I will be the first to admit that I am not a pet person. Never have been. I don’t get butterflies and warm fuzzies when people walk by me on the street with their dogs, I think cats are weird, and I detest rabbits (the two-teeth scar on my hand may have something to do with that).
But it only takes one.
I was 12-years old when my oldest brother brought Dustie Jack home. I remember the first time I saw her, a young pup running around our driveway. I didn’t really give her a second thought over the next eight years other than Oh, she bit you again?, Just keep her outside, and It sucks that mom and dad got stuck with Josh’s dog.
That last thought needs a little more explanation. My brother had to move, to California, and Dustie Jack proved to be anything but a travel dog. She had a panic attack as soon as you brought her near your car, even if it was just for a joyride. My older brother is an animal-lover/protector/saver, and it broke his heart to leave his dog behind, but the decision had to be made. The duty of taking care of the dog fell to my youngest brothers. She stayed outside, away from most humans, for the first half of her life. My mom (who never wanted the dog) started realizing how cold it was during the winter, and Dustie was given a place in the garage. The garage soon became the mudroom, the mudroom soon became the kitchen and dining room, the kitchen and dining room soon became a designated rug at the entrance of the carpeted living room. After 8 or 9 years as an outdoor dog, Dustie became and indoor one (yeah, she is pretty smart like that— she didn’t need anyone to tell her where to go to the bathroom, she just knew).
But being an outside dog, and living in the country, and having rare human interaction, gave Dustie a wild streak. In other words, she had a temper. Especially when it came to small animals (she gave our neighbor dog a hundred stitches once, or a hundred dollars worth of stitches, I can’t remember— my dad said the little yapper had it coming) and small people, like babies and such—she didn’t like ‘em. Then one Christmas, she bit my friend (it was terrible, my friend- being a dog person- was very forgiving, but… it was terrible) and my mom discussed putting her down because it wasn’t safe having my little niece and nephew around an unstable dog.
This happened when I was 21. I have no idea what came over me but I all of a sudden found myself in a state of disbelief. YOU CAN’T PUT MY DOG DOWN. Wait… since when did Dustie become my dog? I mean… she wasn’t. But she was, and I felt this need, an urge, to protect her. I offered to take Dustie to my place in Kalamazoo (yes, this town exists) anytime my niece and nephew came to visit. I am pretty sure nobody believed me at first, but I insisted— and my mom relented. She didn’t want to let go of Dustie either, looks like the rest of the family had gotten attached too.
I took Dustie back to my college town that very week. She cried and whimpered the whole way (still not being a travel dog), and almost caused me to get in a car wreck, or two. I remember my windshield window being disgusting, with all of her wet-nose marks. That first week Dustie stayed with me, and I took care of her, caused something to shift in both of us. She loved the house that I shared with my sister. All used furniture so she could hang out and lay on whatever she pleased, walks around the neighborhood marking her territory, and when bedtime came— there she was in my tiny twin-sized bed, which was NOT big enough for the both of us.
Dustie became loyal to me, and I fell in love with her. I brought her to stay with me for a week at a time on several occasions throughout the next two years. She treated it as her “summer cottage”. She even started doing better in the car. When I would come home to visit she greeted me as if I was her favorite person in the world, and then she would run out to my car, expecting me to take her back with her.
She became my friend, and even tried to like what I liked (always begging for nacho cheese doritoes— though I told her every time that she didn’t like the cheese flavor). She was always waiting for me when I came home, and hated it when I had to lock her out of my room because I actually needed a good night’s rest.
So… this is why people have dogs.
I am not a pet person.
I am a Dustie Jack person.
In her old age she lost her temper and behaved really well around other dogs, and children. I believe she changed because she experienced the love from her owners that she should have gotten her whole life. Over the past seven/eight years, she was no longer looked at as, “Josh’s old pet” or “that dog”.
Dustie became family.
And today my family has to say good-bye to her.
I already miss you so much Dustie Jack. Thank you for being the only dog I will ever truly love.