When I was a little girl, I remember having a total of three dogs. The first was named "Dot" and I don't remember a whole lot about her because I was something like three years old and only know of her existence from pictures. And not too many of those, if truth be told.
The second dog was a basset hound named Gus...and my memories include visions of me attempting to walk him from time to time...but at seven years old...I was neither consistent with this nor were our outings particularly successful since he was a bit of a handful. Mostly, he stayed on the front porch and smelled bad...and was later given to a family that I'm fairly certain appreciated him and gave him a great home.
The third was a dachshund named Gretel...whose worst offense was that she would pee when she was excited...which was every time that she saw us. I was in high school by this time...and honestly didn't really give her the attention she needed...so she went to live with MeeMaw...and was rechristened "Getrel" for reasons known only to her.
After those three...I had pretty much convinced myself that I was a "cat" person...and I enjoyed having the folks' cat live with me while they made a move out to California. Other than the fact that she used up one of her lives in my care (wasn't my fault...she was attacked by another cat before I got her, and because of her fluff...nobody knew that she had infected wounds) and that I am allergic to cats...it was seriously okay.
Big Dave tolerated the cat because she was a temporary resident...but although he loves pets...he sees them more as a pleasure to be enjoyed outdoors. When I got pregnant with Jill and couldn't touch the litterbox...we returned her to her rightful owner...and the sweet thing lived to be 19 years old.
In 1992, I had the grand idea that I wanted to get a puppy for Christmas. Never mind that I had two children who were toddlers, worked fulltime, and Big Dave was not in agreement...a girl at work had a litter of puppies to give away, and she brought one to work one day.
Her name was Hannah.
I almost ruined Christmas that year. I thought that Santa might be bringing me a divorce.
Hannah was an outside dog...and was sweet...but since she was okay to be outside and I was entirely too busy for words...I squandered the best of Hannah's years just petting and feeding her and not ever really getting to know her. That changed when we sold the house and moved into an apartment. Hannah was crate trained within a week, and she lived on the little screened in porch and came inside when it was cold. She moved out here to Pike Road with us and loved the freedom she had...although her back trouble kept her from venturing far from the back door.
In 2002, knowing that Hannah was getting up in age and as incentive for Jill learning to do a back handspring, we decided to look for a puppy. My sweet friend, Kim, found one for us...a soft, smart beautiful black pomeranian and long haired chihuahua mix that we named "Harley David's Son." Yeah, I crack myself up sometimes.
Harley was the cutest thing...always into something...and notorious for chewing up socks and underwear. You didn't dare leave a cup around...or Harley would be face down in it after the contents. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he was a small dog...and his best friend was a medium sized dog who roamed the neighborhood and had no problem with Harley being the alpha male.
One horrible day, I received a call from Big Dave telling me that Harley had run into the street after his friend, and that a neighbor had struck him by accident. He was killed instantly. In a bitter irony, his friend was killed in the same spot two weeks later.
To say that I was a hot mess would be an understatement. Three days of wailing and attempting to work...made me call my Mom and ask her to help me find a puppy because I was so devastated that I knew I couldn't brave the pound, and I was too grieved to look at puppies myself...even though we did travel down to Fort Deposit to look at a litter of puppies. The mother looked just like Harley.
After a week or two, my mother contacted a couple in North Carolina who had contacted her about using her dog Bradley for stud...and was told that they had one puppy left from an unintentional litter. Their shih tzu, Slippy, had apparently gotten in the family way with the couple's ancient and thought to be past his prime male, Rhubarb.
Seriously...the names? But out of that bizarre coupling of Slippy and Rhubarb came our little shorkie...Rebel.
He was the last puppy in the litter. Somehow he was either held back or not chosen and as he peeked out behind his mother...Mom and Ralph knew that he was meant to be mine. And so he was.
Rebel filled a huge gaping hole in our family and was without a doubt the calmest puppy, smartest about understanding what I was saying to him, and most wonderfully bizarre dog I've ever known. I don't want to write too much at this time...because I think that he deserves his own blogpost...and also I might cry if I delve into it too much at this point in time.
You understand, right?
A year later, Dixie Lucille joined our family...the daughter (and pick of the litter) of my folks' dog, Bradley. She is the sweetest dog...and just pretty much loves everybody. She also adores water (but not baths), chasing balls (but not retrieving them) and Jill (although she likes the rest of us pretty well too). She even broke my sister Linda's kids from their fear of dogs.
She's a bit of a rock star.
She and Rebel were the proud parents of a total of 12 puppies...Bo, Luke, Dolly, Hank, Billy Ray, Merle, Willie, Reba, Brad, Toby, Shania and one other little girl whose name escapes me.
Life rocked on from 2004 when Rebel joined us and 2005 when Dixie was born. We spent 2006 and 2007 in the world of puppies...and when Jill left home in 2008...we had a pretty well established household. I thought that I'd have Rebel and Dixie healthy and happy for several more years.
And then life intervened last week. Rebel died at the age of almost nine...
After being bereft for several days, I started doing what helped pull me out of the despair I felt when we lost Harley. I started puppy-hunting. Realizing that it took a month last time...I figured that it would keep me busy and would give me something to look forward to as I mourned my precious boy.
My friend, Bonnie, suggested that I try the Bulletin Board, and she gave me leads on some of the listings. One of them showed no photos...but described a litter of four boys and a girl. I picked up the phone.
Prior to this, I should add that I had a couple of leads. One was a pet store and the other was an individual that was apparently some kind of breeder. You know how you just "know" that there is something that may be perfectly all right...but doesn't quite work for you? Well, that was my experience. So, actually picking up the phone again was a huge deal...primarily because I thought it was going to be yet another dead end.
You see, I was looking for a male shih tzu puppy that had been raised in a home...not a puppy mill. I wanted him to have some brown on him like Rebel did. I am still missing Rebel terribly as I write this...but at that time...I was just coming out of that area of sadness that people who have never owned pets do not understand and thought that this would more than likely be another dead end.
The lady answered...sounded way normal...and said that she only had one puppy left...a little brown and white male. He was the pick of the litter, but the sire's parents had decided that four dogs and two cats was about all that they cared to manage at that point in time. They had instructed them to go ahead and sell the puppy. The mother was the couple's daughter's dog, and they just wanted a litter of puppies...they weren't in the business per se. She mentioned that the puppy's mother's name was Miley, and the father's name was Harley.
I made an appointment to meet him last Saturday morning. They live nearby in Cecil, AL (near Pike Road where I live...yes, these are actual places) and would be home in the afternoon because they were planning on attending the Pike Road Arts & Crafts Festival like all the rest of the locals that morning. (I liked them already.)
As I drove out, I had steeled myself for a disappointment, and vowed that if the puppy didn't win me over in the first fifteen seconds...I would have to just thank them for their time and move on. After all, I wanted to be fair to the puppy and my heart was still broken.
I pulled into the driveway and was met by a shih tzu that looked exactly like Dixie...except she had silver markings instead of taupe ones. She was friendly and was extremely sweet. She was joined by a large red dog who looked like a red version of Black Dog from next door. As I got out of the car, the man said, "C'mon Rebel..."
And then he walked up with the cutest bundle of fur...white like Dixie with brown ears like Rebel and black tips like Harley.
It took me three seconds to decide.
So, in what I can only believe is a God-ordained acquisition, we brought home the son of "Marie's Little Harley" and "Royal Princess Miley." He is 14 weeks old...so he's ready to be potty trained easier, sleeps through the night, and is not so small that he freaks Dixie out. He is also highly enamored with Brian...so that totally rocks as well.
We named him "Mixon's Rebel Prince Riley." Although "rebel prince" probably doesn't sound too awesome to the average listener...it sounds perfectly right to me. We named him Riley because his mother was Miley...with an "R" for Rebel. We thought an R name might be easier for Dixie. I think it is.
Big Dave rolls his eyes when I say things like that. Just so you know.
I know that he cannot replace Rebel...and we do not expect him to. Any more than Rebel could replace Harley or Dixie could replace Hannah. We just want to fill our home with the sounds of dog tags rattling, the occasional bark-a-thon, and the occasional mess so I can complain about it.
Riley was absolutely still when I picked him up. And then he came into our house full of company this weekend and stayed in the dog bed and observed it all. Dixie was not exactly rolling out the red carpet, but she didn't try to eat him like she does the grandcat...so I thought that there was hope. Had Rebel been here, he'd have had Riley's bag packed and his ticket for Siberia waiting for him beside the door.
He's a bit of a bundle of joy right now. He's somewhat potty trained...although most shih tzus take 40 forevers to get it completely right. Here, let me interpret that for you...they never really do. He has been in this house since Saturday and has already learned to "sit" and we are working on "shake." Although he is a bit ADD...he's smart...and he is trying like the dickens to impress Dixie. Since she seems to enjoy it...I think he's succeeding.
I am watching him right now as he drags clothes out of Brian's room into the dining room and chews on them. Uh oh. Every dog we've had has enjoyed eating underwear...and for years...before guests came...we had to make sure that there wasn't a pair of boxers or a thong in the foyer.
Harley and Rebel were the worst in this regard. Boys. And Harley has the distinction of being the only one of them who actually ate part of the house. There is a corner of a windowsill in my bedroom that has been like he left it in 2002. I haven't had the heart to repair it.
Dixie just turns over the trashcans in the bathrooms...because she can.
I don't know what Riley's personality will turn out to be...but I do know this...he's already one of us. He looks like Dixie, and he was made to order. And honestly? Although I'd give anything to have my Rebel back...I am honestly okay with bringing another baby into this family while we are working through our grief. It is a little bittersweet...but it has been really nice to smile through the tears.
So there's that...
I'm sure that there will be many stories to tell down the road...but I wanted you to have the backstory first.