The Life And Times of a Sword Swallower

This is the first morning in over 13 years I’ve gotten up and haven’t then heard the sound of little paws coming out to find me.

Weston was my shadow. My boy. He wanted to be where I was, most all the time. Following me downstairs when I went to fold the clothes from the dryer, outside if I went to look at the blooms in the yard or just to hang out on our deck, into the kitchen or the dining room, following me into the living room with hopeful eyes that I would sit in our chair and he could join me, settling himself against one of my legs. That guy even followed me into the bathroom where I was supposed to pet him until I was done and would then say OK which was his signal to move along.

He loved love, more than anything. He loved pets. He was insistent about them. Pawing or nosing your hand to let you know it should be on him, and no where else.

Don’t get me wrong. He was cantankerous. We’ve all been bitten by Weston. K and I more than once. He didn’t like certain things… to be picked up like a normal dog around the middle, to have things taken from him that he’d procured somehow, to have someone reach at him if he was in places he considered his den at the time, or just to try and help him when he didn’t want to be helped. He was independent, to a fault, but that was his way. And he would let you know it.

He was our little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The most loving dog you’d ever meet who wanted nothing more than loves from you and to give kisses right back and the snarky cantankerous boy who would have none of whatever he would have none of.

We loved him so.

Our little man was an amazing thief. He stole things all the time. We realized yesterday, as we picked up after ourselves, that we’d been thoroughly trained by him to not leave a paper towel or Kleenex anywhere he could get it. He would steal it immediately. He loved to rip up and eat those things. We’ve lost many pairs of glasses and Kleenex and post-it notes and paper towels to him over the years.

He even ate things he shouldn’t. Things that were dangerous for him. We were talking last night and laughing, amazed, at all the times he grabbed things and tried to eat them, or just swallowed them in a hurry so no one would try and take whatever it was from him. We called him the sword swallower because when we first brought him home, and he was so very tiny, we’d given him this bone we’d gotten for him. We were leaving him alone in the house for the first time, in his playpen, and we wanted him to have something good while we were gone. We weren’t gone long and when we got back we couldn’t find the bone in the playpen. We couldn’t find it anywhere. What’s more, he had this weird look on his face. Sort of surprised and slightly distressed, though he wasn’t acting distressed. We took him out of the playpen and he ran off into the living room where he jumped up on his chair and ottoman. We walked out of the room, walked back in, and there was that bone, all 6-8 inches of it, harked back up, out of him onto the ottoman. Lordy. We knew we were in trouble with him from then on. And over the years we were proven right. He stole and tried to eat a rib bone, same result with the harking it up. When we were camping once he found a piece of sausage someone had wrapped around a stick and then put hooks on and used to fish. Don’t ask me what that was supposed to catch, but there it was, discarded on the side of the river, and who would find it? Weston. Of course he would. He got a hold of it and then carried it around. We kept him walking so he wouldn’t try to start eating it because we knew the hooks would be disastrous. We got back to the Jeep and took out our bite gloves (yes, we had heavy cowhide work gloves we carried that we called bite gloves for times just like this when we had to get something from him or do something to him we knew he wouldn’t like). K managed to snatch that thing from him. To this day I don’t even know how she did it. And there was that time, road tripping as we do, when we were walking the pups near this gas station (sometimes there just aren’t great spots to take them on the road) and he found a petrified hamburger. It was hard and because he thought we might try to take it from him he tried to swallow it. He started to choke. I thought, right then, Oh God, he’s going to choke to death. I was trying to figure out how to give him the Heimlich maneuver and low and behold he managed to get it down. One time we’d returned from Europe and we had a bag of these really good chocolates inside a zipped up backpack. In fact, they were in a bag inside the backpack, inside a closed closet. He managed to get into the closet (it was a slider), get the backpack out, open the zippered compartment, open the package of chocolate, and eat them all. We were horrified. We called the dog poison hotline and were told we had to get some hydrogen peroxide down him so he would throw up. So there we were in the bathroom, on the tile floor, me holding him and getting the crap scratched out of me for it, and K pouring peroxide down his throat. It worked, he threw most of it up. But man oh man, what an incident.

We had to be hyper vigilant with him. He did what he wanted and sometimes that was dangerous for him. He didn’t care. He was Weston, danger dog.

He was also a smoker. He loved to find cigarette butts on his walks. If he found one, he would eat it. So we had to be vigilant when we walked him, butts, unfortunately, are everywhere. Crazy dog. We would joke that it was time to take Weston our for his smoke break. Because as much as we tried to keep him away from them, we was sneaky and got them anyway.

He was a smart little guy. Too smart. Too cunning. A true mischief maker.

K used to take him to her office once in a while, long ago when she had one. There were like 100 proof machines and next to each one was a garbage can. He loved garbage cans. Or a better description, he loved to knock garbage cans over. He was always looking for whatever treasures he might find there. Her staff would laugh when they came back in and ask her if Weston had been there. They knew he had because every garbage can, every last one, would be tipped over. When we visited anyone, my Mom, K’s parents, we had to make sure we went in first, his advance team, to put all the garbage cans up out of his reach. We had to scan for candy, or wrappers that might be places he could grab them, and move those things up high enough he couldn’t get to them.

Here at home he got into all sorts of mischief. You couldn’t leave your coffee cup sitting next to your chair for even a moment because the second you left the area he was there, drinking your coffee. He was a master thief, lying in wait, watching all the time, waiting for any opportunity. He pulled things off shelves in the kitchen. We had to organize with him in mind, and even when we did he still went for things. His reach, for being small in stature, was amazing. One time we came back into the living room and found he had managed to pull this old package of instant breakfast we had shoved to the back of the top shelf in the cart and forgotten about. He shouldn’t have been able to get that, but somehow, he did. We found him standing over the ripped up package with powder all over his muzzle. We re-arranged our shelves, again, for him after coming up from watching TV to find him in the living room with a bag of sugar he’d managed to somehow pull down off the shelf, drag to the living room, tear open, and enjoy. The most hilarious thing was the time we were downstairs watching TV in the evening and he had disappeared, which was always a bad sign. Suddenly we heard a loud bang. We both ran up the stairs to find he’d gotten a box of cans of green beans off the bottom shelf, drug it into the living room, and torn up most of an end of the box. I’m not sure how he thought he was getting into the cans, but you know, after everything he’d pulled off, I wouldn’t have put it past him. There is an endless list of things he stole and ate, or tried to eat. A classic was the time, when we still lived in Oregon, I’d set an egg salad sandwich on our pool table while I went into the kitchen for a moment, thinking that was a safe place out of reach for him. No. I came back and my sandwich was gone. He’d managed to jump up onto the sectional, get on the back of the sectional, and jump to the pool table to get to the sandwich. He liked to jump into chairs that were left out to get to tables. We felt like he could’ve been a circus performer in another life.

Every night he had the same routine. As we got ready for bed and after they went outside to do their business he would, as we brushed teeth and got some water and changed, go into K’s office and rummage through whatever pants she’d been wearing that day. He pulled them down off of wherever she’d put them and went through her pockets. If there was anything… Kleenex, cough drop, candy wrapper, he would get it.

A standard phrase yelled in our house for the last 13 years has been, “TREAT!”. It was our way of getting him inside if he was barking at a neighbor (he was friendly to them, but wanted them to pet him and if they didn’t, or until they did, he would bark at them) or a squirrel he’d run up a tree. Yelling “TREAT!” was also our way of getting something away from him he shouldn’t have. Again, we were trained, not him. We couldn’t just take anything from him because of his snarkiness so our option was to bribe him into letting whatever it was go. It worked, but really I think it was all just part of his plan. He would steal something he knew we didn’t want him to have, we would offer him a treat to give it up. Pretty smart. But then, he was a very very smart dog. It was a blessing and a curse, and also the reason for his name.

Weston. Our beautiful boy. He was named after his birthplace, Weston, Oregon. It’s in the Blue Mountains, and it’s lovely. As we were driving to pick him up we’d already picked out a name for him. We had a tag and everything. But when we picked him up and he looked at us with those deep brown eyes, eyes that looked into you, that felt like they were a thousand years old, we knew the name we’d picked wasn’t right. We felt like he looked studious, nerdy, deep thinking. K said, he sort of looks like he should be wearing little glasses and a blazer. Kind of like Harry Potter. We laughed, but it was true. So on the drive back the name change process began. I don’t know how it happened, which one of us thought of it, but somehow in that conversation, as we were running over things, where was he born, intellectual people we could name him after, etc. we said the name of the town. We looked at each other and bam, that was it. Weston. Perfect somehow. Perfectly him.

You know, the funny thing about him, and about his snarkiness, is that we always warned groomers and the people at his vet office about his snarkiness. We always said, watch him, don’t try to pick him up around the middle, cradle him to pick him up, don’t try to take anything from him if he gets anything, etc. We did this every time. We didn’t want anyone to get nipped. But he never bit anyone at those places and in fact everyone always told us, when we picked him up, how wonderful he was. How loving. What a great dog he was.

And he was. He was a great dog. He was the best boy. Snarkiness, and stealing, and mischief, and all. Because with all of that came so much love from him. So much joy. He loved to go for walks and play ball and play with his toys and chew on his bully sticks and run on the beach. The beach was his favorite place. When we could let him off his lead he would run like the wind, chase balls, get sticks, dig holes. He ran and ran, he played, he chased birds, then he would trot over periodically to get a pet or two, giving you little gentle kisses to let you know he loved you as much as you loved him. Letting you know he was so grateful to be there with us, in whatever place we were.

He was our boy. Complicated and intense and a pain in the ass and so loving. So loving.

He had our hearts, and still does. He always will. Our beautiful boy. Our sword swallowing mischief maker. Our one of a kind, full of personality, wonderful, beautiful boy.

Sleeping

March 1, 2007 – June 28, 2020

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