About the time that I was born, my father had brought home two puppies. They were pit-bulls, but they didn’t get to stay long thanks to my severe allergies. Mom mentioned them on occasion as I grew up, and this piqued my curiosity. These were the dogs that had such a terrible reputation, yet my Mom the church lady thought these puppies were worth mentioning fifteen years after she had them. One day Mom announced that she had found an advertisement for someone who had pit-bull puppies, and that we should go over just so I could see what they looked like. We went. I brow-beat Mom until she allowed me to plunk down $75 for a puppy.
The puppy’s name was Precious, but even as a small dog she was incredibly muscular. I changed her name to Andy, and we soon became fast friends. For the next several years, I refused to go anywhere without my dog. She went to every high school party, every park in the county, and into the homes of more than one chagrined friend. I routinely took her into local shops as a protest against the exile that most dogs endure in the United States.
A close friend, who delighted in issue orders to her, once referred to Andy as “The Machine”. Such was her training that I had complete confidence in my ability to control her on walks without a leash. I would purposefully seek out noisy, distracting environments to take her into in order to advance her training. Not only would she heel and sit crisply, she could climb barriers, crawl under fences, and retrieve hidden objects.
Even as a swimmer, Andy was amazing. She would swim for hours on end, even diving to retrieve sticks from under the water. On one particularly memorable occasion, a fellow approached us on a walk. He completely disregard me, while warmly greeting my dog. He had seen her years earlier, trying to drag the floats out of a local dam. She had tried in vain to pull the cabled buoys to shore for well over an hour, and had thus emblazoned herself in this man’s memory. He couldn’t remember me, but he remembered my dog.
When Evelyn joined us, some of our family members warned us about a child in a home with two pit-bulls. Our first pediatrician was one of those people, and it was that first day in the hospital that we knew this was not the doctor we wanted for our child. In fact, both of our dogs were incredibly patient with Evelyn. Despite being hit, screamed at, “walked”, and generally tormented by Evelyn, neither Andy nor Hades ever expressed any ire with our small child.
Today as I watched Andy, I realized that her foot was infected again. Her health has been deteriorating over the last year and half. After a candid discussion with our veterinarian, it soon became clear that while we could treat her symptoms, we could not restore her quality of life. This topic is something that has preoccupied my thoughts frequently over the last year, so today I was neither surprised nor unprepared. Given her poor health, there was really no decision to make. Andy was almost precisely 15 1/2 years old. She will be much missed, but much remembered as she was in her prime.