We brought her home from a puppy mill, a fluffy ball of fur trembling in my son’s hands. She would occupy a central part of our family’s lives for 15 years. Dogs do that you know.
She was several not 50 shades of grey with tufts of platinum in her long eyebrows. She had Hollywood eyelashes and teeth as white as the best cosmetic dentist could bring. So dark were her brown eyes that I almost wondered if she could see.
It took a few days for the fur ball to relax and start to play with toys, mostly old tennis balls. She was as fast, no faster than a cat catching up with the rolling targets. You see, schnauzers are bred to catch rats and shake them to pieces like the sheep sat in the mattress ads. We would not know if she was tougher than she looked for quite a while.
We watched the grey puppy run and slide across the floor disappearing under shelves. We would call her Misty. Not that she looked like a stallion or wild horse of Chincoteague. No she was mysterious to us, a trait that would grow to magnify her name.
Misty was affectionate yet aloof. She showed love for her family, but not relatives. Growls and nips were in order for any visitors of the new addition to our family. We were told, “she is not friendly you know!” I don’t know if she thought them rats or just not equal to her intimate family. Schnauzers are loyal to a fault to their own and not to anyone else.
She grew stronger and took walks in the neighborhood. She came to be called “the best walked dog” wherever. She loved to review her territory, our neighborhood. She studied the other people and dogs with interest. Then she decided, as she was an Alpha-dog that she would claim her territory. She decided she must find some help for the defense of her realm. In turned out that on the other side of our subdivision was a pair of also grey wolfhounds. They were many times her size, but she would back them into their driveway as she passed in review. They figured out, as was the plan that she was in charge. And so it was with the other dogs in the neighborhood, Misty was in charge.
It came to pass that we needed to move to Virginia for employment. I was to be the Corporate Compliance and Ethics Officer for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. We found a home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was breathtakingly beautiful, surrounded by ridges covered with Oak and Tulip Ash. We would walk in the woods and Misty would chase squirrels. We met our neighbors with a gorgeous Sheltie. I have forgotten the dog’s name, but we called him “Mohead” because he came to know quickly that Misty was an Alpha. We spent many joyous walks together in the woods surrounding our home.
There were many dogs in the neighborhood we found out as we walked. The homes were all on large lots and almost invisible to neighbors. But a small pack of dogs roamed the lower part of the development. Our lot was a couple of acres stretching down to the next group of homes and the territory of the pack. One day Misty decided that she would once again claim her territory and she ventured down to tell the pack so. Quickly a chase ensued and she had to run for her life as perhaps a dozen much larger dogs turned on her forcing her back to her property. But before she could get home, the Alpha of the pack had taken a good chunk out of her hind- quarters. It was very clear that Misty was not nationally known for her bravado.
We tended to our frightened little girl. She had never been questioned before. Life was upside down for her. At least she had Mohead and so she lorded over him on our walks and found a certain solace in it.
We had kept our home in Wisconsin for our sons to live in while one attended dental school and his brother training for dental lab technology. We returned and Misty immediately found that she was still Queen-Bee in the neighborhood. Life was back to normal.
She had aged and matured in her view of the complex world we live in. She became more contemplative and decided our family was enough. Our extended family did not enjoy visits subject to her disapproval. But she was Alpha after all.
The years went by for the best walked dog in Mequon. She grew more and more loyal to us. Did I tell you that she slept with me- only? As she grew older she began to move up the bed. She was easily able to jump up on top of the antique bed that was our four feet high. Pretty good for a little rat dog.
Misty slowed. You know schnauzers are know for barking or yapping at everything that moves in front of their residence. She was not of that ilk. She chose carefully who would receive her chiding.
Other dogs were not terribly welcome you see because she thought she was human. We brought home a new large German Short/long hair puppy one day for the boys. You see we are a hunting family going back to the beginning. This move was not received with joy or any decorum other than proper sternness for a German dog. Heidi was a loving and somewhat misfit puppy. She would one the other hand become an outstanding hunting Dog for Chad. She learned to flush and swim and retrieve. Of course Misty could do none of the above, but she was Alpha so what did that matter. She bossed Heidi around and taught her to obey her. She taught this poor dog how to sit and lie down and just whose food was not hers.
Well dear Heidi was born with a malformed hip dysplasia. We sadly decided, as she was hurting herself, that we needed to put her down. In three short years she had become an important part of our family.
Misty was not markedly saddened by the loss of her understudy. She continued, albeit more slowly, to range her lands. Then she began to slow more. Now I was lifting her to the bed at night. She began to move slowly from the foot of the bed toward my pillow. You see she was hurting. She had Lyme’s disease and other illnesses we did not know at the time. She was dying of cancer and heart disease.
Slowly she moved and we carried her up the stairs to bed. She slept. No longer was she meeting us at the door with the frenzy of a crazed dog. Her focus moved inward as she seemed to give her dominion up to the next territorial rival.
Pam, my wife, took her to the vet. The wonder-filled years would move to memory. We would caste her ashes on her dominion. No audience of adoring dogs. Just us.
She had loved and understood us. She never complained or argued, except with other dogs. She nodded her head in agreement with all our decisions, except maybe bringing Heidi home. She was patient and watched from her couch and then my lap. She knew I needed special attention. She knew that I had a confidence problem. She was always encouraging. No idea was not worth trying. Adventurous and full of wisdom, she was fearless. Where can you find this kind of companion?
It would be on a trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains that we would find Misty Mountain and know that she was running in the wood above us enjoying her freedom, but knowing we were near. Sleep in peace, we will see you again Misty.
How can I say that? One of my favorite and renown pastors said about the afterlife in heaven. “I think dogs will be there, but not cats.”