“Henry, get rid of that cat”. My wife, Jill, said. We had both heard the whimpering sound outside our front door. I opened the door slowly.
“That’s not a cat,” I replied.
On the doorstep was this tiny dog, a little black shivering ball, only a day or two old, small enough to hold in the palm of my hand. Its tiny eyes were still closed. Our younger daughter, Alison, ten years old at the time, who had been begging for a dog for some time, put her head to one side and said, “Please, can we keep it?” with a doe-eyed, supplicating appeal. Candy would give the same look as she got older, giving credence to the theory, that dogs and owners evolve similar features.
Jill and I looked at each other. Our heads said we did not need a dog, but our hearts could not reject the large, soft, limpid eyes of our youngest child, nor reject the helpless animal lying in my hand. Little did we know the joy and frustration this little furry ball would give our family.
“I’ll take it to the vet this afternoon to make sure it’s healthy. We don’t know where it came from.” All God’s creatures have a right to be treated with compassion.
The vet gave it a good checkup, “She’s only a day or two old. She should still be with her mother.
“I know, she was left on our doorstep,” I said, explaining the circumstances.
Alison was given the honor of naming the dog said, “She’s so sweet, Candy is the only name for her.”
Jill, ever maternal and practical, said, “With no mother to feed her, we’ll buy a bottle and some baby formula.”
The human baby formula may have contributed to her being blessed with celerity of thought processes we had not seen in any of our previous pets. Candy also had trouble accepting that she was a dog and not another sibling.
And so the fun started. “Henry, it’s time to feed Candy, she’s crying,” Jill said poking me in the ribs at three o’clock in the morning. This went on for several weeks.
We’d take her out into the garden to do her business and even clean her little behind with baby-wipes.
We have two levels in our house. Having never liked the dogs to go into our bedrooms, we needed a barrier to stop our previous pets from climbing the stairs. One day Candy started to follow me up the stairs, instinctively I turned around and said in a commanding voice, “Stay!” She never again tried to climb the stairs.
When we talked to her she tilted her head and looked at us. It is supposed that dogs don’t have facial expressions, but she gave us a look, as if to say, “Yes you’re quite right.”
When alone in the house, both my wife and I had long interesting conversations with Candy. We could tell Candy our problems and complain. It was the perfect opportunity to vent our feelings. We had a very patient listener who never interrupted nor answered back.
Carrots, we read, are good for cleaning dog’s teeth. So we added carrots to her diet. Soon, whenever Jill or I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge, she was there immediately, begging for a piece of carrot. Alison, on the other hand did not agree that we should feed Candy so many carrots. Candy never begged for carrots from Alison.
We have a garden, part paved and part sand. In the wet winter weather, Candy did her business on the paving, making it easier to clean. I have never known a dog that did not get muddy paws when it rained but Candy didn’t like to get her feet muddy - not really doggy behavior. We cheerfully let her out on even the wettest winter days knowing she would not track mud through the house.
Candy was very protective of her territory. As a puppy she slept in our guest toilet. It became her domain. When lying in her room she would not relinquish it to us for human use. She often became quite aggressive. Even her favorite treat would not coax her out.
When we employed a cleaning lady, she would make no objection to having her room cleaned. She knew that it would be returned to her in due course. Our cleaner left our employ, which forced us to wait for Candy to go into the garden before we locked the door and did the cleaning.
She communicated with us in her own special way. Candy would sleep at the bottom of the stairs to protect us. On a hot Israeli summer’s night, she would refuse to lie on a blanket, which we initially thought she would find soft and comfortable. However, when the cold weather started, she would not settle down and fussed until we had put down something warm to lie on.
Morning and evening she would bark to get our attention when she was hungry, Candy then sat with ears pricked up while we filled her bowl with food, opened the door and put the plate outside for her to eat.
Candy was strangely headstrong. We found it incomprehensible that she would sit outside in the coldest weather no matter how we tried to coax her inside.
Her biggest problem was fear. She was very afraid of strangers. This was probably due to having been taken from her mother at such an early age. People passing our house; whether in the lane adjacent to our garden, or in the street above; were greeted by a seemingly ferocious dog. Candy would bark and bear her teeth. All the tricks and advice we had been given over the years did not stop her persistent barking. However, if a neighbor or passerby extended their hand and stroked her head she would instantly stop the noise and would never bark at that person again.
Cleaning and grooming was also a constant problem. When she was a baby the vet told us not to bathe her for at least three months. She resisted bathing at home. We usually had to clean her, as she often was messy due to excessive hair that became dirty. We needed a bottle of antiseptic, a cloth and scissors, which we would put out well in advance. We could not open the bottle of antiseptic soap because if Candy smelled its very specific odor she would stay in ‘her’ room and not budge, even to eat or answer the call of nature. It required a team effort to get the job done. I would grab her and hold her mouth, one of the children, usually Alison, as she still lived at home, would talk to her and stroke her in an endeavor to allay her fear that she was in danger. Jill drew the short straw and was assigned the dubious honor of cutting the dirt from the posterior end. Over the years as she became more docile and less fearful “Operation Rear End” became less difficult, but never easy. Fortunately, if we took her to the dog salon to be groomed, she was very docile. She gladly jumped into the car and allowed us to take her for grooming. However we could only do this at intervals of about three to four months so the ritual of home cleaning, described above, was necessary in the interim.
One day when she was about eight years old, she came to me for a bit of loving. I always stroked her under the chin. I felt enlarged glands. We took her to the vet who initially diagnosed an infection. Antibiotics reduced the swelling. A few weeks later Candy developed diarrhea. We gave her more antibiotics. During the examination the vet again felt her glands, which were again swollen. He suggested tests to determine the situation, taking fluid from her lymph glands, which he sent to a laboratory. The vet’s diagnosis of lymphoma, a type of cancer, was confirmed. We were devastated. Unfortunately we could not afford expensive chemotherapy. The vet’s prognosis gave her about six months before succumbing to the disease.
Initially she seemed to make an amazing recovery and for a short time was almost her old self. She ran around in the yard barking as loudly as ever.
One Saturday we awoke to find a very sick dog. She would not eat and could not even go outside to answer the call of nature. She lay around all day while we fussed and tried to comfort her as best we could. We could not call the vet until the Sunday morning, which is a workday.
The vet determined that Candy was suffering from kidney failure and all her organs were quickly shutting down. He recommended euthanasia. We requested time to tell all our children, including our son, who lives in London, England, before we allowed our pet to be put to sleep.
Fortunately our children are adults, but it was a very sad day in our house when we lost such a loving friend.
Even two years later we often feel her presence and fondly remember our strange but loving and lovable dog.
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