Let me tell you about my dog. As a preface, we lost a wonderful black lab in 2005, a beautiful, intelligent dog who had been my constant companion through good times and bad. I couldn’t talk about Abby without bursting into tears for six months after she was euthanized. As anyone who has lost pets can attest, grieving a pet is uniquely heartbreaking. According to Psychology Today, the death of a pet can hurt as much as the loss of a close relative or friend. It took eighteen months for me to feel ready for another dog.
I wanted a small dog with a lab personality, which narrowed the breeds down to the English Cocker Spaniel or the Bichon Frise. My husband, Ron, was tepid to the idea of getting a dog of any kind. Then I saw the ad in the local paper, two Bichons puppies for sale. As things would have it, my husband knew the breeders. We drove the fifteen miles to their home “just to take a look, honey”. I’d never seen a Bichon before, and had no idea what to expect.
I sat on the floor to get acquainted with the five-month-old pups who both greeted us like popcorn shooting off the floor in glee. One of them got right in my lap, while the other was off playing. That was special enough, but what amazed me was that he looked from one person to the other when they spoke. I’d never seen a pup pay such close attention to the human voice. Then . . . he crawled onto Ron's lap. And looked up at him. Wagging his tail. We left empty handed.
On the way back home, I was silent. Not one word about how my heart had been won, or what an unusual dog the pup was. When we were a couple miles from home, Ron turned his head and said, “So. I guess we’re getting a dog.” I smiled.
We soon owned a puppy who hadn’t a lick of training, not even housebroken. The first night home with us, he chased a skunk down our yard, through a field and across the road with my husband and I in pursuit. Thankfully, the skunk ran faster. After that, I kept him on leash until he was better trained. We named him Paco, which Ron said rolled off the tongue.
Paco is a joyful, friendly dog. Bichons were bred by the French upper class as family pets, especially companions for their children. I discovered this trait the first time I took Paco to the beach. Without prompting, he trotted to three young girls playing in the sand, enjoying their attention. When the girls returned to the area where their parents were sitting, Paco sat between the adults and the children in a protective, but not aggressive, posture. I was amazed that this little dog was protecting children he had just met. Paco is not only in tune with children, he will seek out the one person in a group who is ill or feeling down. When my mother-in-law was dying in a nursing facility, she was unable to sleep. Paco crawled up in her bed, lay down beside her and put his head on her leg. Within minutes, she was asleep. He had never crawled in bed with her before, but he seemed to know what she needed.
Paco is twelve now and became diabetic last year. He needs insulin twice daily. He is clearly aging, reluctant to go on long walks, eyes clouded. He remains a joyful soul, still heads for the children in a group or singles out the one person needing a little love. He is an angel in a curly, white cloud of hair.
I know the day will come when my heart will again be broken. In the meantime, I’m grateful to enjoy the companionship of a happy, smart, and kind dog.