Our mighty little schnauzer Sassy, who died last year at almost 17 years of age, was the smartest dog we ever had. While most other dogs are known for their exceptional fluffiness, cuddly personas or barking sonatas, Sassy’s deep intellect was her most defining characteristic.
She hated to be patronized, growling with indignation anytime I said “You’re so pretty!” in the cutesy voice most pets love. However, when I cottoned on and starting spouting phrases like “You’re a lovely dog” in a tone akin to one you might use to compliment a renowned intellectual, she would accept it with a slight twitch of the nose. Sure, it was unusual behavior for a dog, but that witty little creature was the best of the best and did I mention ridiculously smart?
She used to chew methodically around the thick peanut butter coating we hid her monthly heartworm pill in, which she would leave on the kitchen floor, looking up at us bumbling humans with a “nice try” expression. Even a double coating of bread and peanut butter resulted in a rejected pill.
But Sassy’s most remarkable moment came three years ago, when my family and I visited my brother, who was living in Poland, Maine at the time. The back of his front door was adorned with a full-length mirror. One day when we were all sitting in the living room, most likely recovering from a typical Fay outing, Sassy took notice of her reflection in the mirror. Instead of barking or tilting her head in utter confusion like most dogs would, she looked herself in the eye with a soft, almost vulnerable expression on her face. It was as if she was looking back on her remarkable life while trying to discern what was to come. She stood there for a long time, and longer still, because as I dip my toes into 2020, my mind keeps returning to that beautiful memory.
A dog behaviorist could probably debunk my long-winded lament on my though-provoking pup with a more reasonable explanation, but I know in my heart that Sassy was hyper-intelligent, self-aware and deeply loved. Not to mention she lived one adventurous life, traversing the globe, fending off burglars, and teaching me, her silly human, the dangers of patronizing your elders.
So, as I reflect on my sublime 2019 with high hopes for 2020, I follow the unspoken advice of my cotton-pawed Yoda:
Reflect. Respect. Growl at people who patronize you.
And when you do take the time to reflect, remember that it doesn’t matter as much whether you are looking forward, backwards, sideways, up, or down; the most important thing is that you’re looking, noticing, reveling in the resplendence of life.
Respect your schnauzers,
PS: The cover photo of this post was taken by the talented Jacqui Fay. Keep the beautiful photos coming, Mum!!