At the age of 4 months, Dozer was rescued from the streets of Santa Cruz by a friend of Bev's and given to her to shelter and care for him. Her life was never to be the same again.
Dozer was part German Shepherd, part Rottweiler, part Akita, part Chow; pretty much a genuine 100% mutt. He was a handsome fella who held his head back proudly as he strutted about; one could say he was the canine equivalent of "Cool Hand Luke."
It didn't take long and soon Bev was hooked and they became inseparable. Dozer was not just your typical dog, mind you. Aloof by nature, well-mannered and accepting of everything asked of him, he passed his Canine Good Citizen test with flying colors. One could leave treats on a coffee table and he would never take a bite unless given the okay. Bev swears Dozer had the best "leave it" receptors in the world and if given a command, would take his head out of a Kentucky Fried chicken box from an eighth of a mile away. Not without quirks however and perhaps his most bizarre mannerism was realized when the Doz (as I fondly referred to him as) would start barking at the sky when he occasionally caught a glimpse of an airliner on approach or take off, perhaps some 3 or 4 miles away. We just looked in amazement and laughed our heads off.
Out of this new-found love for canines, Bev went on to learn the fine art of animal behavior and with great enthusiasm, it became her life's vocation. Today she is presently a Certified Dog Trainer.
I must admit, seeing this happening to a friend of mine after all these years left me kind of bewildered and with a certain of amount of scoffing. While I readily admit that, okay, the Doz was a cool dog, I still could not understand how a human could equate the love of one to that of another human. So yes, it finally became obvious to me that my friend had literally "gone to the dogs."
Well, it wasn't long before I found myself eating humble pie. Being no small stranger to eating humble pie, that's never been a big deal for me, but after having Dozer in my life and then losing him recently, not so much anymore.
I came into this incredible animal's life when I volunteered to help Bev take care of him and his sister Nandi, a rescued black Lab mix when she had to be away from the house all day attending to one of her canine behavioral training classes.
At first I had doubts about this "doggie" thing, but soon I too got hooked and every Saturday I would eagerly arrive to pick up the dogs and go for walks and hang out with them for a couple of hours. It became a ritual and like doing my laundry; part of my weekly routine.
On those walks, occasionally a stranger would stop us just to say: "Oh aren't they cute!" Or, "What breed are they?" Or, "My, what a handsome dog you have there, mister." I would just beam proudly, just like they were mine.
Our first stop would be at the Fog City Java on Crespi Drive so that the two of them could be fussed over by getting a little love & attention from the patrons who hang out there. Then it was off to either the beach near Pedro Point, lower Frontierland Park, the promenade (Beach Blvd) near the pier or Dozer's favorite place for an off-leash jaunt at Stern Grove. It was a place where his natural hunting instinct made him feel alive and he would bolt after squirrels or just about anything that moved in the bushes or the trees. Nandi just stood close to me most of the time just wagging her tail and not straying very far while we both marveled at her brother's free spirit.
Then one day the unimaginable happened.
About a month and a half ago, Dozer had an episode that scared us all. I was flying back from Texas when I received a text on the plane from Bev telling me that Dozer was in a critical state; water had accumulated around his heart and he became lethargic and she thought we were going to lose him. The vet was able to drain the fluid and although we had to keep our eye on him, we were overjoyed that he appeared to be coming out of it and after 3 weeks it looked like he was back to being his old self. We hoped and prayed the problem was idiopathic.
But it was not.
In the early afternoon of Friday, May 16, Bev, Dozer and Nandi had just finished up a great day at a dog park in San Mateo. Dozer played, smiled a lot and had fun. He jumped into Bev's van for the ride back to Pacifica when he suddenly collapsed, howled and just like that, he was gone. Apparently it was a tumor that suddenly erupted in his heart. Dozer was taken from us.
We couldn't believe it. For the past ten years he brought an incredible amount of joy into my friend's life and more recently, into mine.
Dozer taught this old salt what it meant to be a loyal friend; a friend who would give only unconditional love and trust. There it was; what I had been so curious about all these years was right in front of my nose. Dozer finally made me see and understand how such a bond can be formed between humans and their pets.
I will always be his "Uncle Frankie;" he was my pal who touched my heart in ways I am still trying to understand.
But one thing I do understand is that dogs are truly a man's best friend. Never questioning, never judging and accepting us for who we are; teaching us so much without even having to say a word. They never assign blame and are always quick to forgive, asking very little in return.
In the end, and in the hopes that I can console my friend and pet lovers who have lost a beloved companion, if Dozer could write, I am sure it would go something like this:
DOZER 2003 - 2014
I'M STILL HERE
Please don't mourn for me
I'm still here, though you don't see.
I'm right by your side each night and day
and within your heart I long to stay.
My body is gone but I'll always be near.
I'm everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I'll never depart
as long as you keep me alive in your heart.
I'm the hot salty tears that flow when you weep
and the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
I'm the smile you see on a baby's face.
Just look for me, I am every place!
~ Author unknown