The first time I saw him I was amazed that she would have actually gone to the pound to adopt a mutt. If this was Beverly’s way at getting back at me for a recent fight, it was brilliant! When I finally broke down and said what was on my mind, which was something like, “Beverly, you win, now bring that damn dog back to the pound where he belongs”. Bev simply told me that Romeo was her new love and I would be the one going if I did not learn to accept him. They were a package. If I wanted to stay in this relationship, it now included Romeo. Great, we get in a fight, she moves out and when we attempt to make up I have a furry addition. Dr. Phil says you can be happy or you can be right. I chose to be right and now I am cleaning up little doggie do’s everywhere. I not-so secretly despised this dog.
Let me first say I am not much of a dog person and I think it stems from my childhood. I have been attacked three times. Since the attacks, dogs make me nervous. It is really something I can not control and they pick up on it real quick. Growing up I learned to avoid dogs and run faster than all of my friends. My theory was if I ever had a dog encounter, I could outrun my buddy and the dog would get to him first! I also learned quickly that the best place for me to avoid a dog was in the water. I can darn sure swim faster than even the most skilled Labrador retriever. The next issue I have with dogs is that owning a dog always seem like more work to me. More work equated with less surf, and that is a problem. Besides, I was always the one in the family that had to take care of the pest, I mean pets. Having kids at a young age, I did not need another job/pet. Like a pro-Beverly played the one trump card she had left and said she just wanted something that would love her unconditionally. Touché! Romeo was now part of the family.
Beverly picked him up at a Pet Center in Pensacola on an annual Rescue-A- Pet Drive. The papers that came with him identified Romeo’s mother as a dachshund and his father a lab. I thought that combination would be impossible but the Vet said if there was a tree stump around anything is possible. As an adult dog, he looked like a full grown lab with little short legs and an unbelievably small head. Bev says the older we both got the more the dog began to look like me. All the more reason I despised that furry, poser wanna be.
Romeo quickly became Bev’s new found obsession. She took that stinking dog everywhere. He even slept on our bed. All I heard was Romeo this, and Romeo that. I secretly envied their relationship. One day, I told Beverly, I wish you treated me as good as you treat that dog. She told me when I started treating her like Romeo treats her she would consider it. Beverly asked me to pay attention to how he treats her. When she comes home from work he jumps up and down and licks her all over. He is so excited to see her that he spins in circles. When she is ill he sleeps at the foot of her bed watching over her. When she is scared he stands guard by her side. He really is her night in shedding amour. I can barely muster a hello when she walks in the door, how in the earth will I ever compete? He nearly pees himself with excitement every single time she walks in the room, even if she just left to check the mail. Bev calls it unconditional love; I call it a short memory!
Don’t judge me too quickly; I made my feeble attempts to be a good dog owner. I took him on a run, once. But right when we were gaining momentum coming out of the Cassine Garden’s trail and onto a very busy 30/a, he made sure to trip me up. After rolling to the bottom of the hill, untangling the leash from my ankles, pulling the prickly-pears from my scalp and adjusting my bruised ego, I vowed never to walk out of the house willingly with Romeo on a leash ever again. To this day, I swear I heard that mutt laughing at me as tourists and fellow Seagrovers were pulling over to come to my aid.
Yes, that dog had his way with me. He would sneak out and roll in anything dead or in the process of decaying. I would find myself at 4am running down the road in my underwear yelling “Romeo!” It never occurred to me what a spectacle this must have been until I heard my neighbor yell back “Juliet!” It was like this dog had my number. I never understood why the rest of the family didn’t see him the way I did. He was a stinking, barking, biting, farting, shedding liability.
He was all of this, and the reason my wife woke up every morning for 10 years to take a walk to the bay. He was also the security blanket for all three of my children. (He was always summoned to accompany one of the kids outside after dark to warn of any imminent danger) He gave and he loved all of us unconditionally. He protected us with every fiber in his body. He comforted each member of my family when they were sick. Before my son was born he would place his paw on Bev’s belly and feel the baby kick, something I never had the stomach to do. He was like a brother to my daughters. And for every pain in the butt problem I had with Romeo it took losing him to truly realize what a gift my family had been given.
The end came quick. When the Vet called and said that Romeo had terminal liver cancer, and we would have to decide if we wanted to put him down, we were blindsided. On the long ride to Freeport Animal Hospital, my wife and I decided that if Romeo wagged his tail once, we would scoop him up and take him home. Once we saw him, we knew he would never sleep at the foot of our son’s bed again, or be the living vacuum that eats every single morsel of food that hits the floor. Our little mutt that once was so full of life did not even look like the same dog. He was jaundice and I could tell he was dying fast. He was also in pain. My wife was crushed. I was suddenly over taken with thoughts of what this devoted dog had given to my family.
A dear old friend of mine calls them tears of honor. We honored our dog. We thanked him for his 10 years of service and dedication to our family. I apologized for sometimes being a person I am not too proud of. And as a last noble act, Romeo kissed my tears and I knew that he had forgiven me. I always close my articles with “You are your choices”. That day we had to choose to let a member of our family go… One of the hardest choices we have ever made. Looking back, it was a privilege to have this mutt in my life and a choice I would make all over again.