Oblique Angles: Spenser

Spenser did not look like a rat. More like that his mom might have been a fruit bat and his dad a werewolf.

Gabby, the diva Chihuahua, jumped on my chest at 4:15 a.m., bouncing me off the bed. She needed to go outside! As she took care of business, I collapsed into my beloved Barcalounger and thought about all our dogs, past and present.

Back in the day, dogs were treated as “the family pets,” not royalty. They ate kibble and table scraps and went everywhere with the kids. Trips to the vet were mostly nonexistent and they didn’t have a dental hygienist. They didn’t wear clothes or go to the local pet store to have their Christmas photos taken.

Back then, we only had one dog at a time. Starting a couple of decades ago, we suddenly had two dogs at a time. Our first duo was Miss Marple and Chester. Both were Australian shepherd pound dogs. Miss Marple was Mensa-smart, and Chester was … well, sweet.

I would give them each a treat. Miss Marple devoured hers while Chester put his between his paws and examined it as if it were a thing of beauty. When Marple finished hers, she ran to the door and barked ferociously. Chester ran over to see if there were any bad hombres to deal with.

As soon as Chester got to the door, Marple scurried back and scooped up Chester’s treat and covered it with her body. When Chester realized there were no bad hombres, he hurried back to get his treat. But it was gone. He searched to no avail.

You could almost hear him thinking, “I don’t remember eating it, but I must have. Bet it was good.” Once he fell asleep, Marple uncovered the pilfered treat and scarfed it down. Chester never caught on and Marple got fatter and fatter.

Our second duo began with Archy the Maltese, who was brilliant and possibly an alien. He gathered his toys and lined them up equidistant from each other in perfectly straight diagonal lines. I often wondered if Archy was responsible for those weird crop circles that pop up here and there.

One day Gary and I were walking Archy at a local street fair where a small-dog rescue event was underway. What caught my eye were four tiny feet and stick-like legs under a table. I told a volunteer we wanted that dog.

Gary whispered in my ear. “We want THAT dog? Really?”

“Yep,” I replied.

“Have you seen the whole dog?” the volunteer asked.

“Just those tiny feet and legs,” I said.

She scooped up the little dog and cuddled him in her arms. “This is Spenser,” she announced.

“He looks like a rat,” Gary commented.

“Oh, pshaw,” I said.

With the adoption process complete, Spenser came to live with us. I studied him carefully. He did not look like a rat. More like that his mom might have been a fruit bat and his dad a werewolf.

At Petco, I bought him a stylish sweater. As I stood in line, the lady in front of me turned and saw Spenser.

“Eeeeek,” she shrieked and quickly moved to another line.

Obviously Spenser wasn’t going to get by on his looks. Hopefully his personality was going to win people over. Unfortunately, he was a cranky little guy with a tendency to take a nip out of a passing ankle. In a dramatic plot twist, Spenser chose Gary to be his person!

Archy taught Spenser how to be a dog. He taught him how to play and how not to frighten the living daylights out of folks.

When Archy left us, Spenser was alone, bereft. He didn’t know how to get along without a dog companion.

And that’s when we discovered Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon (SDRO), here in Philomath. Staffed by volunteers, under executive director Sue Spuelda, its goal is to re-home senior dogs whose people are no longer able to care for them. These dogs are fostered in private homes by volunteers, where they stay until they find their forever home.

Sue brought us Gabby, a 13-year-old plus-size Chihuahua. Gabby is always busy and vigilant. She keeps her eye on everything: people, Spenser, passing cars, even the water level in her water bowl. In truth, she is a bit of a nag and tattletale.

Then we lost Spenser. The house seemed too quiet, prompting another call to SDRO. Sue brought us Daisy, an elegant Chihuahua. With her long legs, high cheekbones and adorable underbite, she could be a high-fashion model. I could picture her sashaying down a catwalk, tossing her silky blonde ears.

Daisy is not without her quirks. She’s terrified of trucks and traffic cones. When annoyed, she stamps her feet, just like a petulant 2-year-old.

Gabby and Daisy haven’t bonded yet. However, they can do a passable re-creation of one of those legendary catfights between Linda Evans and Joan Collins on "Dynasty."

But they are making progress. Daisy has even found her favorite person (Gary) and favorite resting place (my beloved Barcalounger!). My heart is broken.

Linda Hamner is a published author and former soap opera writer who won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991 as part of the "Santa Barbara" writing team. She has lived in Philomath since 2006.


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