Eau de Canine: A Dog in England
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
 Education and the Arts
February 18, 2013 12:52 PM | 1231 views | 6 6 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Alex Lane – 1997-2013
Alex Lane – 1997-2013
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One morning when I was living in a land far, far away, I kissed my husband as he went off to work.  I hugged my son as he went off to school.   I washed the breakfast dishes and finished my coffee.  I looked at the shaggy black dog who lay panting on the floor at my feet.   

"So, here we are," I said, wilting into the familiar dark of isolation. "In this house.  On this island.  Far away from everyone.  You and me.  Alone.  In England." 

He yawned and sniffed his butt. 

Now, some might think this action rude, but I knew it was dog speak for, "Suck it up, Buttercup.  If you don't like it, do something different."   

He lifted his ears when I stood, and we raced together to my glorified golf cart of a Smart Car .  He was always willing to accompany me on an adventure.  

The route to Wells turned out to be all winding country roads, little lanes blocked on either side by building-high hedges, streets with pinch points so narrow that even my tiny car couldn't share the space with so much as a bicycle. 

But I had learned to zoom right by the sheep and the cows and the red Royal mail trucks that looked close enough to brush with my fingertips without so much as wincing. I had recently shrunk into a smaller person, my sense of space no longer American, my sense of self no longer certain. 

Of course, my partner-in-crime, the dog, in the passenger’s seat had no such identity problems.  He looked like Gene Simmons with his five-foot-long tongue hanging out his black-lipped mouth, which was hanging out the open window. 

I put the heat on full blast because I was nursing a cold but let the dog continue to lap up the smells of the English countryside.   I whistled along with the theme song to “The Archers” on BBC radio.  Alex barked into the wind, quite pleased with the good time we were having.   

We cruised under the endless canopies of Somerset trees, dazzled by the orange and red leaves: the soft golden hues of autumn.  I shifted gears and climbed a steep hill to break through the forest, to see green fields stretching for miles.  They were dotted with livestock grazing, rock fences, tractors at rest.  Looming in the distance was the Glastonbury Tor, a tower built by monks long before the United States existed. 

Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, I reached over and stroked the dog’s fur, feeling at peace again, grateful for opportunities to see the world with a friend.  Life was glorious.   

After finally parking in a space the size of a postage stamp, Alex and I walked around the tiny town of Wells.  People said hello to us, and since I was normally invisible, I knew this was because I had the dog with me.  There is not an English man or woman alive who doesn’t love a canine, and no one on either side of the pond could ever resist Alex’s magnetism. 

In truth, it was magic to watch the effect he had on these people... how those stiff upper lips went all wobbly at one little doggy whine, even if it was given in an American accent... how those normally straight-through-you stares fired with warmth at the mere sight of him. 

He looked shaggier than normal, his hair puffed out from the ride, his fluffy tail perched as high on his butt as a cat's tail when he strutted proudly down the pavement.  I held firm on his leash, going where he led me, like a good girl. 

I thought God bless that creature!   I wanted to feed him hamburger for the priviliege of his companionship.  I wanted to make him steak for dinner because my sorcerer dog had the power to stop me from feeling like a stranger in Britain.      

Together, we strolled by the old beggar's porch, peeked down the Vicar's Close, walked around the moat that circles the Bishop of Bath's palace, and finally went up onto a public footpath, a dirt road that cut through trees and made me forget there was a town anywhere near us. 

There I unhooked the leash and let the dog run as free as God had made him.  He was already an old mutt with grey in his beard, but he ran like a puppy, chasing up goodness knows what in the grass, jumping like a rabbit in a field, acting like joy itself, grinning in the sunshine. 

Finally, we needed to get going.  There were groceries to buy, clothes to wash, a boy to meet at the bus-stop. 

I opened the passenger's door to my car, and the dog hopped inside. He settled behind the steering wheel as if he was going to drive until I pushed him over.  He had left several brown paw prints where my bottom would need to go, but I was not annoyed in the slightest.  Because he’d been there to ride beside me, to give me courage to explore, I had ignored the sniffles in my nose, the tightness in my chest, the darkness that had so often dampened my spirits with wasteful homesickness.   

I reached down to brush the dirt away from the upholstry, but my fingertips felt wet.

I lifted my hand under my nose and sniffed.    

The dog grinned widely, his tongue lolling out of his mouth again, his warm brown eyes radiating that pure love that only a dog can give as my face contorted into a grimace.

“Ewwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeee,” I whined.  “It’s sheep poop.”

 No steak would be served to Alex that night!

I didn't care if the British treated me more like a person when he was with me.  As I reached in the glove box for napkins, it was easy to forget the laughter that had filled my heart when I had watched him running. 

Next time I ventured out, I wasn’t takin’ the stinkin’ dog!!!

Except... well...  Of course I always did.

He was often the reason I went in the first place. 

Rest in peace good and faithful friend. 

Alex Lane – 1997-2013

Comments
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ECobb
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April 14, 2013
I identify with this. I had to put down my dachshund about 4 weeks ago. Three years ago he was due to be put down because he was old. But I rescued him. I called him, "Old Man."

We gave one another a lot of love for three years. But time took its toll and he lost most of his hearing and sight. He had to be carried up and down the stairs to do his business outside. He fell into the pool twice but was saved after a brief but cold swim.

Dogs are God's most noble creatures.

I really miss you Old Man.
Alice's Rabbit
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February 23, 2013
Alex was an escape artist extroadinare, smelly beyond comprehension, and providor of so much love and comfort. If I had not found him on my doorstep, like a gentleman caller, demanding entrance to visit his first love Lucy my black lab, I would have never met Ethel.

Dog heaven has a new odor to contend with.

You will be missed.
Yuevonne Lansinger
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February 20, 2013
Alex was the one dog that convinced me to like dogs. We grew up with hunting dogs that were certainly not be treated as pets, so I never learned the joys of having a pet dog. But, when Alex came into our lives that Christmas Eve, he claimed my heart. To watch as he loved my son

and grandson was pure pleasure. He was perfect for your family. We never thought he would live this long but are glad he did. Rest in peace, wonderful Alex. You were the best dog ever!
Concerned Citizen
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February 19, 2013
For those who love dogs and view them as noble creatures, this article touches the heart. Dog friends always are happy to see us and forgive us. They delight in traveling life's exciting and sometimes dangerous roads with us as companions and protectors. I am sure that if there is a heaven, there is a place for your friend Alex. After all, we all know that dog spelled backward is god.
Impressed Doctor
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February 19, 2013
We have all known such magical creatures that bring a smile to the lips of people normally preoccupied with their troubles. I suspect that you had this dog for a long time and that he enriched your life and everyone whose life he touched. If he is still near to you treasure his foibles and forgive his transgressions. When he goes hold him close to your heart because he enriched many lives along his meandering way into your heart. I bet you will never forget him and thus he will live as long as you do.
Christine Thiessen
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February 18, 2013
Wonderful.
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