Aspen the Dog

He was the best dog. Ever.

I know you’d say that about your dog, too. And it would be true as well. We dog lovers are fiercely loyal to our own. As it should be.

samoyedMy friend, owner of Topaz, a golden Lab of amazing intellect and beauty, decided that I needed my own dog–hoping, I think, that, after they sniffed their ways through the doggie version of speed dating, they’d like each other and become soul mates, if dogs aspire to such things. So, one day, he took me on a trip to my hometown to meet Aspen, although I had no clue what this adventure was about.

Aspen was standing behind the screen door when we walked up to the house. Samoyeds are always happy, their tails wag and their mouths are wide open. He was beautiful. His long, white hair around his curly tail was carefully combed and stood, just so, against his wirey body. He was smiling. (They do smile, you know.)

I knocked at the door and the owner of the Aspendog (as he came to be known) appeared a bit frazzled. She and her husband were getting a divorce and wouldn’t be able to keep him in her new apartment. How easily we abandon pets–part of our families, part of our lives–I thought. But, on the other hand, we have to deal with things in the best ways possible. In this case, the lady was looking for a good home for her dog.

I fell in love with him immediately. His smile, his coat, his demeanor. He was big–in contrast to the terrier-mix I had as a child–and was getting bigger.

It turned out that, at five months, the Aspendog was not house broken, trained or—well—anything. I have stories. Lots of them. Too many.

We worked through all that, and he did become the best friend of Topaz the Wonderdog who, in her more mature and ladylike manner, knew how to deal with his taunts, and nose pushes and licking.

Besides Topaz, Aspen loved many things including squirt cheese, cold weather and fingers. It took me some time to figure that last one out. That is, until it dawned on me that his original playmates were children who often got their fingers into very interesting things–interesting, especially if you’re a dog. Things like child smells and candy and love. That’s why he licked everything, always. Yes, it’s true.

A few years later when Topaz passed on, Aspen couldn’t say anything. He could only deal with what he experienced—life without his friend. It is much the same way we feel when a friend leaves us, except that, sometimes, we can call them on the phone and talk. Perhaps we should call.

Aspen was my dog for seven years. He would look forlorn when I left for the day, and he would love me when I came home at night. He didn’t judge. He only made me feel right.

Then, one night, he couldn’t stand up. On his face were the same fear and love that were on mine. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his. He’d become a best friend. I could not ask for more in the world, except to hope that he wasn’t leaving.

But he did.

Today, I remember him.

You can lick my fingers, buddy…

Perhaps someone you care about isn’t close by anymore. Know that they are with you. Always. Just like mom and dad. Just like Aspen and Topaz.

We really aren’t alone. Ever.


7 responses

  1. I’m not a dog owner. But many times I wish I were. Dogs are so much more loyal than people. Why is that? What do dogs have that we people don’t? I’m going to think about this today.

    Thanks for sharing, Jake. I’m sure he’s a big loss for you.


  2. I guess you could say that Topaz was “my dog,” although, in reality, I was “her human.” Aspen was Topaz’s best friend and one of the most special beings I have ever encountered.

    I remember when Jake called me in the middle of the night to tell me that he had put Aspen down. A rush of emotions ran through me, memories of happy, loving friends and the memory of putting Topaz down.

    I have a new dog now, a diabolically intelligent little Rat Terrier, who I love without question. But even with this furry little demon in my life, I will always carry Topaz in my heart.

  3. You have such timing, Jake. I opened your page hoping to find salve for a hurting heart. My cousin Larry left us just yesterday. He checked into the hospital Wednesday and too weary to continue, chose to rest. I got the call last night and spent many hours talking to family. Larry’s baby was his Mastiff Bulldog who resembled my big cowboy cousin in every way, from the huge barrel chest to the bow legs. And I realize that through the loss we’re all suffering now, we need to remember that Larry’s baby doesn’t understand and needs us probably even more than we need each other. Those four legged friends are pure love.

  4. Yes, the four legged guys are pure love.

    Let’s strive to be like them. We owe it to Larry and to each other.


  5. Three books for you because of Aspen:
    “The Art of Racing in the Rain”
    “Merle’s Door”

  6. I had a dog that smiled too — and especially when she managed to escape into the neighborhood for a brief adventure. We never knew where she went, but she’d come back on a run, ears flopping, and grinning from ear to ear.

    Your dog is (not was) beautiful.

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