For those of you who don't know him, my dog Frodo is pretty incredible. (Those of you who do know him don't need to be told.) He's perfect for my family: super kind, not aggressive, more interested in people than other dogs, protective, friendly, warm-coated in winter, playful, and increasingly calm. This is incredible, especially when I think about friends of mine who have had dogs that were lacking in this qualities. This is even more incredible when you consider that he just followed me home.
I'd wanted a dog for a long time, but ever since Kenny the Cat, the Hedengrens have been largely pet-free. Oh, my sister had a rabbit that I remember and there was a disastrous lizard ownership, but my parents were pretty much insistent that fish is as cuddly as we got around here. Once a straying dog had showed up at my parents' door while I was at school and it made them think, "hmm, dogs aren't that bad," but she got claimed by her owners soon afterwards. The way was prepared, though.
I was walking home from a calculus study session with Patrick and Becca when I crossed a busy street and saw something dart across, narrowly escaping a car. "Stupid cat," I affectionately said, leaning down to pet it, and found it was a dog. Well, a puppy. A little dark puffball of a puppy. I liked petting him, but my heart had been callused over enough to know I couldn't hide it from my parents in the backyard indefinitely, so I told it to go home. When we walked off, the little guy followed us. He ran full speed, looking at us, so that he ran into several mailboxes on the way home. I picked him up and rang my own doorbell and asked the golden question: can we keep him?
We kept him for the night, wrapped in towels in the sideyard even though it was a warm fall night, and he cried like a baby until I came out and got him to sleep, then I'd try to tip-toe out again and then--eii-eii-eii! I'd come back and try it over again. Poor little dear. The next day, parents decided it was too cute a dog just to take to the pound, so we called the pound and left a description and our contact information and bought a little bag of puppy chow. We posted "Found Dog" signs all over the neighborhood, but no one responded. I secretly had been hoping that they wouldn't.
It was when we bought the big bag of puppy food and the igloo house that I knew we were keeping him. We even decided around the dinner table what to call him. I wanted to name him Isaiah because we found him on 9/9/99. Mom, I think, always wanted to name him after the character in the Black Calderon who always got sticks in his fur. Finally, we went with Frodo, perhaps in part because Emily had joked about wanting to name one of her children Frodo because it would sound funny with a speech impediment. This way the name would be taken and she wouldn't name her child anything embarrassing. (She named her son Sam.)
Frodo's been a great dog ever since, infinitely patient, especially in the winter months when it's a little harder to go out and play with him, but he's had a great life: at least one walk a day, a big yard to play in, hikes in the mountains, lots of rawhide and treats, puppy training classes, sitting in the shade while we read or work in the garden, standing up to his haunches in the irrigation ditch, making friends with dozens of kids in the neighborhood who call us when he's gone off on one of his sprees (he usually ends up in the front yard, waiting for us to come home). It's been great.
I bring this up because I found a weird growth on the side of Frodo's neck. He's an old dog, though you'd never think it, never had any problems with his joints or anything, but he's still ten years old. It might be cancer. It might be nothing. Last night I lay awake wondering what I would do if it was something serious. I'm a firm believer in the "dogs aren't people" camp; dogs don't need perfume or nail polish or only families with kids over 14. But my dog is still my dog. I don't think I'd go for a really expensive surgery, but I also don't want to think about losing my dog, especially because he's been such a good one. I hope tomorrow they tell me it's nothing.