In my last post, I mention too briefly that “my dog died.” This dog played such an important role in my life for nearly 12 years, he deserves a bit more attention than three stark words.

Who can resist a shaggy dog? Not me; not ever.

Have you ever seen a more English-looking Old English Sheepdog? That's my Humphrey!

My first shaggy dog came to me when I was 18. He was the only purebred dog who ever kept company with me. Humphrey, the product of a divorce, was in need of a home. My mom found out about him at work and she offered to take him on a trial basis. This was a generous act given that we (my mom, younger sister, and me) lived in a trailer.  There wasn’t much wiggle room in that trailer, especially when my older sister came home from college for a visit.

On the evening of February 12, 1976, Humphrey bounded into our lives.  Not the shy or bashful type, he was one huge ball of gray motion from head to hindquarters.  Since he had no tail, his whole back-end waggled as he investigated the trailer, our cat’s food and bed, and our crotches.  The only thing not gray on him was his lolling pink tongue.  His owner didn’t stay long, leaving some food, a toy, a dish, and a leash.  There were no sentimental good-byes; she just left. I think she forgot the “trial run” part. So did I.

Upon closer inspection, we found that Humphrey was gray all over because he was filthy and matted.  A week later, we got him to a groomer who had to sheer him down like a sheep.  A full-coated, groomed OES is a regal sight indeed; an OES shaved to the skin, however, looks a lot like a goat. I tried not to laugh, but couldn’t help it—naked was not a good look for him.  When he was clipped, I told people he was an Austrian Elk Hound, just to avoid questions.

Austrian Elk Hounds, like unicorns, don't exist, but does this look like a shaggy dog to you?

Mom decided it was time for this little bird and her big dog to fly the coop. Humphrey and I moved to the 3rd floor of a very rundown building in the “city” in which I attended college. City living took some adjusting. I had to go down 3 flights of stairs and walk him and then go back up 3 flights of stairs several times a day. We both got lots of exercise. His leash manners were abysmal and he wanted to crotch-maul visit every person we passed. Humphrey was everyone’s best friend; I was the girl with the sore arms at the other end of the leash.

He lost me somewhere in a snow bank after yanking the leash. I never did find my mittens.

On one of our walks, Humphrey decided I was his “one and only.” We were walking in the alley behind my building and Humphrey stepped on a piece of glass from a broken beer bottle.  He yipped in pain, sat down, and lifted his paw. Stoic he wasn’t. I carefully extracted the glass fragment while telling him that he was fine.  He put his paw down and must have felt immediate relief.  Then he looked up at me between the locks of hair covering his one brown and one blue eye with a look that said: “You are my savior!”  From that moment on, Humphrey was loyal only to me.

If this isn't proof that Humphrey would do anything for me...

...this might convince you of his devotion to me.

Humphrey was both eccentric and had oodles of charisma. Walking him was like walking with a movie star. If he could have given autographs, he would have. The most common question people had:

  • “Can he see?”—Yes, he needs all that hair to protect his excellent vision from bright light. Humphrey would immediately walk into the side of a building or a sign post.
  • “Does he herd sheep?—Not that I’ve noticed since he hasn’t been around sheep, but he once stalked and knocked the head off a snowman he thought looked sketchy.
This goofy dog with his big, happy bark protected me from break-ins–every apartment around me was robbed, but not mine. He waited patiently for me to wake up when I was passed out drunk or when I came home late from dates. His greetings were always the same: eager eyes, wiggling butt, and tongue hanging to one side in a goofy grin. There was no one better than me in Humphrey’s world.

We loved each other unconditionally, like in the movies--complete with my flowing blonde hair, white dress and a tender kiss. Fade to dark screen and dreamy music...

Stay tuned to a story sure to tickle any person who has ever tried to train a pet…