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Flying Dutchman's Dream of FowlerHere was the one dog that changed my entire perspective. She was able to show me that, indeed, dog breeds are quite unique. Further, she showed me that some dog breeds, when the total of their characteristics are considered, are unlike the general accepted definition of "dog". This was a shock to me, for I was sure that I knew all the common characteristics that a dog, any dog, must show. Just as I was sure about what a cat was… Wasn't this all covered in the first grade primer? Well, as we now know as adults, there are many things told to us as truth during our childhood that do not remain true. And, so, I was to find out that even the basic, "common sense", definition of dog was up for…redefinition.
(December 1st, 1984 - 3:55:30 PM EST May 14, 1999)
This Kees arrived at our home on a very cold January day in 1985. It was minus 23 degrees F, and the eight week old puppy was sent out into the cold to relieve herself, with only the supervision of a 12 year old pekipom. She did it as fast she could, finishing faster than the experienced pekipom, and scampering back up the steps to relieve her frosted paws. That was the complete house breaking/potty training of D.D. ! How's that for spoiling the humans!?
D.D. showed us what a Keeshond was made of, physically and mentally. Her physical stamina? She was one of the best ball dogs that I have ever had…a seeming violation of the Kees trick list (see "Tricks"). She would run for long periods, jumping high to catch a very soft ball that was coming down from about 75 feet. If I used a harder superball, I would place it so many hundred feet out that her goal was to jump catch it on only the first bounce. With either game, it became a spectacular event that required more than an acre in which to perform. Thus, I do suppose that it was not an ordinary ball trick to D.D. and, in turn, suppose that interpretation made it OK for D.D. to perform. Mentally, we encountered for the first time the stoic and dominant characteristics of the famous Kees personality. We encountered "the eyes" (see "The Eyes Have It") that tracked the human face constantly. We encountered the predictive abilities of the Kees, abilities that other breeds do also display very well. They seem to know what you are going to do, certainly what you should do, before you can figure it out. Well, D.D. did know… And stoic, with a powerful sense of duty, she shocked me when we, when for the first and last time, we left her alone in our house. She was an adult dog at the time. And she was to be let out and fed by our neighbor (a good fella with "outside dogs" of his own). She knew him; I prepped them both and thought that there would be no problem. But daily she would not budge, barked at him and never came forward from the rear of our underground house. When I called on the fourth day of our five day vacation, the neighbor told me that D.D. would not eat or drink anything that he put down, and that she had never been out of the house! We hurried home. As we came in the front door and called her name, she came forward, in serpentine fashion, double checking her senses as she did. When she finally trusted that it was indeed us, she became the standard excited Kees. Still it took me a while to convince her to go out. And when we checked the house, there was no soiling of any kind. So, I was very glad that we made it home and very very guilty for having left such a dutiful dog with the impression that it was guarding the barge! She had surprised me once again. From that day forward, I knew the value of, and only used, professional kennel personnel, who, on their own turf, truly adapt to the specifics of each breed and each individual dog.
D.D. was always that dark haired family member. Sure, it was a little strange that she always wore a mask, walked on four feet and rarely said much. But, still, she was consulted on daily activities and advice as much or more than any other family member. She literally had more sense(s) than the other family members. So, it was natural that she would get questions like "What?" or "What was that?" or "Find" something. The special way her name would be said (D.D. with an upward lilt) meant "clean up in the kitchen." There were very many of those little gestures, phrases and tones that didn't seem special at the time, but that turned out to be special later. They belonged to her, even if they originated with the human.
As she aged, the ball playing was stopped due to arthritic hips. It was replaced with massages; she really like being "bonged" along her old spine. She never complained, and would have restarted ball playing at 14 years, if I would have just… thrown…it. But I couldn't do it, because I knew that she wouldn't have been able to walk correctly for days. Actually, it was at this time in her life that I finally began to notice the greatness of this animal. As I watched her age, I was so impressed by the majesty of her being… That is, she moved with no sign of arthritic pain, if a family member needed to be escorted. She stood tall and proud, though the body under that fur was fading. She never became angry at any human, no matter how painful her movement. She knew what her limits were, and functioned up to those limits. She lived long enough to watch her owner have a heart attack on the treadmill; she never forgave that treadmill, and worried greatly whenever that device was used again.
No one could or should believe the final assault and injury upon this wonderful animal. How could anyone believe that a farmer would drive up into D.D.'s own yard, expect D.D. to escape like a young dog and then run over her in… her… own… yard. The shock of such an impossible incident is still with me… Though run over by a large bed truck, this 14.5 year old Keeshond did not die… And I was left to deal with the ending, as so many pet owners have done before me, and as so many will do in the future. Emotionally, I will never be able to rewrite her ending. I make available an unedited letter that was written to my son immediately after D.D.'s death - not to depress, but to prepare others for a role that they will have to fulfill. I keep this letter separate from this article, since its depiction is so graphic; sentimental dog lovers should use caution.
*See "D.D. at the End"