The first time I saw Tornado, he was a tiny black bundle of fur wiggling around in a cardboard box, willing to give little puppy kisses to anyone who got close enough. My boyfriend (now husband) had arranged to pick him up at a work party. One look and I knew he was really too little to be leaving his mother and litter mates, but coming with us meant he got to live.
Tornado wasn’t to be mine, but he didn’t know Matt and I had only been dating a few weeks, so he claimed me. My husband swears that I only stayed with him because I couldn’t stand to leave Tornado. I have to admit, I really do love that dog.
For a dog who was supposed to live outside, he seems to enjoy sleeping in our bed. Sometimes he even leaves me enough room to straighten my legs. My husband grumbles about Tornado hogging the bed, crying if he can’t be in the room with me, and that remnants of his food are sometimes on our kitchen floor, but Tornado has taught me several valuable lessons.
Because of his persistence at dropping tennis balls into them every time I go to the bathroom, I have learned that underwear actually make pretty good sling-shots. I also learned that there really is no way to save face when your finest lacies are proudly tossed over your brother-in-law’s knee and licked. Wrap them in newspaper, lock them in the hamper, bury all of it in cement, and Nado will still retrieve a pair of undies in two minutes…five minutes, tops.
Tornado taught me that a lot of UPS delivery people are terrified of dogs. When the dog hides, waits until the UPS person is directly in the middle of the second of three large windows, and then jumps at the second window and barks ferociously—some UPS people will be so scared that they throw your packages in the air (and on the lawn or roof), fall into the bushes opposite the windows, and flail their arms and legs about like an excited baby.
I learned that you shouldn’t smile back or laugh when your dog looks at you and smiles after doing this because he will only want to make you laugh again. (My apologies to that guy…I tried not to laugh, but really, you should have seen yourself.) I also learned that you should tell your husband not to be proud that the dog learned the above trick by watching him scare you the night before in a similar fashion. It only results in scheming about what else he might learn.
Tornado taught me that a dog is good company on a well-hidden, remote trail when a strange man believes you will make easy prey. My sweet puppy bared his teeth, raised his fur, and growled fair warning that neither of us would go quietly. When we both started walking toward him, the strange man decided that we were not choice prey after all.
When I miscarried, when my brother died only to be followed by a dear friend just a few months later, when I made the heart-breaking decision to never have children of my own, and when I was so sick that I wasn’t sure I was going to live, Tornado made sure I knew I wasn’t alone. He cried with me, licked away my tears, and begged me to be okay. After all, “Dad” really wasn’t very good in the kitchen and was pretty stingy when it came to handing out treats.
When I did the happy dance that Matt and I were engaged, when we got the house we wanted, when my great nieces were born, when I finished my first novel, when my brother was pronounced to officially be in remission, and several other monumental occasions, Nado was there for those too, wagging his tail, smiling his best puppy smile, and rolling around on the floor in pure happiness with me.
Time has flown. Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last week which means that Tornado is almost 12 years old. He’s not a puppy anymore, but he’s still willing to give kisses to anyone who gets close enough. There’s grey in his muzzle, on his paws, in his eyebrows, on his chest and in his tail. (There’s also currently some paint in his tail, but that’s a different story.) Some mornings I lift him off the bed so he doesn’t have to jump. He still brings me tennis balls, but now he chases them down the hall a few times and then lies down for a massage. I’m a push-over when it comes to him, so he gets the massages more often than not. He wants to go for long walks, but he hurts if he does, so we take shorter routes than we once did.
The older he gets, the more I realize the day is fast approaching when he will no longer be by my side every possible second of the day or curled into my knees at night. But for now, we still do yoga every day— he’s very good at one of the positions — and we still play each day.
Today while editing, Tornado wouldn’t stop nosing my arm off the keyboard or “side-lipping” me (putting his muzzle on my arm and then dragging it sideways which results in a bunch of slobber that is really quite gross). Once upon a time I would have been frustrated with him. But Tornado taught me that patience is a virtue, and patience (and persistence) with those you love is just good form.
I think the biggest lesson he continues to teach me every day is that there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be as good of a being as he is. There isn’t a soul in his life who doesn’t know how he feels about them, he kisses those he loves most goodnight and good morning every day, and he balances work and play so that even in old age, he is happy and playful.
Good boy, Nado. Good boy.
PS The above is an older post originally published on my other blog in 2011. In April of this year, Nado died quietly in my arms with Matt also sitting at his side. In my heart and mind, he lives on. I still reach for him when I write, still miss playing with him every day, and dream of him often. Without question, he is one of the best souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of living with.