Dutch the Dog

Shortly after 9/11 for some reason we determined to get a dog and my wife and I spend weekends going to various shelters. Some of them in LA are huge—and oh so sad places. All kinds of dogs, big and small, fat and thin, clean and dirty, nice and some not so nice. Each dear, “dumb” creature having their own story, each with a look of confusion or flirtation or accusation. Some older dogs with the sad sad look saying “where did my people go? Where are my people?”

The shelter in the San Fernando Valley had hundreds and hundreds. When we saw “him,” he was reaching his feet, which are huge, under the wire and laying back smiling at us. He had been there the week before also. They let us take him outside into a fenced “audition” area where they let people try out potential matches. He was so happy, so alert, he brought me the ball, and promptly rolled over and I found myself down on the ground in a major hug. He was dirty, stinky, and we adapted him then and there. Since he was a large dog, we were surprised to discover that we also got a small fee from the city—a rather remarkable gesture aimed at encouraging large dog adoption. Since it was a Saturday we would not be able to come back and get him until Tuesday—he would be shipped to the vet for a small operation on Monday…and a bath.

My wife grew up in Manhattan and had never had a dog. Saturday and Sunday and Monday nights she was filled with more and more anxiety and uncertainty. This is a mistake she said. He will destroy the house she said. We can’t go thru with this she said. What were we thinking she said. You know what they will do to him I said.

When the call came on Tuesday the nurse brought him out on a leash of rope. He hopped in the car and twenty minutes later he knew he was the luckiest dog in the world. He has paws of a lion, and a demeanor of nobility, loyalty and friendship. He immediately knew to never ever sit on the furniture, never chew things not meant for chewing. He knew that the stuffed animals and the tree squirrels are the mortal enemy. That first night he went dead asleep in the dog bed in our room. In the middle of the night his huge tail would wag its heavy, steady drum beat whilst he was dead asleep—one can only imagine what he was dreaming of, but a happier creature never did exist. Today, six years later, he still sleeps in that bed, still wags the tail, drumming the floor even when we give him the tiniest look.

He has charmed film stars and authors. He has let our god children tease him and pull his ears. He protects us from the squirrels, and when the coyotes start barking, he sometimes joins in. He hates the water so much, that when someone he loves goes into the pool, he runs to the furthest end of the property and sits thinking of other things. One Southern California winter night, for no reason at all, I went outside for some cool night air, and saw him going down for the third time in the pool. He must have slipped or jumped at a shadow. What made me go outside at that moment? His moods are plain, his friendship extraordinary. I swear he understands English, and I swear he tries to speak it. He hates to see any luggage come out of the closet and knows each of us here by name.

We named the dog Dutch. After the Great Man of course. Walking in Beverly Hills, sometimes strangers come up to him and want to pet him. They ask his name. One woman asked “after Reagan?” and when we said yes, she jumped back about six feet and snarled something about that being a terrible thing to do to a dog. Ah Los Angeles!

In the middle of the night a few weeks after Dutch arrived I was reading Peggy Noonan’s wonderful book about Ronald Reagan and completely froze when I read about a pivotal night in Ronald Reagan’s life, when the wheel turned a notch and the great man started to crystallize his thoughts about Communism took place at the home of Olivia deHaviland. Peggy did not know this, but we lived in that very house! Dutch the dog was asleep at my feet—as he is even now—in the house there the Great Man had once been. And where Big Thoughts had occurred.

Dutch has giant feet like a lion as I mentioned. He has the personality one imagines a lion from fiction to have. He has never been to medical school, and yet it the best psychiatrist I have ever met. He knows when, exactly when to lift you, cheer you, love you. He knows more about cheering the soul than ten therapists added together.

He adores us, loves us, and depends on us for everything. Food, shelter, company. He craves the company and our touch and our conversation. He looks at us with such love and devotion—and I honestly try to learn—oh how I wish I could look at God, for we depend on Him for everything, with the same look and devotion!

There is a very old Catholic bit of superstition which suggests that the very first person you meet after you die is your dog who then decides your fate! There is even a bit of theology that indicates our dog may join us in heaven!

What a creature! None other on earth designed to love and bond with humans.

I have preordered the book—and eagerly waiting to read it already hoping the film rights are still available!

Mark—your show is brilliant! We adjust our evenings around being able to listen! At my own choice I have ceased willing in on Weiner Nation!

Douglas from CA