|Tommy and Dominic share a bite|
Me: "But Tommy...the puppy loves you!"
Tommy: "I don't have time for a dog right now. And I'm NOT going to spend $1500 on a dog!"
I remember it like it was yesterday. My friend Autumn was working for a Doberman breeder and she convinced me that I should too. It didn't take a lot of convincing. She and I had fallen in love with a beautiful male puppy-the last one left. We knew and loved the puppy's parents (in fact we were both with the puppy's dad when he later passed away). But it wasn't just about that. It wasn't just that he was beautiful, it wasn't even about his amazing bloodlines. He was just...cool. He had swagger, even when he was just kicking back in his run, leaning against a run pad. He even made taped ears look good. He had been held by the breeder because he was spectacular and an excellent breeding candidate. But they were considering retirement. Autumn and I were in agony about the idea he might be sold, but neither of us was in a position to have another dog; I already had four, and Autumn had three.
"PLEASE pay attention to the puppy!" the breeder pleaded with Autumn before they went on vacation. The puppy took turns coming home with us. He hung out with our dogs, played with my daughter and did what puppies do. One night, I convinced Tommy, my boyfriend at the time (we broke up many years ago now, but have been friends ever since) to meet Autumn at the kennel with me. He fought the idea, but in the end he went to the kennel. It was the first time he met the puppy, and though Tommy wouldn't admit it at the time, it was love at first sight for both. Autumn and I exchanged looks, and I knew we had the same diabolical plan: Tommy could buy the puppy. As far as we were concerned it was a done deal. I mustered up my considerable manipulative skills and set to work.
In spite of Tommy's initial resistance (resistance is futile!), the puppy's considerable charms (and surprisingly little nudging from me) quickly won him over. How can anyone resist a Doberman puppy when they are all wiggly snoot and feet, with dorky taped ears? In no time at all, Tommy was sitting in the breeder's office with the puppy squirming on his lap, credit card in hand. Autumn and I were ecstatic, of course. I had a few concerns initially about whether I had set Tommy up for more than he was ready to handle, but he turned out to be a first rate doggie-daddy. He named the puppy Dominic after his grandfather. "The Puppy" finally had a name.
Tommy was right about how busy he was back then. He had a full time job working for an upholstery shop and he was the bass player in a band that toured regularly, sometimes for a month at a time in Europe. For the first few years Dominic spent that time with us, then his family took over the Dober-care. Either way, Tommy knew his faithful friend was happy and safe until he came home. In fact, with Tommy's love and devotion, Dominic never knew a day of pain; he always ate the best food always had his morning walk, always saw the vet when he needed to. Always. He never lacked for a single thing. He grew up to be as beautiful and wonderful as anticipated, thriving as the center of Tommy's Universe. A Doberman's favorite place to be.
We took Dominic to training classes with a local police chief. He was very impressed with him. I can't be sure, but I don't believe the chief ever charged Tommy for being in the class. Dominic was a quick study and reached maturity as a very popular pinscher. Tommy bought Gia to be his companion (and though her lines weren't quite as impressive as Dom's, she was pretty amazing in her own right). Tommy was as amazing with two dogs as he was with one. Eventually Dominic and Gia had a litter. I have seen and cared for a lot of puppies, but these kids were unforgettable. Not a dud in the bunch. Even the vet was impressed, and when we pointed out our 'runt', all he could do was shake his head and say "If that's your runt, this is one impressive litter". I remember them well: Murphy (yes, my Murphy) Zara, Annie, Tia, Kristi and Fracas (who, for some reason we called 'Ficus'). And I remember how Tommy cared for them. They were always clean, always shiny. I found myself impressed again.
It was to be Gia's only litter; she developed an infection and needed to be spayed. The puppies were sold to carefully pre-screened homes until only Murphy was left. Then the conversation went something like this:
Tommy: "There's a guy in Rutland who's into dog sports and he wants to buy Murphy. I think he might be into breeding too."
Me: "Yeah? Is he a good guy?"
Tommy: "Yeah, he sounds great. He would pay good money for him too. Or you could just keep him, and I would end up paying most of his medical expenses for the rest of his life." (a fair assessment of the situation!)
Me: "What do YOU want to do?" (hopeful!)
Tommy: "Dammit...come get your dog."
It was so Tommy.
Gia passed away suddenly at the age of six, and it was just Tommy and Dominic again. Or more accurately, tommyanddominic. Years go by as they do. Time moves us forward. We grow and change. Tommy opened his own upholstery shop and gave up his music. Tommy's business, perhaps due to karma, has always been in the black. He and Dominic continued on their comfy routines. Dominic always looking and acting much younger than his age.
A couple of years ago, I noticed for the first time that Dom was slowing down. I told myself he was fine. Dom had never been frail; he was a solid wall of Doberman to an imposing degree. Tommy noticed it too, though he didn't say it often. His walks in the field became much-loved visits around the neighborhood. Comfortable beds, though always a priority, became more so. Tommy catered to his aging friend's every need without complaint, always putting him first. That's who Tommy is.
About a week ago, Tommy started calling me about Dominic's health. I could hear the frantic edge just beneath the surface, but Dominic had pneumonia and there was nothing I could do. I imagined what he was going through, the now-frail Dominic fading in front of him. Still, I held fast to the idea that if he could recover, he would be fine.
Dominic passed away in Tommy's arms this morning, surrounded by his family and in his own yard. He would have been thirteen on May 19th. It doesn't seem real. In the end, it isn't about the money we spent, or bloodlines. It isn't about certificates on the wall. It's about who they are. That's the part that touches us, and never lets us go.
RIP my friend.