I often credit my Scottish Terrier, Bernie, with seeing me through my recovery from my 2005 bypass surgery. When I returned home after a grueling 30 days in the hospital, my family presented be with a 10-week-old Scottie puppy, telling me I had to feed, exercise and groom the little stubborn beast. It was an obvious ruse to get me on my feet and give me a reason to greet each day. It turned out that my wife was not the only clever one in the family.
Bernie spent the next couple of months seeing that I was up and about and returning to my routine. However, by the time he was 6 months old he had noticed that my then 17-year-old daughter, Windy, needed a bit of attention as well. He saw, long before my wife and I, that Windy’s life had been upended at the same time as mine. Once Bernie was certain I could manage on my own, he turned his focus on Windy. He followed her everywhere about the house, escorted her to the door whenever she left, and was the first to greet her when she returned. His newfound purpose in life was somewhat short-lived as Windy would depart for college four months later.
Bernie, quickly associated family holidays with Windy’s return to the house. He adopted one of his most endearing traits, greeting every returning member of the household with a gift. He grabs something he thinks the returning family member will find comforting. It may be a favorite shoe, a pillow off the sofa or a stuffed animal off of Windy’s bed. Whatever the gift, Bernie will dance about the room forcing the intended recipient to chase him down to collect his reward. Should someone other than the intended try to retrieve the gift, Bernie will, in his most fierce Scottie tone, let them know that the gift is not intended for them.
I’m not sure how Bernie knows when it’s a family occasion, but I suspect it’s all the hurly burly that accompanies these dates around the Wheeler household. My wife, Brenda, puts out decorations for all the different holidays, and there are, of course, special meals that accompany every holiday. Unfortunately, Windy was not able to come home for this past Thanksgiving, and Bernie was quite depressed about her absence. Happily, she is home, with her new husband, for Christmas, and Bernie is quite delighted that she is. He met her at the door with a special Christmas pillow off the sofa, one that Windy had always favored. Bernie was quite protective of his greeting, refusing the other dogs access to the foyer.
While Bernie approves of my new son-in-law (I don’t think Windy would have married him had Bernie not), Bernie did not give up his place next to Windy on the sofa. Tom was relegated to the opposite end. When Windy joined me in the kitchen to help with our preparations for our ambitious Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” Bernie monitored her every step. As we finally settled down for a glass of wine and some family time, Bernie took up his place with Windy, content that everything was right in his world. What I find extraordinary is that Bernie has come to appreciate the fleeting moments we have with our loved ones more than have the humans in the household. While we spend way too much time bemoaning how little time we have with each other now, Bernie seems to appreciate every second he does have. Once again I find that I have something to learn from Bernie. And that’s today’s Back Story.