So. Now we had a full grown giant of a dog living with us. Dexter the puppy was…. Dense. Dense in the mass sense of the word, not in the intelligence department. I believe he was incredibly smart, in some areas. As someone once put it, he was very “food smart.” Now Zeta, she had a frightening level of intelligence. You could see her thinking and working out solutions to problems. She understood Spanish (Hubby’s go-to language when reprimanding or just venting about something the dogs did). She had a bigger human vocabulary than any dog I’ve ever seen. But Dex….. well, he was food smart, anyway. Probably very intelligent, but it was hard to see that shine with Zeta the Mensa-member.
Carrying Dexter the puppy around was like carrying around a super-heavy canned ham (out of the can and covered with fur). He was too heavy to carry long before I wanted to stop carting him around in my arms. If I could have, I’d have put him in one of those baby slings and carted him around everywhere. But this would have been harder on my neck than when I carried a bass drum around in marching band (really, why does anyone think it’s a good idea to hang a drum around a teenager’s neck?). So alas, I had to put the dog down and let him walk on his own. No Purse Puppy for me!
First he was too heavy to carry. Then he got fat. I didn’t really even notice that he was fat (though he did outweigh me at the time. Boy, that was a while ago!), and I was super-peeved when our surgeon, Dr. Lozier, told me he was obese. Well, I never! He said that Dexter would fare a lot better with less weight on this hips. It was time for a diet. And so it was that after a long period of time and work (and some real grumpiness on his part), he was down to 90 pounds. He was like a different dog. He wasn’t hot all the time. He had more energy. He had a waist!
As a side note, being overweight led to his first nickname: Moob. The moob. This was in honor of the mono-boob at the top of his chest. It was very large when he was 124lbs. A big old jiggly ball of skin. I used to muffle it around as a sign of affection, even as he lost weight and it became a smaller moob of extra skin. He didn’t seem to mind that. If someone did that to me, I’d be a tad insulted that they were jiggling my fat around. But Dex took it in stride.
Besides making him visibly more comfortable, his weight loss accentuated how disproportionate his front and back legs were. He had long, long back legs but short, stumpy front legs. It made him look as though he was always teetering on the brink of tipping over onto his face. And yet, he was straight as a board when standing up on all fours. Not like he had a ski slope for a back or something.
So yes, I suppose you could say that he was kind of funny looking. Even his stance was odd – my brother once noted that all four paws pointed in different directions. This was entirely true. It gave him the illusion of not knowing where he wanted to go – but certainly ready to go in any direction at any given moment. I suspect this contributed to his odd gait. Always running kind of kittywumpus, slightly to one side – a bit like a clumsy horse doing dressage. All that, PLUS he was bow-legged. Quite a sight indeed.
On a big dog, everything is over-sized. His tail would have made a fine rudder if he’d been a swimmer. Measured around, it was larger than my wrist. Unlike most Lab tails, it also curled up, kind of like a Husky’s. His foot was the same size, or perhaps larger than mine. I’m a size 7, he may have been about an 8. After his death, we had an imprint done of his paw. Dexter hated for anyone to touch his paws or his legs, so it was hard to tell how big his paw really was until we saw the imprint. It was roughly the same size as the palm of my hand.
But he was beautiful. His coat was a shiny cup of Hershey’s hot chocolate. As with all Labs, it was thick and water-proof, and had a wave reminiscent of a Chesapeake on his back. His eyes were the color of a fine Scotch – perhaps to remind you of the spirits you’d need to soothe your nerves after an outing in the car. He had those sad, hang-dog eyes. Always looking slightly bummed about life. At one point he was diagnosed with Eyelid Ectropion, a natural turning-out of the eyelid. Not a life-threatening disease, but it was something that bothered him and would only get worse with age. So Dex became the only dog I know to have is “eyes done.” It wasn’t a special surgery, just added on to one of his many hip replacements.
His nose was like another prehensile appendage, able to move in a million directions. His nostrils were huge. Not surprisingly, he had an amazing sense of smell. He could smell food through a closed can (that story will come a little later). His nose was a thing of beauty but really, stay away from the sneezes!
For a while, he had a tiny little white mustache that I called his “David Niven” mustache. Very dashing, but oddly thin. He had a lot of lip. A looooooootttaa lip. His drool was the consistency of rubber cement. In a pinch I could use it as adhesive. Months after his was gone, I was still finding items of clothing and furniture coated with stuff that looks remarkably like the trail of a slug. The mark of a drooling dog. The window on our “dog truck” may never be free of the slimy film and nose prints.
Far and away my favorite part of Dexter was his head – not only because the other end was so scary. He had a pointy head. I could have called him a Conehead, but that nickname did not stick. Besides housing his beautiful face, Dexter’s head included a large “crater” or “canyon” between his eyes. The dent was just the right size for me to put my head against his – like our foreheads were meant to connect. My favorite feeling in the world was resting my head in that spot, lips pressed up against his long snout, giving him kisses or whispering sweetness to him. It was relaxing, grounding, joyous, and made my heart just burst.
While I would partake in this bit of heaven regularly, the most consistent place for these moments of love was…. The bathroom. Listen, who hasn’t had their dog with them in the bathroom? It certainly wasn’t intentional, but it did become a habit. One day, Hubby pointed out to me that Dexter always followed me into the bathroom when I returned home. I hadn’t noticed that this was a pattern. But sure enough, whenever I came home he’d follow me in, come around to my left side and sit still. Sitting next to me, his head was at exactly the right height for me to lean over and put my head in the sacred spot in his forehead. How did he learn this? I don’t know, but it was a truly special time.
Zeta used to run underneath the dryer vent so she’d smell pretty. She loooooved it. Heck, I loved it! It may have been my favorite thing about her. She also had a clear case of OCD and was a very tidy dog. Hours she could lick, just to make sure you were completely free of all lotion, sweat, water, etc.
Dexter…. Not so much. Look, he was a smelly, messy boy. Walked through his own pee on a regular basis. He ate shit on the odd occasion. He often smelled terrible. His farts were loud and could clear a room. He snored like a fat sailor. You would never look at him (or sit in a room with him) and wonder if he might be a girl. Oddly, he did not roll around in dead things. That was his limit apparently.
Want to see his snore? Check here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPSUbEiHhRc
And yet, most people that got to know him honestly loved him. How could a rather funny-looking dog with so many unpleasant characteristics be so amazing? There was something to his soul, some indescribable essence that made people love him. It was possible to be exasperated with his antics, or annoyed that he’d taken your dinner, or bummed that he got glue drool on your new pants, but it was virtually impossible to feel unmoved by his huge heart.
It was impossible to live with him and not feel your own heart expand.
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