Sherman was the best dog ever!
But Sherman was one of my first.
It was the early 1970s. I was in my first marriage. I had recently purchased a pure-bred Siberian Husky which I named Bandit, and since I worked all day, I thought getting her a playmate would be wise. So I perused the paper and found an ad for mixed-breed puppies. And that’s how I got Squeaker. She was the runt of a litter of mixed hound/chihuahuas – a little brown ball of fur.
Bandit didn’t like Squeaker, and Bandit was much bigger. So Squeaker found a new home with our elderly, lonely Uncle, who took her in and loved her. But Squeaker was sneaky and got out of the house one night and apparently found a new friend – a German Shepherd (in those days, people didn’t automatically have pets neutered). Lo and behold, not long after, there was a new litter of pups. Since it was our fault that Uncle had Squeaker to begin with, we agreed to take one of those pups, but this time we figured a male might get along better with Bandit.
And so, I got my Sherman. He and Bandit got along just fine.
A few years later, my then-husband and I divorced, and neither of us could take both dogs. He got Bandit. I got Sherman. Sherman came back to Buffalo, NY with me, and we moved in with my parents.
Such a good boy he was. As I went through the trauma of divorce and relocation, Sherman became my rock. He would lie quietly with his head on my lap as I sobbed my heart out, and then lick the tears off my face.
Sherman and I would take long walks (more or less – at 38 lbs, and totally un-leash-trained, he dragged my sorry ass wherever he wanted to go). There was railroad property behind my house, where I could let him run off-leash. He would take off like a bat out of hell (sorry about the cliché), but he always came back as soon as I jingled his leash. The walk home was always so much more sedate.
I found a new job, and a new place, and Sherman became a stay-at-home-while-mom-works dog. I felt bad about leaving him all day, but my mom and brother lived just a few blocks away and often stopped in to feed and play with him. I don’t think it was a bad life for a dog.
Sherman even had his own phone. When I set up service for my new place, I was reluctant to use my own first name, and I believed that using only a first initial was a sure tip-off that I was a female living alone. So I asked the phone company representative if I could put the listing in the name of another family member. I chose “Sherman” – when asked, I simply stated that Sherman was my son. This caused quite a stir at my workplace, where my new co-workers were dying to find out more about me.
Once I was ready to start dating again, Sherman became my protector. If he didn’t like a date, that date became history. I specifically remember one instance where a date forced his way into the house and then became overly frisky – my Sherman chased that guy right out the front door, and I never saw that gentleman again. Good dog!
Maybe that’s why I chose my present husband. The first time he came over to pick me up for a date, Sherman was all over him, all kissy face and tail wagging. Considering that the guy didn’t have a dog of his own, and never wanted one, the fact that my dog loved him unconditionally right from the start seemed like a good sign. Dogs know people better than people do sometimes. My husband and I have been married for more than 30 years, and every one of our dogs has loved him.
But like all pets, Sherman grew old. And Sherman grew cranky. Sherman was fine with the baby when she was born, but once she started crawling, he became alarmed. We had to keep him separated from the baby – no amount of retraining was working. The end came when I entered the living room and found the baby sitting in her playpen with her fingers through the mesh, trying to pet the furry beast. And Sherman had his teeth bared and was snarling low in his throat.
I’d like to think Sherman’s personality changes came about because he was nearly 14 and had tumors – maybe he just didn’t feel well. But no matter. Babies take precedence over animals, no matter how much that animal is loved.
Sherman was too old to find a new home. We had just been given notice that our landlord wanted his house back, and we would have to go into an apartment that allowed babies but not pets. I knew if I took Sherman to the SPCA, he would be unadoptable and put down, coldly and clinically with no one to hold him.
The ride to the vet nearly killed me. It was the first time I witnessed euthanasia. I held the dog and cried. That dog had been with me through thick and thin for almost 14 years. The vet offered to prescribe a sedative for me once it was over because I was no upset. My hands shook uncontrollably as I signed the check to pay for the vet’s services. (These days, most vets ask for payment in advance if you are euthanizing an animal.)
I swore I would never, ever adopt another animal. My husband said he never wanted another dog. It was just too hard raising kids and animals together, and it was way too stressful when the animal became sick or old.
Yes, we all know that changed eventually. Someday maybe I’ll tell the story of how we wound up with fish, gerbils, a hamster, a guinea pig, and more dogs.
For now, I will lift a glass of wine in honor of my Sherman – probably the best dog I ever had.