Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ode to Harley Girl


There is a member of our family that hardly ever gets any hype and hoopla. She was one of the first “babies” that came into our lives (eleven years ago) and she is such a wonderful calming force. Our rottweiler-German Shepard mix, Harley, joined this world under a used car, with a junk yard rotty as her father and a nine-month old softy as her mom. Mike and I even discussed keeping her mom before she became pregnant; she had such a great demeanor. When Harley’s mom abandoned the litter of nine pups, we took her home at maybe only five or six weeks old. Our friends took another four that day – it was so great!

This was not good news for Maggie, our then five year old Cocker Spaniel. She was furious with us for the invasion and wouldn’t even acknowledge Harley’s presence. For the ten years that they spent together, I have no doubt that Harley believed with all her heart and soul that Maggie was her mother. After a few weeks of perseverance on Harley’s part, Maggie could no longer resist and accepted Harley and all her puppy-ness, lock, stock and barrel.

As she grays and stiffens and celebrates her eleventh birthday, I am so grateful for Mike having found her under that car. I am so grateful that she is the one we tried to put our mark on with the tiniest collar imaginable and who we visited weekly until we could take her home. From the moment we brought her into our lives, she was meant to be there. When we became pregnant, people asked, “What will you do with the dogs?”

“Keep them!” was of course our answer.

The lessons Harley continues to teach our kids are precious. In some cases, before they would hug and kiss us, they felt that unconditional love and security from Harley’s presence and you’d find them curled up with her on her bed. They scamper to be the first to the food bowl to feed her and love to help with walks. They watch as we trim her nails, give her arthritis medicine and dive in to her baths. They say good night and good morning and for sure, consider her a part of our family. She has been here for their forevers and they know nothing else. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I look at her watching over the kids while they play, sitting patiently as she becomes a race track or an active participant in a Barbie session or game of school, I wonder what she’s thinking. Does she mind when she’s wearing sunglasses, having her eyes and ears examined and poked, wrapped in a blanket, donning socks or being ridden like a horse? If so, you’d never know. Her job has its perks; a constant flowing river of drops and spills at her disposal, petting and hugs galore and lots of big, old, wet kisses on the mouth.

There’s a picture from when Logan was born that I just love. Logan is clamoring around the floor and Harley is just looking at me like, “What is actually going on here? Is this thing sticking around?” Little did she know that Logan was just the first in the trio to come. By the time that Finn came home from the hospital, I think she sniffed, cocked an eyebrow and knew she just had another somebody to love.
Our good ole girl is getting up there and I can’t imagine our lives without her. We recently contemplated getting her a playmate, but decided against it for now. (I say "for now" because Mike continually brings home tales of every dog in Illinois that needs rescuing!) But between Harley's achy joints and new knee, she deserves whatever kind of relaxation she can find in the chaos of our lives. She is truly a gentle soul, a giant, loving force in our lives. How lucky we were to find her.

2 comments:

Mary said...

I could not love this entry more. It touched my heart at the very first sentence - knowing full well, that when I first met Harley (while visiting in Florida) I was apprehensive about rottweilers - my only point of reference was the evening news and the bad rap they got. I remember on my first night, fixing up my bed on the living room couch and then walking away for a moment. When I returned, there was Harley, with her head on my pillow spread out on the sheet. Although nervous, I tried to coax her off but she wasn't having it. So I got in with her. She later moved to my feet protecting me through the night. We've been good friends ever since. That beautiful, expressive face of hers seems to arrive, simultaneously with Logan, Riley and Finn, to greet me whenever I arrive for a visit - tail wagging. How lucky she was to find her way into your home. Her gentleness, sweet nature and patience galore will be hard to ever replace. You are right, she is family and the thought of her brings to mind only memories of smiles, giggles and tender moments when she was there to comfort or just hang out. This is a very sweet entry.

Mary said...

I could not love this entry more. It touched my heart at the very first sentence - knowing full well, that when I first met Harley (while visiting in Florida) I was apprehensive about rottweilers - my only point of reference was the evening news and the bad rap they got. I remember on my first night, fixing up my bed on the living room couch and then walking away for a moment. When I returned, there was Harley, with her head on my pillow spread out on the sheet. Although nervous, I tried to coax her off but she wasn't having it. So I got in with her. She later moved to my feet protecting me through the night. We've been good friends ever since. That beautiful, expressive face of hers seems to arrive, simultaneously with Logan, Riley and Finn, to greet me whenever I arrive for a visit - tail wagging. How lucky she was to find her way into your home. Her gentleness, sweet nature and patience galore will be hard to ever replace. You are right, she is family and the thought of her brings to mind only memories of smiles, giggles and tender moments when she was there to comfort or just hang out. This is a very sweet entry.