Just like her mama, my dog goes by a variety of nicknames. Her given name is Josie and she was named for a song by a fantastically cheesy 70’s band called Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. The song is called Sing Me A Rainbow Josie, and it has wonderfully gender appropriate lines like There’s lots of shade of darkness, Josie, deep inside a man / So sing me a rainbow if you can. I will shamelessly admit that I still love the song and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show in all their shirt-unbuttoned-too-far-tufts-of-chest-hair-showing-paired-with-super-tight-pants-cause-it’s-the-70s-and-dudes-can-wear-WHAT-THEY-WANT glory. My sister Yay (my Irish twin) and I used to have a tape of greatest hits by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show and we would listen to it over and over, crying inconsolably at lines like Ple-ease Mrs. Avery, I just gotta talk to her / I’ll only keep her a while / Please Mrs. Avery, I just wanna tell ‘er goodbye. As eight and nine year olds, the notion of such gripping and desperate love was wholly beyond our capacity for understanding, but his quivering voice was evocative and we felt his sorrow deeply. You might be more acquainted with Dr. Hook by his given name of Shel Silverstein.
Inspiration also came from the Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales, a film fraught with enough rape scenes and gender politics to make me bristle these days, and violate my GWS (before you Google that, I mean “Gender & Women’s Studies”, not “Girls With Slingshots”) sensibilities. Westerns were a pervasive part of my childhood, though, so an honorable mention has to go to the film for implanting the name into my psyche. Throughout my life, I had about a half a dozen fish named Josie, most of which were probably males and all of which died sad fish deaths and are likely floating in various septic tanks or have become one with the earth again or whatever happens to dead fish when you flush them down the toilet. Josie was not the first real pet (fish don’t count, let’s be serious) I got to name, but hers is the first name I chose after I had evolved into a cognitive state that no longer allows for names like “Spot” and “Snuggles”.
Josie is her Christian name, but she mostly goes by Joseph or Joe, primarily to be gender subversive. She is a Beagle and German Shepherd mix, a black and tan with a medium length coat that sheds so consistently that it’s truly amazing that she is not bald. When I decided to adopt a dog from the shelter in October, 2007, the one stipulation I had was that I absolutely did not want a Beagle. A favorite of my dad’s, we had Beagles often when I was little, and my most prominent memory of them is that they are almost impossible to potty-train, and they are maddeningly stubborn. Likely there is a correlation and perhaps even causation with those two characteristics. I remember potty pads on the floor with spots of dog piss directly next to them, a smug looking puppy nearby. Stubborn and ornery. A winning combination in a beast whose obedience you are relying upon to avoid scenarios wherein they dart into traffic or sink their teeth into the neighbor kid’s face. Nevertheless, I ended up with a Beagle. That is a different post, one in which I will likely attempt to dissuade you from vehemently expressing aloud your preference for such things, as such a dogmatic admission spoken into the Universe tends to lead karma to laugh hysterically as it punches you in the face.
Beagly though she may be, Joseph is without question the love of my life.
Yes, that is broccoli, the stems of which fall into the category OMG I LOVE THAT WITH ALL OF MY ALMOST-SIXTY POUNDS THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WORLD AS MARVELOUS AS THIS OMNOMNOMNOMNOM. She feels that way about a lot of things in life, and I love that about her.
Jos is a bit of a paradox in that she is obedient and moderately well trained but loses her mind and all of her training in the face of certain unexpected turns of events, such as the sudden movements of a squirrel in her peripheral vision. She is unmatched in her obedience and attentiveness with some things, and barely evolved beyond a slobbering puppy in other situations. Think of her German Shepherd traits as the ego, while the Beagle traits are the Id. They are in constant turmoil, struggling to be dominant, and as such she vacillates between possessing the poise and tractability of a graceful police dog and being utterly cartoonish, ears flopping, baying after some rabbit that only she can smell. She doesn’t actually bay like a beagle. She barks like a Shepherd. Lucky for her, because otherwise I probably would’ve given her back to the shelter.
According to my sister Nep, Sweet Smoky Joe is a lemon. She has experienced a multitude of health issues, but she’s just so sweet that you can’t feel anything but sympathy as you slather cream onto her red, itchy, irritated vulva.
In December 2010, Joseph ruptured a disc in her spine which required spinal surgery to repair. It was a terrifying time, and the thought of losing her was more than I could handle. So I did what any true lover of animals would do and I nearly bankrupted myself and my boyfriend to ensure she got the care she needed. Although I live near the University of Illinois and they treated her for part of the ordeal, she ultimately had surgery at Purdue University. She is a Boilermaker fan for life.
In July of this year, Baby Joe started showing signs again of trouble with her back, the result of apparent calcification on a couple of her vertebrae. Because she was ambulatory, the vet told me that we could attempt to treat the condition medically. At the time of this writing she is still on crate rest. In a shiny and unrealistic world, this means she rests peacefully in her crate until her body heals itself and we can go back to a semi-normal life. In our actual world what this means is that she is frustrated most of the time, hates being in the crate, whines in the middle of the night until I cave and let her sleep on my bed with me. I use the term “bed” loosely. It is a mattress on the floor and mostly has been since she had surgery. Behaving in small ways like a meth addict or a broke college student is fine in your adult life if you do it for someone or something you care about.
We have been through so much, and not infrequently over the nearly six years we’ve spent together, it is caring for this dog that has kept me from lying in bed indefinitely.