For a few months, I mulled over the idea of returning to this blog, because I just really like the idea. Last summer wasn't the best time to start a blog, but this summer, a truly relaxing and recharging span, might prove better suited. So, when I spotted a beautiful boxer lazing in the sun outside a strip-mall Starbucks--when he wasn't greeting every human customer--I took it as a sign.
Harley's 8 years old. He and his self-described "sometimes man-on-the-leash," John, are equally enamoured of each other and other dog lovers. The ensuing conversation--and the ear and back scratches Harley casually commandeered--solidified my purpose, regarding this blog: If I am a human who obsessively loves her dog, my love is not unique, but it finds unique camaraderie with anyone who loves similarly, and thus deeply.
Name: Harley (just Harley)
How did you meet?
John never grew up with a dog. Family allergies prevented pet ownership, but as an adult, he bonded with a girlfriend's dog. At a pet store, he began playing with a female boxer puppy. When the clerk shared that the little girl had a brother for sale, John couldn't resist.
"Maybe if I'd planned it, I would've gotten a rescue dog, but there he was, and that was it. It was like a love at first sight."*
Why the name?
This was a no-brainer. John wore a Harley-Davidson tshirt, during our impromptu conversation. Plus, it seems that a muscled, striking pooch like Harley couldn't strut with any other moniker.
How long have you two been together?
John says that when he saw Harley, the boxer had everything he wanted. The breed, itself, was an "appropriate-for-a-guy" dog, one not too small, not too loud, and one that's clean without a lot of fuss for grooming.
In eight years, Harley and John haven't spent a terrible amount of time apart, but as a first-time dog owner, John recognized the puppy-rearing learning curve. "It wasn't deep love like it is now. There were times when I didn't know if I'd made a mistake. I wasn't prepared for what a full-time job it is, but I wasn't going to give up on him. Maybe, sometimes, it was just stubbornness, but I wasn't willing to give up."
"So, what about now?" I asked. "Is it love now?"
"Oh, yeah! He got me on a schedule. He pretty much told me, 'I want you to walk me twice a day and sometimes let me out, and feed me. I want run of the house, when you're not home. I don't want much from you.' And that's how we do it."
What would readers not know about Harley, just by looking at him?
Don't let his grand paws or muscled shoulders full you: within this boxer's breast lies the heart (and stomach? Wait. . .nope. Wrong context.) of a cuddly lapdog. . .especially if it's winter and there's something good on TV.
But, as our conversation wound through puppy stories and a few tricks (Harley will kiss a grown man in public, with very little prompting. . .just FYI), it became apparent that these two were beloved characters in their community. John takes Harley with him as often as he is able, to socialize, and sometimes even to work. John's learned, through simply trying and asking, that many business owners will welcome gentlemanly pooches like Harley to outdoor areas. Even chains like Panera (and the Starbucks where I saw them) will allow dogs, while the human patron enjoys a cup and a chat. In smaller businesses, owners and managers may have different rules. And then, there are perks. In some spots, Harley's a regular. . .who gets free ham, roast beef and bacon when he visits.
"I guess it's our mission to go out and meet people. You have to break the people into the idea, not the dogs."
Indeed, as I talked to John, Harley needed no prompting to politely greet every human he saw. Some humans, however, weren't sure of the protocol. Do they pet? Do they say hello? With a wag of his tiny tail, so intense that it shook his hips in enthusiastic greeting, Harley would seem to have the easy answer: Of course you say "hello" to the happy, affectionate sentry. He's waiting to see you. He wouldn't be out here for any other reason.
*As a purebred dog owner, so many of us apologize for a dog purchase, and not a dog rescue; however, all responsible dog ownerships inherently contain an element of rescue, rescuing from an unknown, a potential abandonment. Pet store dogs, sometimes the product of unsafe breeding practices and less-than-scrupulous puppy care, deserve all the rescue of dogs in shelters. So many times purchased on impulse, by those without the tools necessary to raise a living, breathing creature, capable of deep bonding and affection for others, dogs like Harley rarely end up with loving, careful humans.