Four years ago today, I lost the best dog that ever lived. Freedom was much more than a dog. He saved me from self-destruction. When i did not want to live or get out of bed, i got up to take care of him. He gave me purpose, direction and companionship on the lonely island of learning to live with a disability. He was the smartest, yet laziest dog you could ever meet. He wanted to sleep til noon and would look at me despairingly at the concept of running, but could get beers out of the fridge, differentiate between my driver’s license, keys and phone amongst a pile of treats and just seemed to understand complex concepts that he was not even trained for.
The best instance of this happened on a windy evening when we lived in Mammoth. I had just gotten my first adaptive mountain bike and after our first ride with it, i fell backwards while loading it into the back of my 4-Runner, my chair rolling about 25 yards away. No one was around. Just the wind whispered. Scooting all the way to it, my boney pelvis scraping along the jagged asphalt, would have meant sure injury. Now, the previous evening, while sitting on the floor assembling the bike, i worked with Freedom on pulling my wheelchair. He knew the commands Get and Tug and we spent about ten minutes getting and tugging my chair. That was it. Just ten minutes!
I sat on the ground in defeat. Freedom stood next to me, seemingly wanting to help. In a last ditch effort of desperation, i pointed at my chair and said, “Get Buddy! Get!” He looked at me and then the chair. “Ya ya! Go get it, Buddy! Get!” pointing. He walked over slowly, sniffed it and looked back. “Get, Buddy! Get it!” Remember, our work the previous evening was the first time we had ever done anything like this, it was for only a few minutes AND was in close proximity. I was right next to him, able to touch the chair and encourage him. This was from across the parking lot, about 25 yards away!
He gingerly nibbled at the ankle strap. “Oh yeah, Buddy! Get it! Tug! Get! Tug!” His floppy ears sort of waved in the wind and he just seemed to know what to do. With seeming intention, he decisively grabbed ankle strap and started pulling. Just like that. Tears welled up. "Oh my god, Buddy! Yeah! Tug! Tug it!” and he pulled that thing all the way to me. I broke down crying right there, sitting on the ground. I hugged him, letting my face nuzzle into his soft black fur. This is just one incredible story of many. He was an angel sent to rescue me and when his job was finally done, he left us with beauty and grace. The cover photo for this blog is him running to me, into the sunset, while I am coming in from surfing. Freedom forever!
The past four years without him have been painful and I have not wanted another dog. What dog could live up to that! I am changed for life. Fast forward to Christina and I living together and our new upstairs neighbors moving in. Their roommate: a 20lb, stinky, noisy, so ugly he’s cute, French Bulldog named Gizmo moved in with them. Christina fell in love with him immediately, a dog lover because she a lost a Freedom-type Buddy Face earlier in life too. I had never seen her laugh so much then when taking Gizmo to the dog park. He is just so full of character and looks and sounds so funny! Everyone at the dog park loves him too. This turned into scrolling Instagram for Frenchies and laughs. If you don’t follow @walterjoffery, you MUST! Absolutely hysterical! This lead to a fascination with ugly but cute and full of personality Frenchies and culminated with me arriving home one day with a 3.4 lb fuzzy surprise for Christina’s birthday, his little head poking out of the cardboard box the first time she laid eyes on him.
Enter Rigden Wiggle Bottoms, my first dog since Freedom and Christina’s first dog since losing her guy. He is smart, seemingly preprogrammed with Sit and Wait, but he’s a feisty little Frenchie with fearless attitude and nothing like the gentle intelligence of a 85lb Black Lab. It is a different experince to say the least, but there is certainly no shortage of laughs in our home now. He just wants to be close all the time and is so damn loving and cute. Life with a dog is better and I am grateful for having taken the plunge into the next journey. If you are curious, i introduced Rigden in the latest UNPavement episode. See him for yourself!