Monday, March 23, 2020

Little Caesar

Another Excerpt from Paws and Reflect

CAESAR WAS DEAD. The little emperor who’d stolen all our hearts was gone after eighteen years, and we were left with silence and memories. He wasn’t my first dog, but he was the most memorable dog I’ve ever had the pleasure to call my friend.

His imperial name came from my little brother’s overactive imagination. But it fit Caesar’s regal personality, which was clear even in the squirming puppy that he was when he entered our lives.

I was fourteen, my sister and brother even younger, and we’d wanted nothing so much as we wanted a dog. A neighbor’s beautiful terrier, Sheba, was about to give birth. She had mated with a regal-looking, all-white Fox Terrier. My sister, brother, and I anxiously awaited the results of the match. 

When it happened, I remember my brother running home with the news that Sheba had produced a litter and that we were to choose one.

We trooped over to the house to take a look at the litter and make a choice. The squirming mass of puppy flesh was too indistinct for me to choose, and neither could my sister or brother. So Mom picked one of the puppies. We were to wait for him to be weaned and then could take him home. The waiting wouldn’t be easy, even if we could visit him each day.

A few days later, however, disaster struck—Sheba was killed by a car and the puppies had to be hand fed.

Mom picked him up, a shivering little squealing bundle who barely knew what was going on. He fit in the palm of her hand, tiny, vulnerable, and pitiful. I took one look at him and wondered how we’d keep him alive. But Mom knew more about puppies than I’d imagined. She promptly found a tiny bottle and fed him some kind of milk mixture whenever he wanted.

On the day he came home with us, my brother immediately named him Caesar. I looked at the tiny wriggling pink-and-white pup and laughed, thinking that such a big name would weigh down so small a dog. Watching him move and yawn, blink his eyes and fidget—the sight tugged at my heart and I knew that no matter what his name, I was bound to this little dog.

That was the beginning. The days turned into weeks, and he gained weight and strength and was soon standing on his own and demanding something more than milk. Next came the training—a gentle boot camp. 

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Caesar was a quick learner and took his place among the family members in a short time. I remember staring at him and wondering how that little lump of flesh had become the handsome dog surveying his territory with an imperial air. He was like his father: shapely, sturdy, and smart. 

Unlike his father, Caesar’s white coat was marked with one black furry patch circling his right eye. But rather than appear foolish, Caesar managed to look dashing, black patch and all.

Small and quick, Caesar quickly became the neighborhood favorite. And he lapped it up. He loved the attention but also knew that he had responsibilities and took them seriously. He shook the windows with his barks and with his paws as he pounced on the storm door to frighten passersby. No one escaped his attention, especially not strange dogs, whether or not they had a human companion.

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