Down Home: Seeing eye-to-eye with Topanga

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Topanga and I have been experiencing a ton of together time lately.

I started to say we have been enjoying a ton of together time, but that wouldn’t be correct. Not that we don’t like to be together, but life in general hasn’t been all that enjoyable for her lately.

Topanga is my almost-9-year-old dog. When people ask what kind of dog she is, I usually explain she’s a breeder’s husband’s mistake.

Her breeder raises shih tzus and cavalier King Charles spaniels. One day, the breeder took a brief trip and left her husband in charge. He thought letting the dogs out to play was a good idea. 

I’m not sure what the breeder said when she got home, but I’m guessing if you wanted to post it on a Baptist news website, you’d probably need to translate it into “dog language.” Anyway, about 63 days later, Topanga and her litter of mixed-breed siblings tumbled into the world.

How we met Topanga

By then, my wife, Joanna, and I had completed a year of grieving for our previous dog, Betsy, who died at age 14 a week before our older daughter, Lindsay, got married. (OK, correction: I spent a year grieving. Jo says I’m the dog person in the family, and she’s right.)

When Jo and I visited the kennel, the breeder showed us two black-and-white puppies, and she held a brindled pup in her arms. “This one,” she said, looking down, “thinks she’s a person.”

I didn’t really understand what she meant until we took Topanga home. If Jo and I sat together on the couch, Topanga would crawl up behind us and stick her head in-between ours. If we’re in the kitchen talking as we prepare dinner, she wants me to pick her up so she’s on our level. In the evenings, if I’m working or reading or watching TV, she’s usually stretched out along my right thigh. On the weekends, if I get in the car, she thinks she should go along for the ride, and she often does.

But this past week, Topanga even went to work with me. We celebrated an impromptu “bring-your-dog-to-work week.”

It all started with an eye infection

It all started with an eye infection. Over the previous weekend, we noticed Topanga hardly opened her right eye. Since I’d given her a bath, I worried she had soap in her eye.

But a trip to the veterinarian confirmed worse: She developed an infection on the lower lid of her right eye. The vet gave me three kinds of medicine and told me to treat her every two hours.

You’re probably not surprised to learn 10.2 pounds of fur and tail can put up quite a fight when you’re trying to drop medicine into her eye. After helping me with the drops the first day, Jo said: “I can’t do that on my own. You’ve got to take her to work with you.”

So, that explains why she’s curled up under my desk, sleeping as I type this column. Except for the eyedrops, she thinks she’s traded up in the world: She takes long car rides in the morning and afternoon. She goes for extra mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon walks. My colleagues pet her. And she sits in my lap pretty much whenever she wants.

She’s getting older

This eye infection has been Topanga’s first health issue in almost nine years. We’re blessed. But it has reminded me she’s already four years older than I in “dog years,” and she’ll be really old in a couple of calendar years or so. 

But in the meantime, I’ll thank God for every wrestling match after work, every game of fetch, every sniffing walk through the neighborhood at night. And, of course, every ride to the cleaners or the hardware store, window rolled down, ears flapping in the breeze.


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