First, a little dog history.
I always thought I was a cat person. Growing up we had both dogs and cats, and I loved our long-time English pointer, Penny. But, Penny and I had a much more distant relationship than I had with the cats. Penny liked to be petted OK, but she was an outdoor dog, and she spent a lot of time making the rounds on our farm or if there was a storm, heading over to my brother’s farm. We don’t know why. She came around for meals and was back at it. I’m not sure what it was, but she seemed to have her own quiet agenda, trotting around the place.
Fast forward to when our old house cat passed away when my boys were still at home. Ben, in fact, was only halfway grown. We decided if they were to ever have The Dog Experience, the time was right.
Enter the sweetest little dog known to man, our first Boston Terrier, Mookie. She was fun and so involved with whatever we were doing around the house. She was great at catching things in midair and quickly catching on to any silly new game we made up. We loved her for a dozen years until she was old and ill and had a terrible cough that wouldn’t go away.
Her death in summer 2014 left an audible void. I say audible because for a while it seemed I could hear her toenails clicking through the house at her familiar trot. Only she had become too old to trot as in her younger years. Only she was gone. The sound was only in my mind.
At the time of Mookie’s passing (let’s not dwell on the details, but we had to have her put down), I had quietly written eight chapters of That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. It wasn’t until then that I told Brian I was even writing a sequel. I had to know that I had a new story to tell and be a way into it, until there was no turning back, before I made the sequel official. And then, I went to Israel for 10 days, and back home, dug back into the novel, forever changed by my Holy Land experience.
But we were still dog-less. And before long, Christmas was coming, and Brian kept giving me mixed messages. He searched the Internet for Boston puppies in central Indiana, tempting me with his findings, all the while telling me that the logical thing to do would be wait to get a puppy until spring when the weather was better for potty-training. Of course he was right.
One day he reported there were puppies ready at Greenwood. Did I want to go, you know, to just look?
I think you know what happened next. I stuck a wad of cash in my purse and off we went to just look.
And logic went out the window. We came home with a puppy. Just before Christmas. My gift.
Sam said we had to call her Reggie, so named for the retiring Indianapolis Colt Reggie Wayne, a particular favorite of my boys.
As the winter unfolded, and potty training was awful, as Brian predicted it would be, I spent most of my free time at home doing two things: caring for the new puppy and writing the book, which was then, by the way, created under the working title, Sweet Spot.
Reggie consumed so much of my time that I wrote her into the book. If you haven’t read my novel but want to, no spoilers. Let’s just say that her role became more than comic relief (the bathtub scene and pin cushion incident are based on real situations with the real Reggie). Reggie became a major player in how my story unfolded. You might also notice that she doesn’t show up in the book until halfway through. And the real Reggie didn’t show up in our lives until I was halfway finished writing the book.
I wanted to name her Patriot in the novel. I thought the name would be a nice touch with the Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, the Boston Terrier breed and all, but Sam said NO WAY! If you know anything at all about the National Football League, you’ll probably know that the New England Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts’ arch enemies.
So, the fictional Reggie was born on paper, inspired for sure, by the real one which this very moment is stretched out next to me in my favorite writing chair.
Reggie is a fun dog. She is sweet, intuitive, smart, strong-willed, playful and a pistol.
And, she’s a cover girl! She doesn’t much care about that, though.
When a prospective pet owner goes to look at six-week-old puppies in the owner's favorite breed, declares before leaving the house, “We’re just going to look,” but stops at the bank on the way, what are the odds that the person will return home without a dog?
Reggie came home with us about a year ago.
What were we thinking? Oh, she was plenty cute, and sweet, and cuddly. But potty training in December? We were nuts. It was a rough December, and January, and February.
She was tiny and it was cold. So of course she didn’t want to take her business outside.
In dismay, after hearing and reading a variety of ideas, I told the vet about our troubles. He said he knew exactly what to do to get her housebroken. It required a trip to the crafts store and a buck.
The vet said to buy a couple of inexpensive crafters’ bells. Hang them on a string. Tie the string to the door with the bells at doggie eye-level. Whenever we take the dog outside to potty, touch her paws to the bells so she hears them jingle. She’ll come to associate the noise with the result we were after. I thought this sounded like an exercise for gifted dogs, and didn’t figure that Reggie qualified. But it was worth a dollar.
But then, gradually … could it be?
The first few times I heard the faint jingle coming from the back door, it was so soft and brief that I wondered if wishful thinking was playing tricks on me. The trouble at first was that she wouldn’t wait for us to get there – she would go on the laminate floor after she rang!
Brian didn’t believe that our dog was a ringer. But the jingle got louder, and Reggie even started waiting for us to get there after moving the bells with her nose (not her paws, as was the original plan).
Now a year old, Reggie’s not foolproof and we don’t let her have run of the house when we’re gone, but rather place her in her crate. She’s also over getting me up at night to potty. Guess that comes with age -- hers and mine. I’m now more likely to awaken her from my nighttime bathroom trips.
But she does pretty well. She rings that bell when she has to go. And now, we can answer this question with confidence: For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for wee.