Life is mysterious and unexpected and sometimes it gives you wonderful things that you probably don't deserve. In my life, one of my wonderful things was my dog Brownie. Sainted would be the word that I would use to describe this mild mannered, tolerant, patient and sweet, breed-confused pup. The gumbo of dogs, she was a here-to-fore unheard of genetic combination of German Shepherd, Basset Hound and Labrador Retriever. The physics of that union do not compute. But that whacked out alchemy yielded one amazing canine.
She came to us 11 years ago, right after Hurricane Katrina. Our intent was to adopt a Katrina dog, so we started combing the online adoption services for a rescue. Though we could not find a suitable Katrina adoption, what we did find was a discarded lab puppy from Tennessee. Brownie came from an area in Tennessee where purity of breed in your hunting dog mattered and if a wandering mutt got in your yard and knocked up your prized bitch, it was likely that the results of that one nighter would be left off at the night deposit of a local kill shelter, or worse.
Such was the fate of Brownie, or "Vanessa" as she had been named by the rescuers that got her out of the shelter and on to the adoption circuit. By the time she shuttled up to NY in the back of an 18 wheeler stacked from floor to ceiling with cages and met us at the pickup point (a Target parking lot on an off ramp of the NY Thruway), she was 4 months old, covered in fleas and easily the most adorable thing I had ever seen.
There's no easy way to describe the way Brownie looked. It was like someone had randomly screwed on parts, like a Mr. Potato Head assembled in the dark. She had the soulful face of a lab, complete with expressive eyes, triangle shaped, flapped over ears and a black rubber ball of a nose. From there...it got weird. Her body was contoured like a Shepherd's but elongated like a Basset's and with a medium length but plush and velvety coat. At the rear end, she had these long, blonde tufts of undercoat that shot out from behind her like flames from a rocket, giving way to a long, fluffy, flared tail. All of that sat on top of stubby, stout, Basset Hound legs. In short, she was a freak, but the cutest freak.
And so she came to live with us, where she proved that she had a temperament of gold. How else could you explain her ability to tolerate a curmudgeonly cat, a couple of kids, an endless revolving door of friends and family and eventually, a neurotic and needy Great Dane/Hound mix named Buzz. To say that she tolerated us is not a fair assessment at all. She loved this ridiculous, rag-tag mix of species beyond what we probably deserved and in return, we loved her back. And though it is cliche to say, it is so very true to say to know her was to love her.
So, sometimes life gives you wonderful things that you probably don't deserve and sometimes it gives you a festering shit-pile that you also don't deserve. Life gave Brownie cancer and she most certainly did not deserve that. The best that we can hope for is that the 11 years that we gave her since she came up on that doggie transport from Tennessee were as precious to her as they were to us and that the crazy mixed up life we brought her into gave her the same joy we got as we watched her crazy, mixed up body jump in the pool, run up the hill in the back yard and sleep on the couch like it was her job.
All hail the queen...