Real-Life Sawtelle Dogs
He's always been protective of my son, but I've never seen a dog behave in this way. I am pregnant with my second child, and this is Cooper's first time protecting the pregnant. It must seem to Cooper that this will be a very long nine months. He won't leave my side. If I am hungry, I get up to walk out to the kitchen and he will follow. If I need to use the restroom, he will lie beside my feet until I get up to move into another part of the house. Cooper has become absolutely so protective of me and my growing baby, he can't let a noise go by unbarked or ungrowled.
At only 6 years old, our family pet has taken on the responsibility of our own personal security alarm. If a door is half open, he will nudge it open the rest of the way just to check out the room first and then proceed to lie down as if to tell me "all is clear." I've tried to calm his fears when he would hear someone walk up the steps or open a door, but this job is just too important for him to stop now.
As I am writing this, he let out a very long sigh, almost as if he knows I am writing this about him this very moment. When the baby is here, maybe he will finally get some rest, but I doubt it. This is what he now knows and what he seems to enjoy doing the most—keeping his family safe from any harm. Even if "harm" is only the soft howl of the wind.
Until he was too big, I kept him in my pocket. I was kicked out of [a convenience store] twice for having him in my pocket—somehow they did not believe he was my Seeing Eye dog. He is a very sweet, calm guy who follows me wherever I go. His intense way of looking at me I call the "Look of Love." He is always there to give hugs and a tail wags.
When he was 3 years old, he had a blister on his lower gum by the incisor. It turned out to be cancer. I brought him to [the vet] and he operated on Jett, removing most of his lower jaw. Now, Jett has the biggest overbite you have ever seen. This was a time in my family where there were several diagnoses of terminal cancer. I sat down with my young nieces and nephews and explained what was going to happen. They felt his lower jaw, which in a matter of a week had made his bottom teeth crooked and it felt very strange The lessons were many: This is cancer feels like; does cancer mean Jett is going to lose all of his fur? No. We had a good laugh over what Jett would look like if he was bald.
Since his operation, my Jett has taught me so much. He uses his tongue and paws as tools. He can still play Frisbee with all of his heart. He goes through life just as happy as any other dog. He protects me and guards me. He endures the comments from people, "Oh my, is that dog ever thirsty. You should get him a prosthetic jaw," or "Shouldn't you have just put him down?" On second thought, it is me who must endure the comments. Jett does not care—he is full of life and love and ready to play. But, when it comes to times when you need a hug, he is the most loving little guy who leans in with his head on your heart.
We often say that Mia is a rescue dog, but the truth of the matter is that Mia rescued us. She has taught us the meaning of unconditional love, of true gratitude and appreciation. Every day she is grateful for her life with us and she demonstrates her love for us in her protectiveness towards us, her obedience, and her loyalty. It never waivers. We can count on her to be there, a beacon of commitment to our family as we are commited to be there for her.
Well...he made it and now weighs 65 pounds and is solid black with a few white hairs on the end of his tail and on his tummy. His name—Tuff. Tough enough to have made it to us and tough enough to have survived his injury and thrive. Tuff is one of five dogs that we love and live with but has the most common sense and never leaves my side inside or outside. His best friend is Lucy, our German shepherd.
We were lucky that chilly day. Tuff has a forever home and is forever loved. No one can tell us what breed he is a mixture of—no real breed characteristics here—just a special little boy who is the best fetcher in the world!
He needed me as much as I needed him. We rescued each other. Even though I knew he could not be a replacement for a service dog, he could fill a void left in my heart. I had no other expectations. Griffin had his own ideas. He quickly learned to walk on a loose lead beside my wheelchair. Defying his years, he dashed with unbridled glory through tunnels and obstacles in an Ability-Agility class designed for people in wheelchairs. We were both reaching beyond our dreams and our limitations.
One day, I showed Griffin the telephone with its special handle. A curve of gnarled wood mounted on a strip of leather held years of tooth marks and scents. I gently placed the phone in front of Griffin, holding it as if it were a sacred object. His black nose twitched, breathing in years of enticing smells. With a glint in his eyes, his nostrils flared. He snuffled it. Sniffed it. And with remarkable ease, keenly grasped the handle between his teeth. Give. Good boy! It rapidly became a game of hide and seek. "Go get the phone," I'd call, and off he'd run. Griffin just as eagerly learned to retrieve items or pick up anything I dropped, carefully placing objects in my lap.
Affectionately nicknamed "The Griff," he does it all with a wag, a smile and a swagger. I am finding rescue appreciation is boundless.
I had a dream about her that night—something I never had done with any other patient. I put a hold on her and picked her up four days later. She never left my side for 10 1/2 years. We went tandem through both the pain and joy of raising two teenagers on my own. She was always next to me, sleeping under my desk at work and by my side on the floor at home. She loved to swim and would take to water on her own accord. Like bookends, she would lean against me at the river and watch everyone and smile. She was always smiling.
She loved children and let the troubled ones at my own children's school (where I volunteered) read to her and let them snuggle into her warm, soft neck. She was a therapy dog until I hurt my back so bad at work I couldn't take her anymore. She would play dead for the patients at the care homes and smile at them all. Even though she had a hard first five years, she lived beyond all expectations of her life span, healthy and happy. She was 15 1/2 when we had to part.
When I gave birth to my daughter, Kylee, he became her best friend too. He kept watch by her crib, baby swing and, of course, high chair! He truly was a helping hand in raising her. They would play with his beloved tennis ball in the yard for hours. Bailey went blind in the summer of 2006. Even faced with blindness, Bailey figured a way to still play ball with Kylee. Even if it took him five minutes to sniff out the location of the ball, he wouldn't give up, and Kylee would always wait patiently. He was the protector of his girls: Kylee and myself. He loved us and kept vigilant watch to keep us safe always.
We lost Bailey back in February 2008. Our heartache still cannot be measured. We'll never forget him. Kylee and I will be eternally great full for the love and joy he brought into our lives.
Believe it or not, there have been times when I've called to her in my mind and she will come to me. This has happened on multiple occasions. Once, I happened to be upstairs and I called to her to come, and the next thing I knew, I heard her paws clicking on the hardwood floor and she presented herself to me. Pico is most especially kind to and loves children, of which there is an abundant supply in our neighborhood.
Kane is a great protector, playmate and cuddler. He greets everyone with a scary bark and a big lick for dessert. For those that don't know him, he can be quite intimidating. Then once you get a good look in his eyes...you will see the true character of this sappy soul. We could have never asked for a better dog. He is protective of our children, yet lets them climb all over him, poking every eye and ear they can reach. It is the most adorable thing to watch. You must see it for yourself! No other dog can compare to him in our eyes.
On one of our last visits before bringing him home we tested new names. He responded to none of them. My son had heard us trying and had caught on to the process. He suddenly yelled one of the names we had thought of at home. "Zoboo!" he called. The pup went right over him—Zoboo it was! Short for Zoboomafoo.
Zoboo is almost 9 years old now. They have grown up together and are best pals. Zoboo has proven that he is a special dog. We were told he was a shepherd/huskie mix. We began what would become a regular pattern of taking guesses on his real breeds. Wherever we go, he is the topic of discussion. Wolf, greyhound, maybe elkhound...the inquiries are endless. We considered testing, but really enjoy his mystery.
Zoboo has guarded my son from neighbors in play. He has protected our old cat we had from our new puppy. He lets children love on him without a care. He greets any dog and has an instant new friend. He is easygoing and loves his family. Everyone who meets him always walks away saying, "Wow! This is the coolest dog ever!" I believe it was our destiny to get together. He has been a true blessing.
My beloved Great Dane had recently passed. With no canine BFF and an absence of colleague camaraderie, my mind-set as strong, self-confident, top-of-the-world woman was fighting the inevitable downward spiral of doing nothing and feeling worthless. So, on a day of deepening despair, I was invited to the home of a dog breeder. As I entered, I could hear the sound of puppies—everywhere, rollicking puppies! Balls of chestnut hair with dark moon-shaped faces. Such begins the life of a unique dog affectionately known as the "leprechaun of dogs." And so began my personal journey of returning to a life worth living.
My host offered me a puppy then named Blue Boy, but only if approved by the puppy. I quietly waited as Blue Boy sniffed and played and interviewed me as only a puppy knows how to do. Finally, Blue Boy sat on my feet. I waited for his decision; he fell asleep. And with that simple act, Blue Boy said yes, and his acceptance was better than any job offer, promotion or position of human top dog.
Now named Max, we grew up together—he from puppy to dog; me from taker to giver. We trained together and grew into an Animal Assisted Therapy dog team, visiting hospitalized children, challenged blind children, retired nuns, convalescing adults and beloved seniors. We energize caregivers, cheer hospital staff, calm anxious families, teach proper doggy behavior and help people not to fear dogs.
Max is patient, oh-so-soft to pet and forever wagging his Christmas tree–shaped tail. Max is a true Sawtelle dog. His unique gift is the ability to give until he sleeps and wakes up to give again. He's taking me on his joyous journey through life, and I'm gratefully blessed to be along for the ride.
Lincoln is the most amazing dog. He knows more people in the neighborhood than I do. We walk every morning at 5:30, and people greet him that I don't even know—seriously! He greets all the children who walk to school and has one every special friend who actively plays with him through our fence (even lying in the snow to bond). When my family all died last year, his constant presence was truly a Godsend. He knows what to do to make me laugh, and he is gentle and kind. He doesn't read my mind, or talk for me, but he truly is a great dog.
We like to use the clues she gives us to guess how her life might have been before coming to us. But the questions persist: What was her life like as a homeless dog in Juarez? Who stopped to pet her? Feed her? Did she ever live in a house? She obviously never rode in a car!
Today, Kellie is a confident, content, well-loved member of our family. It took lots of lost breakfasts, but drives to the beach are now Kellie's favorite activity!
Molly was my image of the Sawtelle pups, but for two differences. I could not imagine her living in a kennel for more than her first 7 weeks. She is a house dog. The other contrast of Molly with my image of a Sawtelle dog is sad. Molly's breed does not have a long lifespan. I like to imagine the Sawtelle dogs being a long-lived breed with relatively few problems.
My dog, Callie, has so many qualities that make her special. I could tell you how smart she is. She brings in the paper and mail, takes the laundry to the laundry room, brings in the grocieries, understands complete and complex sentences and more. I could tell you how athletic she is. She goes on 14-mile hikes with us and is a Frisbee-catching champ.
But what really sets her apart could only be shared with you by the nearly 100 abused, neglected and disabled young children she visits every month. To them, she brings comfort, joy, entertainment, compassion and unconditional love. She seems to have an uncanny intuition that allows her to quickly select out the child who needs her most. She has been called an angel and a Godsend. To me, she is the essence of everything good the world has to offer. She is love, compassion and boundless joy.
The other dogs I had were out of control and acted like savages, much like I did. Casey was always calm and sympathetic to my needs. She constantly put her paws on me or sat quietly against the wall and stared at everything I did. Because she was the quiet dog of the bunch I neglected her attention and rarely played with her; I thought of her as just part of the pack.
After six months of having Casey I was forced to leave my husband and the family home. The hardest part was leaving the dogs, but I had to do it. He told me he would take care of them, a promise he did not keep. On the day I left the home, Casey was the only dog that ran behind my truck down the dirt road; she knewI was leaving for good. I had to stop and put her in the truck and take her back to the house. I fell in love with her that day. I will never forget the sad expression and the look of goodbye in her eyes.
After I was able to live on my own again I wanted to see her, I was then told the truth, Casey had been living in the wild and would not come to anyone. My parents would take food to her at my old house and she would obviously eat it, but they could not catch her to take her to a new home. I went to the house to see if I could find her and this scrawny little white dog bolted out of the woods and into my arms. I still have her and she has a great life now, as do I. She has an angelic presence with eyes that look right through you. I will never understand her unconditional love for me and the understanding that she has for my emotions.
She watches television. She recognizes the words or music of the commercials that have dogs in them. No matter where she is in the house, she will go and stand in front of the TV waiting for the dog to come on. For 13 years she has watched The Oprah Show in the afternoon. If I forget and don't turn the television on, she barks at me until I do. (If Sophie came on, she went right up to see her.) People can't believe how attuned she is. She looks you in the eye. She hates sunglasses and won't acknowledge anything you say to her unless you remove them. Intelligence, as in Sawtelle dogs, it's more than that. She can communicate.
She has been with us for 13 years and added so much to our lives. Now, despite all the meds and vitamins we give her, she can't walk much anymore, much less navigate our stairs. We have moved her downstairs. She has her own TV and a huge bed to lay on but what she wants most is our company. That's not hard to give. She greets us all through the day with love and joy just for being present. Despite her aches and pains, she seems happy. She exudes gratitude and absolute presence in every waking moment. Like Edgar and his Sawtelle dogs, it is she who has been teaching us.
We adopted a dog, Piper, from our local animal shelter in January, and as I was reading the book, I kept thinking of her as a Sawtelle dog. She is beautiful and smart and looks you right in the eye. She has the calmness and inquisitiveness of the Sawtelle dogs, and when you speak to her, she frequently cocks her head to one side as if she were really trying to understand what you're saying.
We have a 3-year-old golden retriever, Lexi. And though we didn't rescue her, we adopted (or I should say purchased) her from a reputable breeder. I felt strongly that I needed to have the decks stacked in my favor if I was going to bring a dog into my family. I had small children, and this dog was going to have kids around her. We visited the breeder...who interviewed us! We met the pregnant mom, filed out applications, etc. Once the puppies were born, we visited them many times before they were 8 weeks old and able to be adopted. We had to sign paperwork that if we were to ever get rid of the dog, the breeder had rights to her first.
But as a result of this fine breeder, training, yes, and that Lexi is a golden retriever, the result has been a wonderful, gentle, loving addition to our family.
— Shari, member of the San Diego Moms Book Club
On that day, we were greeted by no less than 50 squirming, adorable puppies, and I thought, "How will we possibly choose?" But my husband, who says Man did everything short of an old soft-shoe to gain his attention, knew almost instantly as he proclaimed, "This is the one!"
Man is quite mischievous and is the most independent dog I've ever known. He still holds fast to some habits which were gained in his first few weeks alone in the wild, but thank goodness he's deserted some as well, like eating bugs, worms and leaves!
Each morning when I awake, I watch my husband rise, go straight to Man and pat and kiss him. I wait and listen for the words I've heard him say every morning in those last five years..."I'm so glad you picked me. I'm so glad you're my boy." And I smile.