Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Best Friend

This blog tends to cover a lot of ground: from landscaping to food to hacking.  Some stuff is pure technical geekery, while other stuff is more personal.  This blog entry will be some of the latter.

It has been said many times that man's best friend is his dog.  Here is mine.  Her name is Abby and she is indeed my best friend.
Say Hello to Abby
I write this on a special day as it is Abby's 11th birthday.  Her mother was a purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever and her father was a German Shepherd that happened to be nosing about at the right time.  Abby was an accident, but a happy accident.  Happy Accident #1.

My Lovely Wife and I were new in town, and we were about to move into our new home on an acreage in a week.  She was phoning around for alarm systems when someone told her that she'd just be better off with a big dog given our remote location.  Our friend gave us directions to a pet store, but since we didn't know the city, we went to the wrong place.  Happy Accident #2.

It was very much love at first site, despite knowing nothing about her breed.  We looked it up in one of the books at the pet store and it described Chesapeakes as "large, solid dogs".  Indeed, she weighed 18lbs at eight weeks of age.  We didn't know it then, but the size of her knees were a giveaway that she would someday fit the advice given to us by the alarm system salesperson.

We took her home a week later.  Our new home was about a half hour drive away from the store.  We were within a quarter mile of the new place before she turned her head towards me and threw up all over my jacket.  Happy Accident #3.

Over the years, Abby would grow out of her car sickness and grow in to her knees, tipping the scales around 82 lbs at one point.  We brought her with us when we picked up and drove 2000 miles to our current home around eight years ago.  One of the prerequisites in picking our new home was some place that would be dog friendly.  Chesapeake's were bred to retrieve game fowl from the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay on the U.S. East Coast, and when a nice place right on the river came along... well...
Less Icy In the Summer
Our home on the river means we have lots of wildlife wandering by, and then fleeing for their life once Abby catches wind of them.  The trails we maintain through the forest alongside the river's edge makes walking the dog a joy, not a chore.  My Lovely Wife's "job" is to keep the home fire's burning while I am at work, and they enjoy several beautiful walks each day.  The two are inseparable.
Abby On Bush Trail Patrol
Fortunately for us, we don't have to worry too much when Abby tears after some critter like a bat out of hell.  She is big enough and strong enough that she can handle herself for the most part.  For the most part.  Abby likes to act first and think about questions later.  A good question to ask up front might have been "Should I really go after that porcupine?  Again?"
Not Such A Good Idea, As It Turned Out
Another Chesapeake behavior that Abby features is a certain stubbornness. Strangely, this feature is not mentioned in books that encourage people to get a Chesapeake.  She listens to us when she wants to.  At times this is maddening; at other times, hilarious.  But it gives her an unpredictable nature to her character that makes Abby the dog she is, and I'm not sure I'd want her to be any different.  I like to think of it as selective understanding.

While she has many Chesapeake qualities, her German Shepherd side comes through in several ways as well.  The coloring around her muzzle is one obvious spot, but another one a little less obvious is the Shepherd instinct to always walk a little bit ahead and lead the way.  This has an interesting side effect: she is in every picture we have ever taken.
Abby Hamming It Up... Always
Abby's many interesting qualities and the environment she lives in have combined to give an endless stream of wonderful stories over the past eleven years.  Since it takes a long time to type in an endless stream of wonderful stories, I'll pick three favorites.

Story #1: A year after we got Abby, we had a visit from some friends whose daughter was maybe a year old at the time.  She was just getting good at walking but was not yet at the point where she could build a lot of speed.  Somehow, this little girl quickly built a connection with a dog that was much taller than she was and many times her weight.  The little girl would toddle out from the kitchen table to the living room with Abby walking slowly behind.  They would switch around at the coffee table in the living room so that Abby walked in front on the way back to the kitchen with the little girl following behind.  They did this once or twice before anybody really realized what was going on.  It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Story #2: My Lovely Wife plugged a kettle in before heading upstairs to take a shower.  Abby started barking soon after.   My Lovely Wife yelled at her to stop but Abby keeps at it.  Finally, My Lovely Wife heads back downstairs to see what all the barking is about before starting her shower.  It turns out that the cord on the kettle was shorting out and the kettle's base was starting to smoke and melt down.  My Lovely Wife was able to unplug it before any serious damage was done.  Abby just might have saved our house from catching fire and burning down.

Story #3: Not that long ago, a group of people came in to our yard to sell us some religion.  They rang the front doorbell and Abby went crazy.  My Lovely Wife mistakenly answered the side door.  She was busy and didn't have much patience for what she knew this crew was here to do.  She was holding Abby by the collar at the side doorstep as Abby was working hard to pull away.
Them [nervously]: "My!  HE's a big one!  I hope HE isn't hungry!"  [Abby gets called a HE all the time because of her size].
Abby decided to answer the only way she could, and she did so with the timing of Bob Hope.
Them: "Oh, I can see you are busy.  We best get going now."
And they drove the hell out of our yard at high speed.

I think you get the idea.  My Lovely Wife and I believe that Abby is a very special dog and we love her will all our hearts.  She has certainly slowed down over the years, and I know she won't last forever.  But neither will I.  That is why Abby's will bequeaths everything she owns to me, and why my will bequeaths everything I own to her.  Until that fateful day comes to pass, I cherish every day with her.  Every single day.  And that is no accident.

Happy Birthday Abby, and many more.


P.S.  If you'd like to know more about Abby, My Lovely Wife keeps a diary of her various adventures here on Dogster.  There you'll find many more stories and pictures that will be sure to get a laugh.  Skip anything related to garter snakes if you are squeamish.


  1. Happy birthday Abby cutie pie ! Mwah ! XOXOXO
    Biscotte, Tippy and mom Josée

  2. Happy birthday Abby! Lucy, Daisy and Yvette

  3. Congrats to a fine looking dog!

  4. Thanks all. We're lucky to have her.