I can’t honestly call myself a dog blogger unless I talk about the most dog-like dog I have ever known. I have mentioned him before, usually in reference to his enormous size. The last I heard, he weighed over one hundred forty pounds. That is a lot of dog.
Readers, prepare yourselves for the monstrosity that is the Roach-man.
Roach actually belongs to my brother-in-law. Before we moved to the East Coast, that was with whom we lived. It was a small house for three people and a cat, and when the Roachster joined the family it felt a lot smaller. But I am getting way ahead of things.
One day in 2007 the BIL returned home and told us we had to go to the shelter right away to approve his new puppy. The news came as a bit of a surprise but gamely we headed down to the Calgary Humane Society to meet this potential family member. (As an aside, the facilities there are incredible. The CHS could serve as a model for all other shelters in the world to follow. I encourage you to check them out if you are ever in the city.) The shelter policy is that every household member must meet each adoptee before the adopt-er can bring him home. A pretty smart philosophy to be sure.
A staff member brought us over to the room where the puppy lived. Each dog had his own space, usually a small room with a glass door. On the door they taped a brief biography of the dog along with the kind of home that would be right for him. I will never forget the sign posted on Roach’s door. In big bold letters read, “WILL GET BIG”.
At the time it was hard to conceive. Just three months old, he was an adorable little puppy with floppy ears and clumsy paws. He barely came up to my knees. They must mean big by small-dog people standards, I remember thinking. He was part shepherd, not part Great Dane. Six months later we all discovered the latter breed may have been part of his genetics after all.
I think it is a big testament to my BIL’s character that he chose Roach out of all the other wonderful dogs available in the facility. Roach was the only one not house-trained, the only one not already neutered, and the only one dealing with mange. The dog was a little bit of an outcast. Due to his health problems, his wild behaviour, and his appearance, not to mention the sign on the door, my BIL may have been his only chance at finding a real home. He certainly would not have been my choice at the time.
This brings me to my largest regret regarding the behemoth. At the time I wasn’t sure a dog was a good idea. Since all three of use worked outside of the home and enjoyed our freedom to come and go as we pleased, I didn’t think that lifestyle would be good for a puppy. A dog needs human presence and interaction. A dog needs exercise. Most of all, a dog needs training, especially one that still urinated inside. There was also the cat to deal with. How would he feel about a puppy getting in his space? I just wasn’t feeling it. This was completely unfair, of course, to the new dog. My opinions had nothing to do with him and since I lived there I should have put them aside and helped him out. Unfortunately, I didn’t. While I eventually grew to love him and I would spend time playing with him on the kitchen floor, after one or two crazy walks, I gave up on any form of training. It bothers me to this day.
On the other hand, I like to credit Roach for influencing my relationship with Shiva. If I hadn’t been missing the lunk-head, I may not have decided to adopt her. If I hadn’t seen first-hand what kind of loving animal could come from a shelter, I may not have even thought of checking out the SPCA at all. If Roach’s behaviour problems hadn’t inspired me to do some research into dog training, I may not have stuck it out when I had problems with my own dog two years later. If I didn’t feel so bad about the way I ignored Roach’s needs, I may not have been so attentive to Shiva’s.
From what I hear Roach is doing well. He still loves to eat and he still loves to take over the entire couch. He plays very nicely with the children next door. I imagine now that he is over three years old, he is a lot calmer to be around and a great companion for my BIL. One day I hope to see him again, pet those super-soft ears. My favourite memories of that dog are when he would sprawl out on the kitchen floor at my feet while I brewed tea in the evening. I would slowly rub his belly with a foot and he would act like there was nowhere in the world he would rather be. I never thought the day would come, but I really miss that lug. Maybe I’ll tuck a little something extra in his Christmas present this year.