AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I was married many years ago, my wife, Jan, and I had a dog, Rudy, a Boston Terrier, who was the light of our lives. We got him in about 2001 or 2002, so when he died a few weeks ago while having a seizure, he was about 10 years old. When our marriage ended, I still got to visit Rudy whenever I wished. He was a great dog! Please indulge me by reading this story about Rudy that I wrote when he was just a few months old. It’s never been published anywhere, until now. I offer it in honor of Rudy, who was a wonderful companion to Jan, until the end. I was planning to see him when I came home for Christmas from PC service in Africa, but I didn’t make it in time. — Gary Cornelius
“A babe magnet,” is what my 13-year-old, not very politically correct, nephew would call him. Rudy, our new Boston Terrier puppy, draws attention wherever we go.
Walking though our South Eugene neighborhood, especially around busy 29th and Willamette, only the dourest of individuals seem unimpressed by him. Mothers, toddlers, teens, old men, grandmothers, kids on skateboards. All want to stop and admire him, play with him, ask about him, receive one of his frequent and freely-given kisses. Only men between about 25 and 40 seem to pay no attention, as if they think it ain’t cool to be drawn to a puppy. There are exceptions, of course. A biker-type, in leather, riding the Amazon Trail on a bicycle, paid him the ultimate compliment by calling him a “friggin’ bad dude, man!”
Only he didn’t really say “friggin.’” Even the neighborhood panhandler, a fixture in South Eugene for whom every day is a challenge, said, “This makes my day!” when she met Rudy.
If I’d known 25 years ago what I know now, who knows what direction my life might have taken, what Hollywood-bound Portland gal I might have attracted, thanks to a cute puppy. Of course, in one of those ironic twists of fate it’s hard to argue with, if I had met someone 25 years ago, thanks to a Rudy, then I wouldn’t have met my wife in Eugene, and if I hadn’t met and married my wife, I wouldn’t have Rudy!
I suggested, mostly in jest, naming him Yasser Arafat because he terrorizes the cats, but my wife, Jan, wouldn’t hear of it. She chose the name Rudy after the pint-sized character in the movie of the same name, a true story of a young man from the Midwest who fulfilled his life-long dream, against all odds, of playing football for powerhouse Notre Dame.
Jan, who has been known to exhibit obsessive-compulsive traits once she sets her mind to something, had been doing research for months. Two years after our last dog, JD, a wonderful Golden Retriever, died of cancer at the relatively young age of eight, we decided we wanted a smaller dog: one who would travel well, get along with young grandkids, not shed much. She scoured dog-related sites on the Internet, talked to dog owners, bought a dog book the size of a coffee table at Costco, visited the animal shelters. Eventually, we settled on a Boston Terrier. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she arrived home one Friday night after work with a puppy smaller than a Eugene squirrel perched on her shoulder. She said the had tried to page me earlier in the day, after driving to
nearby Brownsville over lunch in response to an ad in the newspaper, but it was one of the rare days I had forgotten my pager. She couldn’t wait.
One Sunday afternoon on a walk I decided to pop into the market for a small purchase, but needed to have someone watch Rudy for five minutes. The three University of Oregon students gathering petition signatures agreed to keep an eye on him. When I returned, they demanded visiting privileges, “Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other weekend.” A grandmotherly woman stopped her car in the middle of Pearl Street to admire him and asked where we got Rudy. Her name was Virginia and she gave me her phone number. Yes, Virginia, there are local Boston Terrier breeders I can connect you with, and I will call you with their phone numbers as soon as I find that scrap of paper with yournumber on it! I walked home from my downtown office one Saturday, about three miles, usually, but Rudy must have walked at least four because he zigzagged so much and went in so many circles.
People who would not otherwise speak to a stranger want to tell you about their pets. Like the old man in the grocery store parking lot who was compelled to tell me about the cat he feeds beer to — “makes her howl like a blues singer,” he said — or the woman who said she has a 13-year-old Boston Terrier and is already thinking about the next one because hers, a wonderful companion, is getting on in years.
Rudy is slightly more cautious now that he’s almost four months old — and has doubled in size from 3-plus pounds to seven — but when he was younger, he was absolutely fearless. He wanted to greet everyone and every thing — every person, dog, cat, leaf, bicycle, rock, tree, squirrel, bird or blade of grass he encountered. On the beach one day near Newport he ran right up to a Great Dane the size of a pony and began nuzzling him. Fortunately, the big guy was friendly, because he could have swallowed Rudy in one gulp.
We start “puppy kindergarten” Tuesday night at a Lane Community College class so we can learn to be better parents. When Jan talked on the phone to the class instructor, Chris, about the problems that led us to sign up for the class, she was convinced we needed some personal attention and training before the class started in two weeks. It wouldn’t wait, she said. Our puppy was manipulating us!
In the language we use at my social service job working with people who are at times “behaviorally challenged,” it seems Jan and I needed a “behavior support plan” to help us learn to better parent our new charge. Our vet says he will settle down by the time he’s about four years old, and will become the sedate, quiet, contented dog we wanted when we settled on a Boston Terrier. We just hope we can keep up for that long.
EPILOG: Rudy never really settled down, and was the energy-infused pup he always was, right to the end! We will always miss him — especially Jan. (I still have Carly, the dog I got to keep from the marriage. She and Rudy were great companions for many years).