Dog gone

February 6, 2014

By Pat Detmer

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When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.

Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.

But once past puppyhood, Lenny decided that we were the enemy, and he began barking at us when he thought we were doing something particularly heinous, like breathing or existing in the same universe. If I petted him while he was out walking with a family member, he behaved like a perfect gentledog, but if he encountered us unescorted, he expressed his angry disapproval. He never attacked or made moves toward us (that took too much energy for a dog slung so close to the ground); he just braced himself on his sturdy little legs and barked.

On the rare occasion when he might make it to the top of our driveway, a “Hey, Lenny! What are you doing here?” would be answered with a furious volley as if we were reaching into his food dish with a massive ladle. If he was in the backyard when The Sainted One replenished the bird feeders, he would woof like he’d spotted someone headed for the windows of his house with a ladder and a pry bar. The Sainted One would gently call out, “#^<?!*#!, Lenny, it’s me, for crying out loud!!! We just did this last week!!!”

Lenny provided fodder for an ongoing joke. For many years we’ve had a Good Neighbor Christmas gathering, and once we’d settled down with our first drink in hand, someone would ask, “So … just how old is Lenny now?” And then we’d all laugh. The implication was obvious: How many more years would Lenny be angered by our existence?

Even though that’s been our party opener for almost a decade, it was still a shock to get an early January email from the GNS:

Lenny has left the building. We’ve ushered our little man out of this world. It was very sad, but we’re grateful that we could hold him as he left. For 13 ½ years, he’s been an important part of our little family, and he always will be. And not to worry — he was a smart dog — he always knew you were laughing with him, not at him.

I shared the news with The Sainted One, and as I did so — to my great surprise — I wept.

Lenny, in the end I guess the joke was on me.

 

You can reach Pat Detmer — who didn’t chase Lenny but does chase cats away from the bird feeders — through www.patdetmer.com.

 

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