Sasha was different, but she had that one trait that all dogs have

The ad in the A-T said beagle puppies for sale. I called the number and the man told me he was going mushroom hunting, but would meet me at Rt. 53 Recreation. He would throw a couple of pups in the backseat and be there in two hours. That was 13 years ago last month.

When he arrived he grabbed one puppy from his car and handed him to me. He then said “there is another one in here somewhere” and then he produced it. I gave the first one back. The second one was love at first sight. I quickly paid the man and started for home.

That 3-pound bundle of joy would become our Sasha.

I know that this column is supposed to be about sports, but we lost our beloved beagle last weekend and the world of sports has little meaning to me right now. So, if you will forgive me, I am about to bare my soul.

When Anita and I got married nearly 39 years ago, I already had a dog. Skip was a beagle and though my bride was certainly happy to be starting a new family that included a dog, she was very adamant about one thing. The dog would not be sharing a bed with us.

I agreed, but had my doubts. Skip and I had been sharing the same sleeping quarters for years.

The first few nights Skip would jump up and Anita would chase him off. This went on for several minutes, but come morning he would be in his customary spot on the foot end of the bed. After a week she gave up. After a month, if Skip didn’t come to bed right away, she would call him.

I don’t know who was training whom!

We humans do tend to tolerate some amount of bad behavior in our dogs. One of my most vivid memories of Skip happened one day when I came home from school. He was young and would chew things he shouldn’t. On this occasion he had struck again. I can’t remember whether it was a sofa cushion or a shoe, but I was furious.

I yelled at him and made him sit on the couch with a firm command to stay. I then went across the room and sat in a chair and got out a newspaper. The one thing Skip couldn’t stand was to be ignored. Over the course of about 20 minutes he slowly got off the couch and made his way to the chair.

One paw went up, then the next as he positioned himself between me and the newspaper. Finally he was sitting between my legs. He turned away from me, leaned back against my chest and then slowly bent his head back until he could see my face. That was it. He was forgiven.

We lost Skip when our children were small and the parting was difficult for me. We had no dog for a few years, but the kids kept begging. Finally, just before my daughter’s 10th birthday, another ad appeared. Anita looked at me and asked if I was ready.

We found the address and told the kids we were going for a drive. When we arrived at the farmhouse, seven crazed little puppies raced around from the back of the house. A little boy came out and said, “I know which one you will want” then hurried off. He soon returned with the runt of the litter and handed her to my wife.

I asked Ashley if she wanted one of the puppies. Her eyes got real big and she headed for the wild puppy melee. I stopped her and suggested she pick the one mom was holding. She said sure. On the way home, as she was holding Sandy, she started crying. When Anita asked her why she was crying she responded with “I can’t believe I’m holding my own puppy.” Our newest household member had brought tears of joy.

Sandy was as close to perfect as a pet could get. One story will prove my point. When Ashley would get ready for bed at night, she would pick up the dog and off they would go. Sandy would stay with her until she fell asleep and then come back out. Next it would be Brian’s turn. The procedure would be repeated.

When Anita and I retired for the evening, Sandy would come along. It was almost as if “who needs me now” was her mantra.

Again we went through the loss of a pet. The original tears of joy turned to ones of sadness. Sandy succumbed to a mysterious disease that affected her brain. She didn’t know who we were and it was heartbreaking.

After another respite from dog ownership I decided it was time again. That’s when Sasha joined our family.

Sasha was different from Skip and Sandy, but she was like all dogs in one respect. That would be unconditional love. Dogs give us that. We are perfect as far as they are concerned. Many years ago I heard that very thought put into perspective.

We were watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the late Joe Garagiola told a story about one of the owners of a dog being shown. The lady was in her 80s. Her comment has stuck with me all these years.

She said: “I wish I was half the person my dog thinks I am.” That says it all. Just recently I saw a lighted sign on a highway overpass that had a similar message. It said: “Drive like the person your dog thinks you are.” Wouldn’t that be a great idea!

I have so much I’d like to tell you about our beloved Sasha, but I’m out of space as well as tissues. If you will indulge me once more, I will finish this column next week.

There is one thing I’m grateful for. I’m glad you are reading this column yourselves, because I don’t think I could read it to you.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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