’s gone, he’ll be be able to leave us knowing that he did an excellent job of raising his family.
He made his dad laugh in the middle of stressful seasons of life. He welcomed his brother home from college with tail wagging displays befitting a hero. He sat by his bald sister’s side and comforted her after she was sick. And he took his mother’s dog-fearing heart and, little by little, caused it to be replaced with the heart of a true dog lover.
In short? During the past eleven years? Snowy has done doggoned good.
Happy birthday, little guy.
Every year on Snowy’s birthday, we make him a “cheese cake” which is just a half piece of cheese folded up with a candle added. And we sing to him. Which I’m sure he really appreciates.
A few pictures of Nurse Snowy in action.
Some of my favorite Snowy/Sarah pictures.
And a few Nathan/Snowy shots.
And lastly, a comment was left inquiring as to whether it was better to have round or square pretzels in the recent recipe I posted.
From what I can tell from some of the other comments suggesting alterations to that recipe, you can use use any shape pretzels you want and put a variety of candies together to make the concoction your own.