The Story of Duchess

A couple weeks ago, I got a text from one of my roommates asking me if I was cool with him getting a dog. Of course, I’m cool with him getting a dog. As long as I’m not the one that has to be responsible for him. Fine by me.

I feel like, most days, I can barely take care of myself. I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of another creature. Except, maybe, a fish. I think I could deal with a fish. But probably not. There’s a good chance I’d forget to feed that, too. I kill houseplants.

Growing up, I had a Sheltie. Her name was Duchess. Because we already had a Cockapoo named Princess. Stayed with the nobility theme. I say she was a Sheltie, but really, she was a Sheltie mix. Mama was a purebred Sheltie. But we’re not sure what Daddy was. Whatever he was, he was big. Because Duchess grew to about twice the size of a normal Sheltie. She was kinda huge. But beautiful. Had all the markings and look of a Sheltie… just ginormous.

Duchess in SnowI loved that dog. When we got her, I claimed her and sort of manipulated her into being “mine.” We crate trained her, and kept her crate in my room for the first few months she was with us. Eventually, she got so used to being in my room, she just always chose to sleep in there, even when we were done with the crate training. She always got so excited when I got home from school. She’d run up and stand up on her hind legs to greet me. And she was tall enough that her front paws would rest on my shoulders. Not that I was ever that tall to begin with, but that should help give an idea of just how big she was.

I look back and am amazed at how incredibly intuitive she was, too. When she was a puppy, she was obviously smaller than the Cockapoo, and she would play rough with her. As she got to be full-size, she still saw Princess as the bigger dog. Well, eventually, the rough play took its toll on Princess and she had a slipped disk in her back. She recovered just fine, but after that, whenever they would play, Duchess would just lie there and take it as Princess continued to play rough. It was like someone sat Duchess down and told her she had to take it easy with Princess from now on.

We had a psychotic neighbor who lived behind us. He was the kind of cantankerous old man who thought he owned the neighborhood and would try to intimidate everyone around him into doing what he wanted. One night, I was at another neighbor’s house shooting basketball and it was getting kind of late and he yelled at me that it was time to go home. I was respectful of my elders (even though he was really just a drunken old fool and I wasn’t actually in his yard) and said, “Yes, sir,” and went home. He took it too far when he tried to kill our dogs. The thing is, he would do stuff to the point where he wasn’t crossing the line, or to where you couldn’t actually prove he did anything. He once burned down a neighbor’s detached garage after getting into an argument with them about something. Couldn’t prove it, but everyone knew who was responsible.

He shot at our dogs with a BB gun. Thank God, I don’t think he ever hit either of them, but he did shoot out our upstairs bathroom storm window and the back of my dad’s old Chevette. Couldn’t prove it was him, though… even though we’d seen him in his yard plenty of time with that BB gun over his shoulder. Early one morning, he snuck over and dropped raw hamburger stuffed with rat poison over our fence. Dad let both dogs out early since he was the first one up in the mornings. Again, thank God, Dad was paying attention when he saw Duchess sniffing around at something that seemed off. There was a trail of little pellets leading back to the old man’s yard. But, again, that wasn’t enough to prove he actually did anything.

This went on for months. Eventually, we decided it was in the dogs’ best interests to find new homes. Our vet had a sister in North Carolina who was willing to take on Princess. We never saw her again. A few weeks later, we were having a hard time finding a home for Duchess. I was hoping my parents would break down and say we would just have to keep her and be careful. But Mom decided to put a notice on a public bulletin board in the municipal building where she worked downtown. Some random family said they’d take her. They promised me that we could keep in touch and that I could come visit Duchess any time I wanted. The number they gave us was disconnected a few days later. I never saw Duchess again.

But I think she escaped from the new family’s house at some point a few weeks after that. My aunt was driving through a neighborhood just a few blocks from where we lived and swore up and down that she saw Duchess one day. She even stopped the car, got out, and called her name. She said the dog looked up, but then ran off. There’s a part of me that wants to believe she was trying to find her way back home. But then I’m scared that she got that close and was picked up by animal control and euthanized.

I miss that dog. I know it’s ridiculous, considering the fact that we got her when I was 13. She would be long dead by now, even if we’d kept her all those years. I’ve never had to experience the death of a pet. The first dog we ever owned, Sandy, we had to give away to my grandparents’ neighbors because when we moved into an apartment, we weren’t allowed to have pets. Princess and Duchess were the only other dogs we ever had. In a way, I’m glad I never had to experience it. But, then again, it saddens me to think they lived out the rest of their lives without us. Were they confused? Did they feel betrayed? Can dogs feel betrayed? Are their emotions that nuanced? Geez… it’s bad enough just to think that they would have been sad after being left with strangers.

Why did I start writing about this? It’s kind of breaking my heart. Maybe I should have told Mike not to get a dog. Like I said, he’s moving away in December. I’m gonna get attached and it’s gonna break my heart to have to say good bye to another dog!

I should become a cat person. Cats don’t give a crap about you. They just do their own thing. You crapped in your litter box? Sure thing, Fluffy, I’ll clean that out for you right away. You’re rubbing up against my leg? That’s cute. Oh, it doesn’t mean you love me? It means you own me? That’s fair. Turning your nose up at the dry food? No problem! Let me spend twice as much on the gooey wet junk that makes me want to vomit whenever I peel back the lid. Yeah, cats are great.

One thought on “The Story of Duchess

  1. I saw a video recently about a doctor training his dog to sit in an MRI machine so he could monitor his brain activity to determine in dogs love. The verdict: they do. 🙂 Maybe this go ’round, since it won’t be your dog, you won’t become as attached. It’s always nice to have a dog around, even if it’s not yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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