I'm sure you're thinking there is something wrong with the title of this entry. Shouldn't it be "The Love of a Good Dog"? Well, it would be if I was writing about my previous beloved dog, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that was simply the best dog ever. But I'm not writing about him - I'm writing about my current dog, and she is, quite honestly, a very bad dog.
Our previous dog had to be euthanized far too young when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He had been such a huge part of our family that it was an absolutely wrenching time, and one that still brings me to tears. After he'd been gone for a year, though, I began to feel the need for another dog. My husband travels a great deal, and a dog always made me feel more secure at night (even if our home already has a security system worthy of Fort Knox). During the day when my husband was at work and my daughter at school I was finding myself lonely - the house seemed so empty without the presence of our 130-lb retriever. My husband was not enthused about the idea of another dog. We like to travel and pets always complicate that. My daughter was on board as she loves animals just as much as I do, and possibly more. So, I floated the idea but left it alone to see what developed, and one day my husband suggested a breed - the Irish Terrier. It sounded terrific - a smaller dog, but still active. Beautiful dogs, with red coats and bright little faces. Intelligent, family-oriented, brave - it all sounded good. I quickly agreed. I would have agreed to any breed he suggested as I just wanted a dog. We managed to locate a breeder, which was not easy as this breed is quite unusual in Canada. We put a deposit on a pup and waited. We decided on a female this time, and even chose a name - "Cassan Grania", which is Gaelic for "red haired she who inspires terror". That seemed ideal for our little red Irish terrorist, as we began to call her before she even arrived. We thought it was a joke. We had no idea.
After a long wait of six months our pup was born and we arranged to fly out to the breeder to collect her. We should have known that when the breeder used words like "feisty" and "courageous" they were euphemisms for "almost impossible" and "stubborn beyond belief". We should have known when we arrived at the breeder's home and all we heard was incessant barking. We should have gotten back into the rental car and driven away. But no - in we went and collected our adorable 8 week old puppy.
She was adorable. Sweet and cuddly and seemingly trainable. Quickly house-broken, too. It was only as she grew that we realized that the sweet little red furry face was a cover and that this dog had a will of steel, tenacity of heroic (and scary) proportions, and a deeply-seated neurotic personality. This is the dog who discovered the concept of "up" after seeing an advertising blimp and spent the next two weeks terrified of everything hanging on our walls (we had to move her food bowls as she wouldn't eat because she suddenly noticed the clock on the wall above them). This is the dog who will sleep on every sofa at every opportunity despite knowing it's forbidden. This is the dog who will steal kleenexes and toilet paper just for the joy of shredding them and spreading them around the house. This is the dog who will spin in circles until she is dizzy enough to fall over, and chase her tail until she catches it and screams. This is the dog who will try to escape from every open door (which terrifies us, as the breeder warned if she ever got away we'd likely never see her again). This is the dog who barks at everything - children, other dogs, cats, birds, leaves - the list is endless, and so is the barking. She drives my poor husband nuts, as all he wants to do is come home and relax, but is confronted with a dog who has a nervous system constantly set at "react instantly". We have at times questioned her intelligence, and, well, her canine sanity.
It sounds like she's a terrible dog and that I don't love her, doesn't it? Except that it's the exact opposite. I love this dog with an intensity that surprises even me. Why? Because despite all her faults she is so incredibly loyal and loving. She is the dog who follows me from room to room all day long, and sits outside the bathroom door while I shower. She is the dog who sleeps on my feet while I do dishes. There is much more to her than just her loyalty, though. She is the dog who taught me to seize every opportunity, just as she does when a tasty morsel falls on the floor or a squirrel enters the yard. She is the dog who greets every day and every situation with such unrestrained enthusiasm and gusto that you can't help but be inspired by it. She is the dog who can show you how to truly live if you just let her do it and follow her example (minus the spinning in circles, perhaps).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the love of a good dog will sustain you, keep you warm, and comfort you. The love of a bad dog, though, will do all that, drive you slightly crazy, and help you learn to embrace life in your own crazy and passionate way. I think everyone needs a bad dog in their life once in awhile. I'm so fortunate to have one of the very worst.