"What's wrong, buddy?" I asked The Paragon one evening in February of 2008. I was sitting on the couch watching TV, and The Paragon was curled up next to me, dozing, when all of a sudden he let out a deep sigh. Not entirely unusual ... dogs do this all the time, and it doesn't necessarily mean much of anything. Also, I try very hard to be cautious about projecting emotions onto my companion animals. It's all too easy to do, blank slates that they are, but it doesn't always serve them well to do so.
This time, though, I was pretty confident that the heavy sigh meant that The Paragon was sad. In fact, I was positive of it. Positive because I knew how sad *I* was ... and The Paragon had just as much of a reason to be sad as I did. The previous month, his declining health had forced me to make the painful decision to euthanize Dakotah, my beautiful, sweet, loyal braniac of an Alaskan Malamute mix. After sixteen years together, the void he left in my life was indescribably large, and I knew that The Paragon was feeling much the same way.
After all, Dakotah had been The Paragon's big brother, his teacher, his mentor in many ways, not to mention the very best pillow in the entire world. I had already decided I wasn't getting another dog ... for a long time, maybe not ever. The last few months of Dakotah's life, his declining health had taken its toll on me, both emotionally and physically. Seeing a dog that had always been so healthy and vibrant become increasingly feeble and infirm was painful to watch.
Also, Dakotah was a seventy plus pound dog, and I am a 5'1" person. When he could no longer rise easily, I was the one who had to lift him to his feet. When he couldn't walk down the steps from the porch to the yard anymore to go to the bathroom, I had to carry him. He also hadn't slept through the night in at least four months. As is common in elderly dogs, he seemed to have his days and nights reversed. During the day, he slept just fine, but at night, well ... not so much.
Suffice it to say, in the weeks after his passing, my heart ached, my back ached, and I was completely exhausted. Getting another dog was honestly the last thing on my mind. Dakotah was irreplaceable, after all, and the truth of the matter was that even, perhaps especially, when he was perfectly healthy, Dakotah was a Challenge with a capital C. The Paragon, on the other hand, was easy-peasy. I would have given anything to get Dakotah back, but that wasn't possible, and since I already had the best dog in the entire world sitting on my couch, why, you may well ask, would I even dream of rocking the boat?
The truth is, I wasn't planning on it. But then The Paragon sighed that heavy sigh, and could barely muster a half-hearted wag of his tail when I inquired as to what was wrong. So I started thinking about it. A lot. And I decided that if I was going to do this, I didn't want another Malamute or Husky, or even a Shepherd, three breeds I've always loved and felt a huge affinity for. Since The Paragon had come into my life, I'd learned first-hand the joys of dogs that come in smaller packages, and I thought that maybe a dog his size, or maybe a bit larger (say the size of a Cocker Spaniel) might be ideal.
So I started looking. And not long later, I found The Flying Monkey, (aka The Monkey aka Monkey Face) who was, obviously, just about the antithesis of Dakotah in every possible way. Weighing only six and a half pounds (nine and a half now ... she was pretty skinny when I first got her), she was a lot smaller than what I was looking for, but once I met her, I just had a feeling she was going to be exactly the right fit.
Fortunately, my instincts were correct. From the first, The Paragon and The Monkey got along beautifully, and in fact, not once in six years has there been even a ripple of jealousy or dissent between the two. They are great companions for one another, and as for me, choosing to adopt a dog that was as different from Dakotah as she could possibly be turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. There were no painful comparisons to be made between the two, so I was free to enjoy this new dog in my life without all of that baggage. And enjoy her I did, and do, in so many ways.
The Paragon is, it is widely accepted in the circles in which we travel, the sweetest dog on the planet. The truth, though, is that in her own way The Monkey is even sweeter. She is a snuggler extraordinaire, of the marathon variety. If you want to, you can snuggle her just about to death. She is happy to be held for hours on end, if you have the time and the inclination, her tummy to your chest, her head on your shoulder, and just lie there quietly and be with you. If holding her on her back like a baby (she's just about the size and weight of a newborn human infant, which is to say the perfect size for cradling in such a fashion), is your preference, that is fine, too. As long as you keep the snuggling coming, The Monkey is on board.
The Monkey is a soulful creature, fond of staring off into middle distance thinking, it often appears, all sorts of deep and profound Monkey thoughts. Her fairly pronounced under bite often lends her a somewhat dour expression, but she's really a very "up," happy, fun-loving, and truly funny dog. When she gets excited, for example, she starts to sneeze uncontrollably, making everyone around her laugh. And when she's excited to see you, she will literally launch herself into the air, (one of the main reasons why her nickname is The Flying Monkey instead of just The Monkey) trusting that you will catch her.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better companion for The Paragon, or a better second dog for our family. The Monkey is a very easy dog in almost all respects, and in fact the day that we drove to her foster mom's house to pick her up, a two and a half hour drive away, she joined us at an outdoor café for lunch, sitting in her carrier on her own chair, as perfectly composed and well-behaved as though she did it every day. From the first she fit in perfectly, as though she was always meant to be a part of our family.
The Monkey was a breath of fresh air and a reason to smile and laugh in a very sad time. Her sense of comic timing is excellent, and if someone is stressed or upset, she will first try to love them out of their bad mood, but if that fails, she will resort to her silly antics to snap them out of it. She's the jester in this family's court, and we feel so lucky to have her around to make us smile.
* Note: I am not sure what's going on with Blogger tonight, but the picture I wanted to use kept being stripped off, somehow, so I changed it out for this one. I also see in my Gmail that some comments came in and were made to the original post, which I had to delete. Sorry about that!