By Rosalie Tirella
I was shooting for the stars: a purebred German Shepherd (gorgeous! majestic!) puppy (trainable, no bad habits/baggage) – a rescue (fixed, vaccinated, relatively inexpensive compared to a GSD pup from a breeder) who looked like the Old Injun Fighter’s vicious German Shepherd, Sparky (my dog would be the squirrely love tunnel back into the heart of the ex-beau I WILL NEVER EVER GET OVER) but acted like Rin Tin Tin (brave, loyal, serious, smart – just the ticket for my rough, crime-ridden Worcester inner-city neighborhood) ….but some how, like it always happens with me in life, love and dogs … I ended up with the POLAR OPPOSITE of my expectations! I ended up with Lilac!
A jingly jangly, wicked smart (plott?)hound-collie-shepherd-(coon?)hound mutt from Tennessee who runs circles around this old lady’s heart! She’s ALL Star American athlete while my other dog, 7-year-old Husky-mix Jett, and I wallow in middle age. She is strong and sure-footed while Jett and I sometimes miss a beat and stumble during our afternoon walks. She is silly and high-spirited – Jett and I are more serious, wise … philosophical.
She is spring. Jett and I are autumn.
She climbs trees! That’s the coon hound in her! Have you ever seen a dog pursuing a squirrel so relentlessly, so “doggedly” that she chases it right up the tree and climbs into the tree after it? It’s a wild sight! Lilac, just 9 months old, but three times as strong as Jett, with all her muscular grace bounding up to the tree, then her paws “running up” the tree trunk, four paws off the ground … and she’s all ecstasy, all fearlessness, no distracting thoughts, despite my yells of COME LILAC! COME! as she clambers up that tree trunk, in the most insane, ungainly way! Beautiful!
I have never hung out with such a natural hunter. My first dog, Grace, was a greyhound mix, and her prey drive was sky-high. But all she could do was run amazingly fast after rabbits, squirrels and deer (yes, Grace was a deer hunter!). But she didn’t like to swim – she would stop short in a pond or stream once the water reached her chest. But Lilac is super aquatic! She doggy paddles in various and sundry bodies of water with childlike abandon! Did I mention she can swim, run, climb, hop! hop! as in all four of her paws go off the ground in Tigger-like joyfulness, leap, scamper, lope and bound in pursuit of prey? She does all this with magnificent ease and sometimes grace, with a compact strength that’s overwhelmed me, once knocked me to the ground, left me squirming and crying in pain with a sprained ankle … watching Lilac glide on by, a loose, canine smile spread across her long face, her tongue lolling merrily, as if to say: See ya later, Mommy!
LILAC!!!! I yell as the college kids are lifting me up and gingerly placing me in my car … LILAC!! I scream in agony. But I do not – will not – leave the field until a tuckered-out, panting, chest-heaving Lilac finally notices me from a great distance, finally heeds the call and comes racing back to me, bounding into the car, splattering me and Jett (he never leaves my side these days) with mud and fetid water (Lilac took the scenic route and swam in the little pond) making us all one unholy mess!
Once home, I am busy wrapping my ankle with an ace bandage and popping Advil like PEZ, Jett is sitting on my bed, visibly upset (we had such a nice routine when it was just we two! he seems to say to me), Lilac is sleeping on a mat on the hardwood floor, sleeping a heavy sleep punctuated with sighs and deep moans, as if still chasing that damned squirrel in a dream. …or maybe it’s a wily raccoon in her home state of Tennessee. She is all wet and smelly from her jaunt over fields, through woods, under water, but I want her on the bed with Jett, I want her to feel his equal, build her self-confidence. I go to the linen drawer and pull out an old sheet, fold it in half and spread it over the foot of my bed. LILAC! UP! LILAC! UP! I say to my little athlete, tapping the bed with my the palm of my hand. Lilac rouses, sits up and stretches all the way back, yawning, like a little bathing beauty. She looks so pretty and soft – even with muddy underbelly and paw pads. Then she lopes over to my bed and with the slightest effort (like the true athlete she is) is lying next to Jett, curled up in a ball, in two seconds. Lilac plops down and plops down hard whenever she goes to rest. She never merely lies down. This makes her seem more raw-boned and “country” to me! Which I love! But her long tail always looks slightly feathery and oh so elegant!
We are home.
Jett is annoyed.
I am in pain. I will go to urgent care tomorrow – my ankle has swelled up to grape-fruit size and is KILLING me. I’ll have it x-rayed. Could it be broken?
But Princess Lilac, the little abused puppy who was dumped outside the Animal Control building in a Worcester County town … pretty, dreamy Lilac with limpid brown eyes and white feathery chest … pretty, sensitive Lilac who was kept caged in a too small puppy crate for hours at a time and S-T-R-T-C-H-E-D O-U-T on floor, mat, bed when I first brought her home, pretty collie Lilac who seems to read my mind when I am lonely and comes up to me and plops down hard against my side and rests her head on my chest or stomach and makes me feel warm, safe and, yes, loved, pretty not-so-little-any-more Lilac who drops her wet, chewed up doggy toys in my face when I’m lying on the sofa and talking on the phone with a friend (she does this to grab my attention), the lovely Lilac who takes Jett’s leash in her mouth and tries to lead him where she wants to go, smart Lilac who carries her empty water bowl to my bed and flicks it onto the comforter as if to say: FILL ‘ER UP! PRONTO! I’M THIRSTY, MA! has totally, absolutely won my heart.
… What German Shepherd puppy?????
… I put up some holiday decorations in my apartment (sort of under duress). Here are some pics: – Rosalie Tirella
Snow papa and snow son on coffee table …
I decided to make my dining room table/desk centerpiece my Christmas Tree this year. I hung some of my favorite Christmas ornaments on it! … Vintage Santa stands by (lower right) …
Here he is in all his vintage glory!
My grandmother’s creche from Poland. It fits in the palm of my hand! Precious!
The bench in my bedroom.
I got this big doll for my mom (for her last Christmas, it turned out). She loved little kids!
Gingerbread house on my boot-stand/bench!
Jett in his Santa hat! It took me FOREVER to get this pic! … I love Jett!!!!
By Rosalie Tirella
I named him after “JETT,” a Paul McCartney and Wings tune. Cuz my little husky mix (my vet said he had a smidgen of coyote in him!) was fast and streamlined, like a jet airplane. Cuz he had non-stop energy on our walks. Cuz when I’m with him, which is 90% of the time!, I feel kinda … high. Dogs can make you feel that way: pull you out of your safe human routine and plop you into in-the-moment fun, joyfulness, high-spirited high jinks. If they are young, they are ready for all sorts of tail thumping adventures. Every day is truly a new day, a rebirth, for young dogs. Young turks, even the girls, but especially the boys, so full of themselves, they are!
Then our dogs get older, all of a sudden, just hits you from behind! Like my beloved Jett. As I write this post, he’s by my side, lying down, but with his Husky head errect, at attention. I see, for the first time, my older Jett. My older dog. I want to cry.
He looks serious! And purposeful, like the middle aged fella he is. His teeth are good and strong but his canines are not their pearly white of yesteryears! He has no grey whiskers around his muzzle, but a few will pop out soon enough. And then his snout will become snowy gray, and I will caress the back of his ears and kiss the top of his head and call him my “sweet old boy.”
Jett’s my third dog. I’ve been down this wistful road before. I once cried to the Old Injun Fighter, as I watched my old retriever Bailey fight his cancer: WHY CAN’T DOGS LIVE AS LONG AS WE DO? WHY DO THEY HAVE TO LEAVE US SO SOON?! The OIF understood. He’s had 10 or so German Shepherds in his life. When they die, he has them cremated and put into an urn, which goes on his bedroom bureau, along with the other urns that contain the ashes of his other beloved German Shepherds. Somewhere amidst the dusty containers sits a small white vase with plastic flowers in it. He retires his late dogs’ collars, too, and never ever forgets the day on which they died, a solemn anniversary during which he stays subdued, quiet.
Looking at my calendar I see April is almost here. I adopted Jett from the rescue league four years ago, in April. He was a frisky eight months old when he entered my life. Now he is almost five. Five years old, for most dogs, is middle age. You notice the difference! They don’t run as fast. Their walks don’t need to be as long. They like sleeping by your side, little naps by their mommy or daddy! They don’t have the forgiving ways of puppies. They get set in their routines.
But here comes the great part: If you have even been a half-decent owner, THEY LOVE THEIR LIVES WITH YOU. You have become the loopy planet around which their pure, pure canine hearts revolve. They sing their doggie love song only to you. A love song sung to you in yips, yaps, laps, licks, snorts, snarls and farts. HEAVEN!!!!!
And then there are their eyes. They too will start to fade, even grow cloudly with cataracts, just the way it happens with us humans. But, if you look deeply into their gaze, the way I am looking into Jett’s eyes now – not too long cuz dogs interpret this as a power grab – you see the pup, or the memory of your young dog in his or her eyes. I look into Jett’s eyes – one is sky blue, the other chestnut brown. Two different colored eyes; it’s a fairly typical Siberian Husky trait and does not mean he is blind. I fell in love with Jett’s blue eye and brown eye almost four years ago! To me then – and to me now – they were so unique, so strange, so mysterious. Like a coyote slipping along the edge of the woods, just when the sky grows dark blue. A most beautiful blue …
My little Mountain Feist, Jett – 2013
By Rosalie Tirella
… That’s where my dog Jett comes from. Well, maybe the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand dad of Jett. My little guy is originally from Kentucky – a place where they do a ton of squirrel hunting and have dogs known as Mountain Feists. It’s not a breed really, just a type of dog you are gonna find in Appalachia. A mix of terrier, “pariah dog,” and even some coyote that the locals create to help them hunt rabbit, squirrels, etc … homegrown hunting dogs … feisty little guys and gals who are tough, high spirited, loyal, tireless and love the chase. When I first drove around Worcester with Jett, people would call out to me and ask: Is that a coyote? I’d say, Mountain Feist – so no one would take my beloved little boy away from me. … I called the animal rescue league in Kentucky and talked with the woman who first worked with Jett. She told me she found him on the streets – abandoned by his owner, a lady who raised and sold huskies. I learned Jett is half full-blooded husky on his mom’s side, half Mountain Feist on his dad’s (who got in with her dogs – and created a mutt, not worth $$). I did some research after I talked with the woman and saw other dogs on-line – Mountain Feists – who looked a lot like Jett. I also came upon this interesting information: Jett, his type of dog, has been around in America for almost as long as America has been around – with the hunters … the dog even makes an appearance in a William Faulkner novel.
Here it is, three-plus years later, and I am reading Faulkner’s THE BEAR, a fantastic novella, and I come upon this passage (COOL!) Describes Jett’s personality/style perfectly!
From THE BEAR, by William Faulkner:
“He had a little dog at home, a mongrel, of the sort called fyce by negroes, a ratter, itself not much bigger than a rat … . He brought it with him one June … … even the two hounds seemed to have taken a kind of desperate and despairing courage from the fyce. Then he relazied that the fyce was not going to stop [pursuing the bear]. He flung the gun down and ran. When he overtook and grasped the shrill, frantic pinwheeling little dog, it seemed to him that he was directly under the bear. He could smell it, strong and hot and rank. Sprawling, he looked up where it had loomed and towered over him like a thunderclap. It was quite familiar, until he remembered: this was the way he had used to dream about it.
“Then it was gone. He didn’t see it go. He knelt, holding the frantic fyce with both hands, hearing the abased wailing of the two hounds drawing further and further away, until Sam came up, carrying the gun. He laid it quietly down beside the boy and stood looking down at him. …
“The boy rose. He still held the fyce. Even in his arms it continued to yap frantically, surging and straining toward the fading sound of the hounds like a collection of wire springs. The boy was panting a little. …
“Sam didn’t seem to have heard. He put his hand and touched the little dog in the boy’s arms … . He stroked the little dog until it began to grow quiet under his hand. “You’s almost the one we wants,” he said. “You just ain’t big enough. … ”
By Rosalie Tirella
What a great day to own a dog! To ride with my new dog Jett in my car – he feeling full of himself (finally!) – me having a blast watching a once abused dog grow more confident. (In Kentucky, where Jett’s originally from, the men treated him rough.) Which is why I don’t make Jett heel – he can lead me anywhere on our walks! I feed him apple slices, too, and carress his little chest while cooing: “Oh, you’re a brave little man!”
I take Jett everywhere and he meets everyone! He is so tentative, but I know he will come around … .
“Here,” I tell a friend, giving her a dog treat, “give Jett a cookie!” And Jett gets his cookie! (she must throw it at his paws and look away the first time. A few times later and Jett walks up tp her and takes the treat from her hand)
“Look! Here’s a Worcester park! Let’s go!” I say to Jett, and I open the car door and out Jett pops, and we play tag in the park! Jett is running circles around me; I am pretending I wanna catch him! When I tire and sit on a park bench my little pal stops running, walks over and stares at me, as if to say: “Why are you sitting this game out?” Continue reading Dog day morning!