Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This old dog doesn't need any new tricks

Brisco the wonder dog turned 16 last Friday. Well at least that's the day we chose for his birthday.He arrived in our home in November 1998 and the vet said he was about 8 months old, so we just counted back 8 months and assigned a day.

We had another dog for just a couple of weeks before Brisco. We adopted a sweet but very skittish stray from a family who had found her a month or so earlier and could not find the owners. That dog, Maris, was scared to death of everything and sadly, slipped her collar and was hit by a car shortly after we adopted her. It was a sad day in our house. Very sad.

Then a few weeks later Steve hears of another stray looking for a home. Needless to say,  I was hesitant. I suggested we wait for the black could to move away before getting another dog, but Steve was insistent we "just look" at him. We took the kids out to Livermore where a lovely family had taken this stray in after finding him scrounging for food at a mall. They advertised everywhere that they had found this dog and even had him neutered. After three weeks they decided to find him a home. When the rescuer heard our sad story about Maris from a co worker, she called Steve directly.

They just called him "Puppy" becasue they knew they couldn't keep him. They had a 120 lb Chocolate lab named George who was very sweet and patient with this energetic husky mix puppy, but wasn't ready to have him become part of the household. And he was energetic, but very well trained. Someone had taken good care of this dog before he got lost.

The boys were 8 and 10 years old and they were on that dog in a minute. I was still hesitant but I knew it was a losing battle. He came home with us that day. We named him Brisco after our favorite (but I believe already cancelled ) TV character, Brisco County Jr. In fact that's his full name, but we really only use it when he's in trouble.

 I told Steve, "Ok, but if this dog isn't good with Maggie he's GONE." and I meant it. Maggie was 4 and spent most of her time laying on the floor in those days. There was no way I was gong to tolerate any problems with the dog and Maggie.

I needn't have worried. Brisco was the best dog from day one. In fact, he was so good with Maggie that he quickly became her protector. When someone new came into the house, friends of the boys or therapists for Maggie etc, Brisco would station himself between Maggie and the new person. He wasn't threatening, just vigilant. If for some reason he didn't like the way this person approached Maggie, which happened occasionally, he would bark and keep them back until we gave the all clear. We didn't teach him that, he just did it on his own.

He would lie on the floor next to Maggie. She would poke his face and pull on his ears and he was so gentle with her; but he would play and rough house with the boys. We walked all over and he never needed to be on leash because he just explored and then came running back to us. But we did put him on a leash and let Maggie hold the other end and he never pulled like he did with us. (Picture at top)

 We always threatened to dress him up like a reindeer pulling Maggie's wheelchair/sled at Christmastime, but we never did it.  He played nicely with other dogs and was great with people. Well, except mailmen and UPS guys. Never much cared for men approaching our house. Handymen and husbands of nurses were also suspect. He barked at anyone who walked by our house and the entire neighborhood knew when the mail man was on the block.

One foggy night he barked and barked waking us up to tell us that there was a problem. And he was right. Our sweet elderly neighbor had wandered out of her house in her nightgown and had fallen and injured herself very badly in front of our house at 2AM. Without Brisco to wake us, she may not have survived that cold night. Her family gave him a giant bag of dog treats after that. Later he fought raccoons, and always lost.

Now he's a great old dog that rarely barks -- mostly becasue he has no clue whats going on around him. . He can't hear at all and doesn't see all that well. He is pretty agile for his age, but watching him go up and down steps is painful. He falls over periodically as his back legs don't always go where he thinks they are going to go. He doesn't care for walks anymore - if you get past the end of the block he wants to go home. He has been on a leash for the past year or so as his hearing failed and he gets panicky when he can't find us.

The night we lost Maggie he just laid at the door of her room, knowing somehow that everything was different. He made all of us feel a little better that night and many others.

So now he's 16. That's very old for any dog. He is a wonderful part of the family and we are lucky that nice family found him and then found us. Steve was right to insist we "just look" at him back in 1998.

Happy Birthday, old man.


  1. Sweet puppy. I know it's not the same thing, but I lost a baby and my needy shelter dog was the only thing that got me up in the morning for a long time. Nothing like a fuzzy dog to soak up tears.


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