The Casual Observer: The dog days

We love our dogs on the Oregon Coast. They come with us to restaurants, hotels, parks, and trails. Most coastal towns have a pet boutique where Fido can snuffle happily at various wares.
There are even festivals devoted to our four-legged friends, including Manzanita’s annual “Muttzanita” taking place this year on September 17.
My dogs have run the gamut of personalities, each distinct in their own special way.
Ben was a German Shepherd mix, who, like me was a transplant from Minnesota. And, like me, Ben came to Oregon not really sure what to expect.
I had insisted on adopting him the year previous, only to move out of the house a few months later, leaving him confused. But we all came to west together, with Ben crammed on the floor of a U-Haul cab as Minnesota eventually became Oregon.
Ben was a talker who always had the last word. You could sit and chat with him about anything for hours on end and he would growl and bark until you finally gave up.
He was hard-headed in other ways, too. When I brought my future wife home for the first time, she bent over to pet him and he shot up and head-butted her right between the eyes. There was some rather earnest discussion among Janell’s co-workers as to why she returned from meeting her boyfriend’s parents with a black eye.
Ben was very regal and was a picture of rationality and command in what was at times a swirl of chaos.
Ben passed in 2003.
When I moved in with Janell, I became “stepfather” to a Bulldog named Watson who was, to put it mildly, disgusting.
He drooled, oozed and dripped from every possible orifice. He also had a habit of digesting dead things and sharing them with us later. He was a hard one to hug, though he was sweet-natured and very protective of his “mom.”
Watson passed in 1997.
Cisco was a black Labrador and like others of his breed, a combination of silly, smart and lovable. I adopted him after the previous owner realized you actually have to work at training a dog.
But Cisco was eager to please and easy to train. We hiked everywhere and he loved the outdoors, though I never broke him of his habit of rolling in elk droppings.
Cisco passed in 1996.
Kirby was a ragamuffin mix of Labrador and Newfoundland. He jumped into my car before I’d decided if I was going to take him home from the shelter.
He was smart and alert, always curling up by the front door when we’d go to bed each nigh and his thick neck fur was fun to wrap your arms around and hug. He tolerated our crazy work schedules and multiple moves. He even helped us pick out our house when we moved to Manzanita.
Kirby passed in 2008.
After Kirby, I swore I’d never adopt another dog and even went four years of “doglessness.” It was a long four years.
In 2012 came Lilo, another black Lab. She came from the Warrenton shelter and when we met her, she put on an excellent show of rolling in the grass and laying her head on my lap. Despite my protestations, I was no match.
Lilo goes everywhere with me, from the porch at Pelican Brewery to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain. She occasionally gets to play greeter at the Visitors Center and even starred in her own commercial last year.
She just turned 10 the other day and I can see the miles of running, playing and jumping are starting to add up. She limps a little every now and then and is slower to chase the ball now than just a year ago.
But we’ll worry about that stuff another day. For now, there’s more trails to conquer, more squirrels to chase, more lazy days stretched out in the sun to enjoy.
And most importantly, I love seeing people’s faces when they see me sharing an ice cream cone with her at Dairy Queen.

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