Elvis CamoElvis, 3/1/1999 - 7/27/2011

The month of July, 2011 was a difficult one: all of the problems of old age seemed to catch up with Elvis at once. When it became clear that nothing was going to get better for Elvis, I decided that at least I could see that nothing got any worse. I am fond of saying, "All of their lives, we open doors for them: we cannot flinch from opening the last one . . ." But it's sometimes difficult to live up to that standard. The scene at the vet's was peaceful; Elvis seemed ready to go and he went very quickly, and I came away with the impression that I had waited too long to open this particular door for him.

For the first time in 10 years, tonight I will sleep absolutely alone in my own home. It will take weeks to stop listening for him in the next room, preparing for his greeting when I come in the door, and making certain there's food and water for him before I leave the house in the morning. We had been together since August of 2002.


I want to say up front that I am not responsible for the name. The family member who loved him best, a young girl, chose the name shortly after he was born ". . . because the puppy had sexy eyes."

Although I would not have chosen the name, I don't object to it, and there were enough changes in Elvis' life already. He had spent his entire three years as an outdoor country dog with three kids and another dog (his mother) for company; when he moved in with me he became a one-man house dog in the city. Plus they neutered him before they gave him to me. I figured he should at least get to keep his name.

Elvis has turned out not to be the basic happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever I was expecting. For one thing, he's not full Golden Retriever: his mother was purebred, and his father was half-Golden and half something else, possibly Collie, and that combination might make him more standoffish than I expected. Aside from that, he's timid around people he doesn't know -- unless they happen to own dogs -- and his general spookiness makes me think he was abused. He's not the kind of dog I'd take camping, or hiking, or out in a crowd of people. He wouldn't hurt anybody, but it would be way too hard on him.

Still, he's a sweet and gentle spirit, funny and playful in a low-key way, he's good with people once he gets to know them, and the time or two I have felt that I'm in danger, he has been a surprisingly fierce protector. I love him dearly, and I'm glad he's my dog.

SidekickSidekick, June 2, 1998-August 9, 2010

Yes, the little guy is gone: after a very quick and nasty decline that looked like liver- or kidney failure to me (and to the vet), I opened that last door for him on the morning of August 9, 2010. We had a bit more than five years together.

I'm sure I did the right thing, but it's always sad to euthanize a pet. It has been three months now, and occasionally I think I see him as Elvis and I are walking, or believe I hear him in the apartment. In my mind's eye I see him running across a grassy field, nose to the ground as always, and I'm sure that when he takes a break from chasing whatever terriers chase in heaven, he's badgering God to throw tennis balls for him.

I have never had a dog that took so much time and energy. Here's my original text. I'll come back as time permits and tell the entire story of me and Sidekick.

I grew up with sheep dogs and retrievers. I knew nothing about terriers until this little guy adopted me and allowed me to take him home.

The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America has a great website which includes an interactive test to help prospective owners understand what they're getting into, and I recommend it highly. However, I didn't see the test until after I brought the dog home.

After three years, this whiskery little guy and I have grown accustomed to each other. I love him dearly, and according to his lights he knows whose dog he is, and is devoted to me. He and Elvis make an unlikely pair, but they like each other, as well.

I really didn't know if I was going to keep the snarly little bastard or not. In my 60 years I have been bitten by dogs exactly six times, and four of them were by Sidekick.

I finally dealt with the issue by taking possession of his food dish, and only allowing him to eat out of my hands. While I was feeding him, I did a bunch of alpha things: playing with his paws, rubbing his tummy, withdrawing the food if he snarled or snapped for it . . . and it didn't take him long to get the message. We also did a couple of alpha-throw stare-downs, when he got particularly nasty. I also learned that if I left him a little bit hungry in the morning, he'd work for treats all day. Terriers understand that kind of transaction.

It didn't take him long to learn to work me for treats.

Each day I found a new supply of tolerance -- or stubbornness, I can't say which. I didn't make the call, and I learned to deal with Sidekick's terrier-ness, and gradually a bond was formed in both directions.

I'll come back here as time permits to post some pictures, and tell more of the story.




Copyright © 2008, Robin P. Will,, Rev. October 2008,