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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

My Dogged Life

For a nine-pound Maltese, Rosie had a big life. For her first two years, it was her job to keep my sick mother company and refuse to be paper trained.

"You have to say 'No!' like a bark," I’d tell my mother. "Use a deep, sharp voice."

"No!" barked my mother, but still Rosie urinated on the carpet.

She learned to sit for a treat and to run under the bed on command whenever the visiting nurses came. "Heel" and "stay" where not really relevant.

"She's not happy," my mother would say when she phoned. "Can you bring Daisy over to play?"

Rosie lived for our visits, and she and Daisy would play for ten hours straight, and, although she adored my mother, Rosie would beg to go with us when Daisy and I left.

When my mother died, it was Rosie’s job to take care of me. "I can't," I'd moan at the whole mess of life and death, and, cuddled in my lap, Rosie would lick away my tears.

It took a while, but slowly she adjusted to her new life. She'd slept on the floor at my mother's, and for the first few months she seemed nervous when it came time for bed. She'd stare at me, tail wagging, with a hopeful "Me too?" expression after Daisy had jumped into bed beside me. "Yes, you too," I'd whisper as I lifted her onto the pillows, and she'd wildly kiss me, overwhelmed with her luck.

At the first sign of a leash, she would gag from excitement, hopping on her hind legs in anticipation. But she was timid around other dogs in the park and hid between my ankles whenever there was more than one around. She stuck close and seemed bereft if I unhooked her leash. However, by the end of her first year, she played with other little dogs, barked at intruders, and wandered into the Central Park bushes.

My obedience teacher had taught me that you should call "come" once, and if there wasn’t an appropriate response, go to the dog and give her a correction. The first time I grabbed Rosie out of the bushes to give that correction, she flinched, startled. An awful thought went through my head ...

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