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July 14, 2017

The loss of your dog is supposed to bring forth great stories of the cosmic bond between families and pets. This is not one of those stories.

From the moment we brought him home, we knew that our choice of a Western leader’s name for our Schnauzer—Winston—was wrong. Napoleon would have been more appropriate.

We got the sense early he despised us upon realizing his forever home on Cape Cod was not waterfront property with a suite of his own but, rather, a split-level ranch miles from the beach.

Many years later we added to this insult by adopting a cat. This didn’t go over well and they didn’t get along. The cat kept court in other parts of the house.

We then really created a fissure by adopting two rescue Pugs thinking Winston would love friends. Winston might have, but his inner Napoleon did not.

It was his Waterloo. The cat and pugs stayed. He sulked and never forgave us.

If there is one thing he had in common with the other Winston, it was he had little to offer but blood, sweat, and tears.

You see, for many years he made it his mission to nip every niece and nephew and friend of our children. Blood.

He managed to escape, either over, under, or through the fencing in the back yard. Then he’d stand in the middle of the road not allowing cars to pass while we ran to retrieve him. Sweat.

And, well, tears. Imagine nipped nieces and nephews thinking there were simply petting the cute dog.

Until his final months, he continued to give us a vibe that said, “I actually loathe all of you.”

This dog never once slept in a child’s room. Wouldn’t even enter them unless it was to see if they had mistakenly put a food item in their trash. Then he’d go destroy the bin, leave a mark on the corner of a piece of furniture, and leave.

For about a month we tried to put his bed in our son’s room thinking it might be nice for a young boy to bond with his dog. Every night, Winston would drag it out and back into the living room.

Happy to see us after a day at work or school? Well, anyone who has experienced the bark of a Schnauzer knows how that sound pierces the soul. But you tolerate it because you know there’s love.

And then there was Winston’s bark. Blood-curdling, high pitched yelps designed to compel you to stay outside so he could have the property to himself. 

He considered licking members of his immediate family verboten. It had to be done discretely, when no one else was around. This action was to be immediately followed by a treat or else you may not get another display of affection for some time.  This rule was dispensed with when visiting adult family members came over, particularly those who commented incessantly about what a handsome Schnauzer he was.  These people he adored. 

He was at his best on walks, which he loved, I suspect, so he could scope other appropriate homes and dream of leaving us. And on his walk, any manner of person or fellow animal could come up to him to pet, sniff, play. He’d normally stand there, regally, while adoring fans got close. Then he’d make it clear he was done and move along. Once, near a farm stand close to our home, an older gentleman wearing Nantucket reds and driving a brand-new BMW got out of his car and spotted Winston.

“My God, that’s a beautiful Schnauzer. We’ve had Schnauzers our whole life,” he said.

Winston immediately looked at me with an expression that clearly indicated, “please let me go with this guy.”

We brought in a professional when he was a puppy, thinking we had missed some essential piece of his training. “Nope,” she said, “he’s just really complex.”

Yes, yes he was.  My wife takes the broad view, that Winston is God's way of teaching us to love all of His creatures.  I do wonder if heaven's newest pet, who is no doubt nipping the wings of Angels and digging under the pearly gates, has God rethinking some of his teachings. 

And so we say farewell to the Schnauzer who always left us feeling we weren’t quite good enough for him and that our love could never fully be returned. We basically waited on him for more than a decade and he had a pretty good life. Just not with the family from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” he believed he deserved.

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