I learned the difference between being lonely and being alone.
My constant companion of 6 1/2 years is celebrating her 7th birthday with a nap in a sunbeam this morning. We will have a birthday dinner of poached salmon and rice. Her special gift is fresh powder snow to bury her snout and snow plow a path for running.
SHE is my special gift!
I had been thinking about getting a dog for many years after my kids flew the nest. We had cats. I loved them and enjoyed the purring and petting, but it was always on their terms. I wanted a companion that would fit my personality and life style.
A hedge hog might fill that empty nest with something small and cuddly. But those are sharp points on its little back, and hedge hogs are nocturnal. 40 years ago, infants woke me at night but only for a few months. Why would I want to live with a critter who NEVER sleeps at night?
A sloth would certainly fit my activity tendencies, hanging around all day while I read a book or work at the computer; not running around at night. But that evil grin would creep me out!
A small chimpanzee would be fun! I could teach her to play games, color, communicate with sign language. But adolescent chimps are like human teenagers – testing and challenging you to win dominance. You have to actually fight a chimp to prove you are the alpha. Been there. Done that.
I wanted a companion that would help me feel needed but not overwhelmed or guilty.
After much research, I settled on the Standard Poodle because they are intelligent, easy to train, people friendly and do not shed or drool. Shiloh has exceeded all of those qualities.
She is a brown Standard Poodle who has been getting increasingly grey during the past 5 years. I think she is trying to catch up with me. A couple months ago, she was bitten by a black lab at doggie day care. The bite became infected; the hair around it fell out. The new hair came in pitch black! I call it her crescent moon tattoo.
From Day 1, Shiloh has made me feel loved. If I leave home for 10 minutes or 5 hours, I get the same explosive greeting. You would think she had been abandoned for months without human contact. (My friends feel equally loved, because she greets them with the same enthusiasm.)
Whether it is following me through the house while I’m cleaning or sticking her nose between my knees to have her ears scratched or sitting quietly watching my every move while I eat, I have her undivided attention.
Better than Blood Pressure Meds
I tend to get a bit emotional about some things that are out of my control…like politics. Shiloh listens to my rants with her head cocked to the left, then comes over and nudges my hands until I pet her or licks my ear until I have to laugh. She refuses to accept a bad mood.
If the elevator bell rings, she barks. If she hears a door close in the hall, she barks. If she hears people talking out of her sight, she barks. Shiloh’s bark is loud and persistent. My neighbor and I feel very secure in the knowledge that NO ONE will ever sneak up on us.
Welcome Wagon Pup
Walking Shiloh is a sure introduction to new friends. People are attracted to her rather regal movements and the fact that there are not too many Standard Poodles in the neighborhood. Little kids want to pet her and rub their cheeks in her fluffy coat. Shiloh is especially attracted to toddlers who have been eating ice cream or candy. People are wonderful and always ask if it is ok to pet her. We make at least two new acquaintances every trip out. People know me as Shiloh’s Mom.
For six years, Shiloh was the official greeter at Lyceum Gallery. She supervised the hanging of all art; cleaned the floors during gallery dinners; made sure all dogs walking by the window knew that she was in charge. Closing the gallery was almost traumatic for her as it was for me.
These days we are both slower. We enjoy warming our backs by the fire and listening to talking books. But visiting our friends (especially at dinner) and walks in the woods are special times together. And that’s the operative word…together.