Liliana and I share our home and lives with five of the most wonderful and amazing beings that exist. They are our dogs; they are our family. Their names, in the order that they joined our pack, are, Sasha, Argus, Alli, Shelby and Tommy. Sasha is the matriarch, and she enjoys the rest of the pack’s unmitigated respect. Liliana and I had just returned to Pennsylvania from a cross-country trip, and we decided that we were ready to expand our family. First we needed to find our own place. We were newly weds you see, and up until this point in our marriage, we were living with my grand parents in their small, but love-filled, apartment. I must give credit to Liliana here for taking the initiative and being the motivating force behind our stepping forward into the next stage of our life together.
So that this post does not turn into a novel, I’ll just say that we found ourselves an apartment to move into in Limerick, PA which allowed pets. Liliana and I had already met Sasha, a beautiful American bulldog, by this point. At the time, Sasha was living with her siblings at the Frazer Zoo in Frazer, PA. It was a cool place as pet stores go, and even though our opinions of pet stores have changed drastically since those days, we still have fond memories of visiting Sasha there everyday after work. We were on very friendly terms with the manager of the store, and so that meant that we could take Sasha out of her pen on our own, and walk around the store with her. One of Liliana’s fondest memories of this time was taking Sasha back to the treat bins and feeding her a marrow bone or two. Sasha was quite fond of these times as well.
Sasha’s first night with us in our new apartment was very memorable. Our place was almost totally barren at the time. We didn’t even have a bed! I was fine with our sparse accommodations; Liliana was less than happy with our minimalistic lifestyle, but that’s a topic for another post. When night came, and it was time to sleep, we layed down on some blankets on the floor that we had been using as a makeshift bed. Sasha layed just below our feet in her new doggy bed with blanket that we had recently gotten her. In the morning, Liliana woke me with a gentle touch and soft voice. She motioned for me to look down between our bodies, and there was Sasha. Sometime during the night, Sasha had made her way up and between our sleeping bodies just below our pillows. If she wasn’t already part of our family before that moment, she was then.
Argus, also an American bulldog, was next to join our small, but growing family. We named him after Odysseus’ forever-faithful dog, Argos or Argus, in Homer’s, The Odyssey. Every dog owner feels that their dog is special, and they are all right. We have five dogs, and Argus stands out among the rest for his loyalty, immutable drive, and unequaled big heart. My cousin Michael says that every person will have a once-in-a-lifetime dog, and that Argus is my such dog. We knew that Argus was special beyond his cuteness and playful nature when we first brought him home, and for my quazi sadistic pleasure, I put him down at the base of our long stairway. This is the same stairway that had given Sasha so much difficulty when she first faced it. It took Sasha a solid week before she was able to somewhat confidently scale the twenty-two treacherous carpet covered steps. As I stood back to see how Argus would face such a challenge, half expecting him to make it halfway up one step and then look to me for help, I was stunned to watch our new four legger jump and run up the entire staircase as if he had been doing it for years! Argus was just eight weeks old, and he was shorter and far stubbier than Sasha was when she first attempted to negotiate the mountain of steps. Argus has been impressing us ever since day one. No challenge is too great for him. He does not understand fear (except for his own reflection) or timidity, and just as the love in his heart, his bravery knows no bounds.
On November 19th, 2002, Alli joined the family. Alli is Argus’ and Sasha’s puppy. <<Read about why Liliana and I will never breed our dogs again>> As with Sasha finding her way between Liliana’s and my body on her first night with us, and Argus running up our apartment stairs as soon as we brought him home, I also have a special early memory of Alli. It’s quite a different sort of memory, but it’s still special, and I’ll explain why in a moment. From the time that Alli first stepped out of the whelping room when she was eight weeks old, she never had an accident inside of our home. I am still so impressed with her because of this. I won’t try to embarrass Alli’s parents here, but I am pretty sure that Bounty and Nature’s Miracle made record profits during the first six or so months of Argus’ and Sasha’s lives. The reason that this memory is special, aside from the fact that I am eternally grateful to Alli for not giving me frequent poop and pee cleanup work, is that it was the first sign that we had that Alli was intellectually superior (that’s my girl). She has always been able to figure out puzzles. Whether the problem before her was to figure out how to get to find her way to Liliana and I through fences and railing and steps, or deciphering her human’s faces and emotions. Alli is just smart. She is also warm. And I mean warm in both senses of the word. She is a sweet girl, but somehow she feels very warm to the touch. Obviously, her body temperature has to be within normal parameters of a healthy canine, but ask anyone who has ever cuddled with her, and they will surely tell you that Alli is a little oven. Alli is the one that you want next to you on a cold winter’s night.
Shelby is an adoptee. She came into our home during some rough times, and helped out with her comedic and clownish personality. We have many nicknames for our Shelby: Blondie, Jar Jar, Chewbaca, Dingyote, and several others which I will not share until we are on more familiar terms with each other. Shelby is a super sweet girl, and has brought so much pleasure into our lives. She has some naughty habits, but so do I, so I will not judge her too harshly. Liliana was told by the shelter from where we got Shelby from that she is half pitbull and half German shepherd. We have no idea what Shelby’s true lineage is, but she seems to think that she is a bulldog like the rest of the pack. She’s a tough little girl and will not back down to anyone (save for humans). She also holds grudges, so we need to keep an eye on her for a little while after her and one the other dogs get into a disagreement. Thankfully, our dogs have never gotten into a real scuffle.
Tommy was the last new member to join the pack. Like Shelby, he is a bit of a clown. He’s also the baby of the house, and he acts like it most of the time. Tommy know’s just how to turn on the cute puppy dog face, and he does it often to at least attempt to get what he wants. Tommy is a pitbull with a sweet heart who loves everyone – except for the neighbor’s dog. We found him wandering on a busy street on our way home from the beach with the rest of the gang. As we always do whenever we see a loose dog on the street, we hung a quick U-ey, and made our way over to him. After some time looking for his owner, I told Liliana to give me a leash and head home with the rest of the dogs. I was going to walk the rest of the way home with the little fellow. We spent over a month trying to find his owner, and then trying to find him a new home, but I suppose I should have known that he wasn’t going anywhere when I named him during that first walk to new home. We treated Tommy for mange and a few other parasites during his initial visit with us. He was also a little underweight when we found him, so I like to think that we improved his life a little just like he improved ours.
Liliana and I never intended on having a house with five dogs. We weren’t going to be those people. In my opinion, we still aren’t “those people”, and I’ve come to realize that not everyone else with more than the average number of pets are “those people” either. We have drawn a hard line at five though. That’s not to say that other escapees from around the neighborhood haven’t spent some time at our house while their parent’s were notified, but there is no way that we can, in any fairness to us or the dogs, invite another dog into our lives at this time. There is something so special about dogs and the connection that we as people have with them. Not everyone understands this or feels this way, and that is fine, but I am so glad that we get it. We really get it.