An introduction to a very special dog
|I remember the day I met the love of my life.
My brother had bought a giant schnauzer puppy, and dropped in to introduce me to Boris. When he put the puppy on the floor I was captivated. Wagging his tail so hard his whole body shook, Boris rushed over to greet me. I was enchanted, and regardless of the fact that I already had four dogs decided I wanted one.
Within 15 minutes I was at the breeder’s gate. Two minutes later I saw my sleeping puppy. I fell in love at first sight.
At six weeks old, he was tiny. He was covered in fluffy black fur, and curled into a tiny little ball with his tail lying straight out behind him. Gently I picked him up, and with a tiny grunt his eyes opened. Black and sleepy, he carefully focused on me and I watched his drowsy eyes begin to shine when he saw me. He whimpered, yawned to show a set of perfectly white, needle-sharp teeth and snuggled into my hands before closing his eyes again.
“This puppy sleeps all day,” the breeder commented before I left. “But the vet says it’s not a problem – some puppies are just lazy.”
“I don’t mind,” I replied. “I have four dogs, so it’s good that I have a quiet puppy. They won’t feel too threatened by him.”
The breeder’s concerns proved unfounded.
I put the sleeping puppy on a blanket on the back seat of my car. He sighed as I closed the door, but his eyes did not open. When I started the car he sat up in shock, and began squeaking. As I drove out of the gate he was howling. The further I drove the louder he cried. I stopped the car, and put him on my lap, but to no avail. By the time I drove into our driveway the noise level was deafening.
My husband walked out of the house to see why the car was making such a terrible noise. I hadn’t told him about the puppy, so when I opened the car door he looked at me in horror. Before he could tell me how many dogs we already owned I put my puppy on the grass.
The silence was deafening. The puppy looked around him, sniffing the air before tentatively putting one thick, hairy leg forward to take his first step in his new home. He paused, then walked carefully towards my husband, his body waddling as he wagged his tail. When my husband picked him up he started squeaking excitedly and the tail rhythm increased dramatically. With a flourish my husband declared: “We’ll call him Chewbacca, because he’s as noisy as that Star Wars’ Chewy.”
I was so relieved I would have agreed to any name.
At that moment my four dogs rushed around from the front of the house to welcome me home. The sight of Chewy stopped them instantly in their tracks. Crowding around us, they sniffed and wagged their tails in interest. Our dogs have always been friendly, so Chewy was confidently placed on the grass to meet the family quadrupeds.
Chewy started crying and howling so pitifully the dogs quickly backed off. The noise escalated, and I picked him up to comfort him. The decibels reduced, his warm, plump body snuggling into my neck as I hugged him. I breathed in that unique puppy smell, and he squeaked quietly as I stroked his soft fur.
He still squeaks today. He asks for food, greets us in the morning and welcomes us home after a night out. His repertoire is impressive: barking, squeaking, deep growls, high pitched moans and howling all feature in his vocal range.
The name of this breed of dog should alerted me to their eventual size. For the first month I washed Chewy in my bath, and he loved it. I’d never owned a dog with long hair, so grooming him was a novelty. I would wash his fur, rinse and dry him with a towel before combing his fine black hair so it fluffed around his body. I bathed him daily because the other dogs, delighted with their new friend, were no respecters of his youth. He played wild games with them and got very dirty. He had a healthy appetite, and often “swam” in his food bowl during feeding.
And he grew.
At ten months he weighed 25 kilogrammes – about 55 pounds. He was as tall as my German shepherds, with a long shining black coat. His eyes were invisible, because the hair on top of his head now touched the bridge of his black, shiny nose, which looked like the muzzle of a double-barrelled shotgun. His beard hung from his bottom jaw, and was very difficult to keep clean because when he ate or drank it got dirty. He had developed an affinity for our swimming pool, and would get in four or five times a day to cool himself. We’d find him sitting on the concrete steps, his body submerged up to his shoulders with his head resting contentedly on the pool’s edge. When he felt energetic he’d swim a few strokes before returning to the step. He looked like a large, hairy hippopotamus.
Today Chewy weighs 60 kilogrammes; that’s 132 pounds. There is no grooming parlour in Greece, so I cut his hair myself. And I’m quite good at it – but in summer I shave his hair short all over. He no longer has a pool, and the heat is unkind to a long haired black dog. I cut his hair with the setting on three, and afterwards his hair feels as smooth as velvet. His legs are thick and strong, ending in enormous paws with long black nails. I don’t cut his hair in winter, and that’s when he returns to a two-foot version of the fluffy black puppy I fell in love with when he was six weeks old.