The Measure of a Dog

How do you measure the worth of a dog? By every metric I can think of, my black and tan standard Dachshund, Lex Bont the Wonder Dog, was not the best dog I’ve ever owned. Not by a long stretch.

He was a hard-headed cuss that took years to house train and then, for the rest of his life, would still sneak into the master bathroom to mark his territory.

When it was bedtime, nine times out of ten, I had to gently pull his bed out from under him as his treat-hearing-trained ears failed to hear, “Kennel Up, Lex,” from two feet away.

He was as heavy as a sack of potatoes. I couldn’t keep him on my lap for more than an hour or so. And when he wasn’t snoring in my ear while I was trying to watch the TV, he was constantly bumping his nose into my chin and hand, letting me know that I’d stopped scratching his belly. Let’s not even talk about his tongue; he could sneak a kiss faster than a rattlesnake on dark roast coffee.

He was quick to spoil and slow to correct. If I let him get away with something we both knew was wrong, he’d keep doing it from then on if he thought he could get away with it again.

I should have named him Impatient or something like it. When I came home from wherever, he was always at the door, underfoot and whining for some attention. And Heaven Forbid I step out into the front yard without him. He would bark incessantly at the window until I came back in, let him out there with me, or took him for a walk around the block (which on Dachshund legs was a half-marathon). So impatient in fact that he would whine and push his head against my hand between petting strokes; he couldn’t wait for the next one.

The last year was rough on him. I had to decide twice whether to feed him meds to keep him alive or let Mother Nature steer him where she wanted. I, of course, chose the former. And it wasn’t cheap, those daily meds. Both times he bounced back, into my lap, while I tried to watch TV. As I gently rubbed his belly, I would ask him if he was worth all that trouble. All I would get back would be a snore. 

So why then, when I had to put him down yesterday morning, and his limp form lay in my arms, did a deep sob escape my lips? My other dogs, Sandy, Chelsea, and a dozen others, didn’t need half this much maintenance.

Had I acted too soon? He was blind, had intestinal disease, half his teeth were missing, and now he was unable to stand.

No, it was his time.

Losing him, though, hit me harder than any of my others.

And that’s how I know now what he was truly worth.

The measure of a dog is not counted in dollars or years or how many cute stories you have. It’s counted in the number of tears you shed when they’re gone.

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