The Old Man and the Dog

It’s commonly known that dogs are “man’s best friend.” Our family had dogs growing up, and we knew they were part of the family; hell, they wouldn’t let us forget it! This summer I’m living in Fairhope, Ala. with my grandparents and their Maltese, Tootie (AKA Tootsie, Toot-toot, Toot or Tootie-fruity). I can honestly say my grandfather—who our family calls “Pawpaw”—and Tootie are two peas in a pod. They go together like peas and carrots. They’re Bonnie and Clyde, Simon & Garfunkel, Delilah and Sampson. They’re the Old Man and the Dog.

Now, the funniest part about this duo is the separation anxiety. I don’t know who has it worse, Tootie or Pawpaw. If Pawpaw goes off somewhere without taking the dog, Tootie whines and cries until he returns. If Tootie is ever being taken care of by someone else (like when they were in Tallahassee for my graduation and my friend Joe took care of him), Pawpaw worries and asks about him constantly.

My grandfather and his dog

It’s the kind of bond that man and dog can only share. There is no bond like it. I remember growing up with dogs in our house. We had a Cocker spaniel named Mikey, a golden retriever named Mango, and now we have two Dachshunds and a Cavalier King Charles spaniel: Oscar, Bella and Chip (respectively). The dogs are without question part of our family. Well, let’s be honest, they’re probably the best fed and most unquestionably liked ones in our family. If we make breakfast—they get some. We know their favorite kinds of people food. Chips is crazy about apples, lettuce and celery—anything that crunches, really. All three of them love pancakes with syrup, popcorn and eggs, grits and bacon. As all dogs do, they love ice cream too.

But when it comes to dogs, no dog I’ve ever met can compare to Mango.

Mango lies on my bed

My uncle lived on a house boat when he got Mango as a puppy. Well, in about 9 months she had grown to be “too big” for his boat, so he asked us to watch after her for a year or two until he could get settled down. Thank goodness my mom was smart enough to say “no, we’ll fall in love with her. We can take her, and we’ll give you a puppy if she has any, but we won’t watch her for a year and give her back.” Brilliant move, mom. Fall in love, we did. That dog was one of us. When I was growing up, I had terrible trouble sleeping. I would lie in bed, awake, for hours and hours. When we got Mango from Uncle Bimbo (Yep, that’s his name), I was seven years old. Somehow she taught herself to do this—she would lie in my bed, often with her head resting upon my chest, while I fell asleep. Once I was asleep (it took me years to figure out how she knew I was asleep), she would get out of my bed and go into my parents room to sleep at the foot of their bed. When I fall asleep, I get very still—I stop squirming; that’s how she would know I was asleep. Well, as a child, I would get upset because “someone would let her out of my room” by the time I woke up. I used to ask “Who let Mango out of my room last night?!” My parents and sisters all said it wasn’t them. Who could it have been? Let me tell you how brilliant she is—in case you haven’t already figured that out. She would get up from my bed, jump down and go to the door. Then she would jump on her hind legs and gingerly nudge my door handle. Well, the door opensinto my bedroom, so she had to be very cautious. Once she hit the handle she would fall back to all four legs. Then she would ever-so-gently nudge the door with paw, then nose, then paw, then nose until it opened just enough for her to get out.

That, my friends, is one brilliant dog. She was our family’s protector; that’s why she would always go to the foot of my parents’ bed at night. It was her spot to keep us all protected.

If you have a dog in your life, love them. Love them because they love you.

Oscar loves to burrow in the covers

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