Category Archives: Arco


Written through more tears and smiles than can be explained. . .

Theriomorph tagged me with a meme that you’ll see is particularly close to my heart. 

An interesting animal I had:
It took nearly thirty years for me to realize I can never “have” an animal.  I don’t buy them; I adopt and rescue them.  I don’t have pets; I share my home with family.  Just as I can never own a moment of time, I can never own an animal.

If memory serves, each and every creature with whom I’ve shared a bit of life has brought with them fantastical spirits which could be described as nothing less than interesting.  Nary a one of them could be called ordinary or mundane.  To say their souls blessed me would be a profound understatement.

I’ve journeyed with the likes of seahorses, ducks, a tarantula, shrimp, a snake, and even a baby squirrel I rescued many moons ago.  And that doesn’t cover all the dogs and cats and fish and rabbits, or even the cows and horses and pigs and fowl of many feathers.

And yet there still remain two names most vividly seared into my memory.

Arco the Doberman.  She brought such joy to our lives that it scarcely does justice to say she was interesting.  Nevertheless, she was just that.

Dad had a rule that she had to keep two paws on the floor when it came to being on the furniture (keep in mind she was a large dog).  Seeing that Arco knew she was as much a part of the family as anyone else, she bent the rule until it nearly broke—but not quite.  She’d back onto a piece of furniture until only her front paws dangled to the ground.  She would essentially be “on the couch” yet equally would be in compliance with Dad’s rule.  Her view obviously was such that, being a person, she could sit on the furniture like everyone else.  She simply let her feet touch the floor like the rest of us did.  Problem solved.

No one dared mess with us kids with her around.  The whole reason for adopting her stemmed from a simple fact with female Doberman pinschers: Unless she has puppies, she will adopt human children as her own puppies as she grows, and this creates in her an innate need to protect them at all costs.  She came to live with us when we were but young’uns.  It didn’t take long for her to realize we were her pups, her kids, and she, as our mother, needed to see to our protection.  I can remember her backing one of my uncles against the front door, her mouth firmly planted on his crotch, simply because he took her by surprise and didn’t get our blessing before storming into the living room.  And at another moment, she guarded another uncle who sat on the couch without moving for fear of his own life.  Until we said it was okay, she intended to put herself between us and anyone who might be a threat.

Yet when dealing with us no gentler soul could be found.  As children, we molested that poor dog as human offspring are wont to do, yet she put up with our antics without a single complaint.  After all, we were her children.  But look at us wrong and she’d be on top of you in a heartbeat.  Even my father learned that disciplining us sometimes meant putting her outside first lest he be the target of her wrath.  A raised voice, a pointed finger, or even a sudden move could result in immediate attack.  She was truly the protective mother no one dared challenge.

Then there’s Henry.  I doubt there’s much I can say about him that I haven’t already said, perhaps even several times.  And still I’ll try.

He was my friend, my brother, my confidant, my distant family and intimate stranger, my beloved, my teacher and student, my anesthesia and alarm, my world—nay, my universe, and he was the soil for my roots, the guide I followed in darkness, the image I saw when all else became invisible.  He was my companion.

Henry lived for almost 22 human years (104 feline years).  As I’ve said time and again, Mom and I always thought he’d outlive the entire family.  He certainly tried.  As his body succumbed to age, I pampered him through his frailty and ensured our relationship didn’t suffer.  I picked him up so gently that one might think him a porcelain statue, one so carefully held in my arms as to be padded from even the weakest zephyr.  I provided ad hoc stairs to help him get up and down from the bed; he would sleep nowhere but with me, and I needed him there as much as I needed each breath, so how could I respond otherwise to arthritic bones and aged muscles too stiff and weak to leap up but a short distance?  In those final years I treated him like a dry leaf fallen from an autumn tree.

Through most years together and some apart, he remained my Henry:

For reasons I couldn’t understand, Henry always had been my cat.  He found comfort in my lap when no other was acceptable or welcoming.  Sitting on the floor in front of the back door at my parents’ old house, we would dance albeit with more joy in me than him, and we would embrace each other afterward in celebration of his survival and my entertainment, though there was no cruelty involved and he tolerated it only because of that fact.  I was the only one who stayed up with him all night when he became so ill that he wandered about the house in delirium, wailing in tones horrific and rending of the heart, first in the bathroom by the toilet and eventually in the hall with his head stuck partway through the closet door which leaned uncomfortably against his neck.  He slept with me when all others were denied.  If I was sick or distraught, he knew it and would respond accordingly.  Comrade spirits in life, we two had an understanding, the crux of intimacy between human and cat, that place wherein the master predator gives itself completely to the companionship and love of another and learns to rely trustingly.

No one has ever taught me as much as Henry taught me.  From the value of quality versus quantity to the deepest meaning of love, he remains my life’s greatest educator.  Never before him had I learned to cradle a life so gently in my arms.  Never before him had I learned to appreciate the differences between value and extent.  Never before him had I learned to see well beyond me to the greater needs of others.  He taught me about the true power of denial.  He taught me the meaning of pain and truth:

I sobbed, leaning lower and stroking his black fur and mumbling to him.  “It’s OK, Henry,” I said.  “You’re OK.  We’re going to make it better.  We’re going to take away the pain.”  I hated myself for saying it.  I felt deceptive, a liar telling his child that the pain is how we grow when what is necessary is an understanding that the pain means we are hurt, that our body in one of its many forms is damaged, that we need healing that words rarely provide.  I despised myself immensely for such cheap contributions to his final moments.

In those final moments of his life, he taught me so much more. . .

Might I somehow metaphysically consume him and take all that he is into my own self?  Can I bestow upon him more living through my own essence and life, finding in that act an ability to extend my parental care beyond mortality?

All thought was gone from me; only my heart acted.  Despite thinking it impossible, I leaned even closer to Henry and embraced his body next to mine as the doctor tenderly inserted the needle, slowly but deliberately injected its contents, and removed it in a motion swift and targeted so that very little notice of it might present.  He stroked Henry lovingly one last time, then again touched my arm ever so briefly before turning and leaving the room.

I wept.  Oh, how I wept.  I listened to his breathing and held him close to me.  I continued talking to him through my own tears, assuring and reassuring him that he would be OK, that the pain was soon to be gone, that no more suffering would befall him, and that he need not worry about me anymore, just himself.  The life drained out of him with slowing breath and with it, my soul poured forth in tears.  He who had been so near to me took his last intake of air and laid it upon my face with the whisper of his being.  Oh, how I wept then.  My tears fell upon his still fur.  My own wailings transformed into unmanageable gasps of air.  Measured only in a few brief minutes, the decades of his life vanished on that counter as he lay wrapped in my arms and held close to me, and with the going of his light so too left a part of my soul forever lost to me, that part of my own living measured in doses of Henry.

. . .including one of the most important questions in life:

And now I wonder.  Was it better for him to be in an alien place, frightened and stressed in his already weakened and ailing state, the cold of stainless steel, tile floor, hard counter, fluorescent lighting, and needle surrounding him on all sides and pressing in on him, yet cloaked in totality by three people who loved him dearly, there in the not-home and not-comfortable to take his final breath?  Or would it have been better for him to face his death in the comfort of his home where he knew himself to be safe, in that place wherein he could be Henry, embraced by those familiar walls and ceiling and floor that had been his home for so many years, undoubtedly suffering as his body failed uncontrollably, yet in that section of the cosmos wherein he was the all of himself, where he knew he was safe and loved?  I do not know the answer to that question.  And it vexes me.

And he taught me this:

May I never — never — be without this level of compassion for my children: The Kids.  May I never be without this level of compassion for my family and friends.  May I never lose the ability to suffer the loss of a pet without embracing the strength to do it again and again and again.  May I never exist without the will and power of mind to care for the least of these, whether they be human or otherwise.  May I always understand the joy of loss and the sorrow of love.

An interesting animal I ate:
Although I’ve given up eating meat, I spent a great deal of my life consuming the flesh of animals with utter abandon (shame on me!).

Shark jumps to mind as possibly the most unusual kind of animal I’ve eaten (and how barbaric that sounds. . .).  Well, shark and opossum.

I found the shark meal to be entirely untempting, if not inedible.  Tough like rubber and almost flavorless, I suspect my experience had more to do with the chef and the recipe than with the animal itself.  Then again, maybe not.  This was in Nuuk, Greenland.

As for the ‘possum dish, I can only say Louisiana folk can certainly cook up a tempting bit of marsupial.  I find it rather distasteful looking back on it; at the time, however, I struggled with gluttony while serving myself bowl after bowl of spicy, tongue-tingling ‘possum gumbo.

Then again, I’ve also filled my tummy with the likes of dishes made from crickets, ants, and grubs.  Interesting?  You bet!

An interesting animal in the museum:
‘Museum’ is defined as a place where important things are preserved.  I can’t think of any animal in a museum that I don’t find interesting.  Whether it be a touch of history shielded from us by time, or a touch of history taken from us by human ignorance, not a single creature thus preserved can be described as anything less than magnificent.  From mammoths robbed by natural extinction to passenger pigeons stolen by man’s ignorant savagery, a walk through any museum unveils creatures worthy of our reminiscent sorrow and heartfelt respect.

But there is one group of animals that has always fascinated me beyond words: dinosaurs.  Undoubtedly my favorite creatures ever to roam the planet, these giant reptiles have enthralled me since I was but a boy.  There are three in particular which seed my imagination and inspire wonder: Spinosaurus aegypticus, Tyrannosaurus rex, and my all-time favorite Triceratops.  How I marvel at these giants each time I set me eyes upon their fossils.  Masters of the world were they, and long before mammals began their evolutionary journey toward supremacy.

Long have our dreams and nightmares been fueled by the likes of these behemoths.  Dragons undoubtedly took shape in the minds of humanity in response to our early ancestors stumbling upon dinosaur fossils and footprints.  We expend great effort to entertain ourselves with direct and indirect references to these giants from history.  To say I am fascinated by them would be to diminish their impact on me.

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal:
Doesn’t that sound illegal?  Anyway. . .

I once told Jenny this story.  Now I’ll share it here.

I often drive through the lake park on my way home from work.  I live on its edge and can more easily reach my home if I do so, but the reasons are more complex and simple than that.  After a long day focused on surviving the rat race, there exists a stunning bit of relaxation from which I imbibe just before reaching my garage: to make my way slowly along the lake’s edge, to drive carefully through a wildlife habitat that lies in the middle of a large metropolitan area.  The moment I turn into the park, I am transported away from the city and to a measure of rurality and nature difficult to find in these parts.

So it was with glee that I made my way to the lake one hot summer afternoon.  Cruising along at barely more than crawl, I breathed in with my eyes and ears the lush surroundings.  Then I spotted it.

A large painted turtle was slowly making its way across the tiny road.  Vivid yellows and reds glistened against a dark green background as sunlight danced upon skin and shell.  Its legs methodically moved back and forth carrying it across warm concrete.

A few bicycles swerved around it at the last minute.  Nevertheless, I could see a car moving toward us from the opposite direction.  The turtle was in its path.

I swerved my car to the side of the road and stopped beside the reptile.  In that position, I blocked all of one lane and half of the other.  Any vehicle moving by me would have to drive partially in the grass to avoid hitting me.

To my chagrin, I noticed a police car moving into position behind me.  Seeing that I was blocking oncoming traffic and forcing it to drive on the wrong side of the road, not to mention blocking most of the path, I suspected I would have some explaining to do.

Without turning on his lights or siren, the officer pulled in behind me.  This put him in a position to look along the driver’s side of my car.  As he glanced at me hanging out the window, his gaze followed my own until his eyes rested on this large, wonderfully decorated creature making its way toward the grass.

I looked carefully at the policeman with one question on my mind: What’s he going to do now?

Then a smile crossed his face, a beaming grin from ear to ear, and he waved and nodded to me.  He never got out of his car.  Instead, he turned his lights on and sat quietly with me as we ensured the safety of this one animal.

As soon as the turtle had moved a few feet off the road and into the tall grass, the police lights turned off, the officer again waved to me, and we both pulled back over to the correct side of the road before going our separate ways.

An interesting animal in its natural habitat:
All of them.

Dare I speak to you of the red fox climbing the hill while Drew and I walked around the lake, his form frozen for an instant as he sized us up, as he carefully weighed his options, and upon realizing we posed no threat as we stood captivated by him, as he finally turned and walked casually down the hill and into the dense forest?

Dare I speak to you of standing abreast marshlands in Florida feasting upon the sight of a massive alligator weaving its way amongst reeds and grasses, occasionally glancing at me, and once meeting my stare—at which point I lost myself in the eyes of a dragon?

Dare I speak to you of a sizable shark swimming near me as I bobbed up and down in the Gulf of Mexico?

Dare I speak to you of the hummingbird flying so near as to brush my cheek with the wind from its wings, a darting creature both vocal and magical?

Dare I speak to you of a million beasts in a million places, each of them the most serene image of beauty no matter the species, and all because I saw them where they were meant to be, in and of nature, members of a global habitat we humans fail to respect?

I can think of no more interesting animal in its natural habitat than the one we leave alone, that we let survive, that we don’t hunt or push to death by encroaching blindly on its territory.

And then there was Henry

Henry Higgins Johnson Lanier Jaster Hogle.  That was his full name, although we only called him Henry for expediency’s sake.  We simply appended to his formal name the surname of every person with whom he spent a part of his life while on the journey to our home.

Born in July 1977, Henry was the cat’s cat.  He was in charge.  He feared no animal.  He lived his life fully and excitedly.  He treated people with disdain except members of the family, and even in that regard I was the only one who could pick him up and carry him around, in whose lap he would happily sleep, with whom he would dance (don’t ask) without complaint, and who shared the majority of his life.

Even now I begin to cry as I sit here writing this.

Henry was my friend.  He took care of me when I was sick, and I him.  He stayed with me always, whether happily (but loudly) taking a ride in the car or curling up on the couch to watch a movie.  We were inseparable.  He slept nowhere except with me.  He tolerated the antics of no one as much as he did mine.  He embodied the very independence that for so long I sought to understand from the world of men.  He helped me understand the importance of quality of life and how it is far more important than quantity, regardless of whether that quantity be measured in years or loved ones or accomplishments or dollars.  He loved and trusted me.  He was family.

Mom and I always believed Henry would outlive everyone in the family.  He was our companion for more than two decades, so he certainly gave it his best shot.  He had his ups and downs like every living thing, but he always came out strong on the other side.  While it’s unusual for a cat to live as long as he did, it is not unheard of.

Arco learned early on that Henry was not to be fooled with.  He was not de-clawed (a barbaric and cruel practice at best), so he was fully armed and prepared to defend himself.  When he and Arco first moved into the same home, there was a section (several rooms) which was protected space for Henry — mainly because he was a cat and we feared the larger dog — eventually dogs — might harm him.  It was for that reason that Arco, like all dogs who came after her, learned that these rooms were off limits to them.  This allowed Henry to roam freely in these areas and to enjoy safety and security from the other beasts who shared our abode.  Arco believed herself lord of all she surveyed, however, and decided one day to prove this to Henry.  She did not understand Henry outranked her in wit and skill and cunning, and he was truly the master of the house.  While he sat just inside one of these protected rooms, Arco walked up and engaged him in a staring contest.  She was many times his size (Doberman versus cat, after all), but Henry was not intimidated in the slightest.  In fact, he stepped closer to her and sat down deliberately within her reach.  Daftly accepting this challenge, Arco stepped forward and enveloped Henry’s entire head with her mouth.  He in his infinite wisdom never moved until she was confident.  She “had him” right where she wanted.  Only then did Henry act.  All four of his paws, claws extended, invisibly moved from floor to Arco in the blink of an eye.  There could be no smaller measure of time.  Claws extended, he wrapped his paws around her head and mouth and dug in rabidly.  Arco never had time to completely clamp down on Henry’s head before her mouth fell open and she backed away yelping, Henry all the while fully attached to her head and face.  His front claws were snug in both sides of her snout while his back claws anchored forcefully on either side of her chin.  Arco could not separate herself from him, yet she backed away, mouth agape, with speed and agility that Dobermans in reverse can rarely demonstrate.  Never again did Arco challenge Henry’s supremacy.  He became comfortable doing what he wished anywhere in the house without the big black dog posing a threat.

When Drew came into my life and we became lovers, he had dogs and I had Henry.  Living with me meant that Henry was king of the house and won every argument.  Dogs are not learned animals, though, and often require the same lesson many times over before a truth is really known to them.  One of his dogs, a pit bull, challenged Henry one day.  While pit bulls are renowned for their tempers and aggressiveness, I did not fear for Henry’s safety.  I sat on the couch within easy reach of both while their encounter took place.  Henry moved under the coffee table while the dog circled and barked.  Each time the dog’s snout came within reach (meaning within a foot or so of the table), Henry would reach out and slap him with claws fully splayed.  This action was repeated 10 or 12 times, eventually ending with the dog yelping away to the corner of the room to tend to its bloody wounds.  Henry, on the other hand, never broke a sweat.  Again, he was proven chief of the roost and was never challenged again by this untoward interloper.

When Derek came into my life and we became roommates, he often would make clear that Henry was truly his own cat and respected no one but my mother and me.  If Derek tried to touch him, he would move away and immediately commence bathing to get rid of the alien’s sense that deposited on him through physical contact.  If Henry and I were on the couch enjoying a relaxing moment and Derek decided to take a seat, Henry would immediately rise and prance across Derek speedily on his way to the opposite end of the couch.  If Derek interrupted this at all, he would get a swat, a hiss, or merely a very dirty look to let him know such action was not acceptable.  In fact, Derek intentionally rubbed Henry every chance available simply because he knew he could not tolerate it and bathed immediately.

Henry loved to play.  His favorite thing involved lying on his back while someone dangled a string or pen or other toy above him.  He attacked from that position in whatever way was possible.  If the game became challenging enough, he curled his ass into the air and hooked his back claws into the ground on either side of his head.  This allowed him use of his back feet for maneuvering with speed, agility, grace, and strength.  In this position, there was no direction in which he could not move more rapidly than the person with whom he was playing.  It also left his front paws free to engage whatever carrot dangled above him.  No other activity could engage him so.

I became concerned for Henry’s health some two years before his death.  His age was much advanced — certainly two decades is more advanced than any cat I had ever known.  Despite this, he was in excellent health.  Age still began to take a toll on him.  Arthritis reduced his physical activity steadily over time.  It became increasingly difficult for him to get up on the furniture, especially the bed.  I built steps for him to ensure he could still sleep with me, as this was important to both of us.  I helped him up on things if I saw he was having difficulty.  Even I in my infinite contrariness understood that time takes its toll, and age is undeniable.

In the hopes of engaging him in more physical activity and providing more companionship while I was out of the house at work each day, I adopted two kittens in early 1997: Grendel and Loki.  Henry beat up on them in the first days of their residency with us.  I believe he saw it as an invasion and direct challenge to his rule.  Within a few months, he eventually took to The Boys and began running and playing again with a fervor I had not seen in many months.  His health once again improved, and even his arthritis failed to restrain him from engaging in folly and play.  In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that he took Loki under his wing in order to teach him the most evil ways of catdom: treat people with disdain for they are convenient only under specific circumstances, but always love and cherish Daddy; avoid human contact (excluding Daddy) at whatever cost; waste no opportunity which enables you to make a person feel unclean and unwanted; never walk away from a challenge; and never doubt your own superiority.  Derek knew each of these feline tenets was true and practiced minute by minute in my home, for he knew Henry and saw what Loki was becoming under his stern but caring tutelage.  We laughed often at how much of Henry’s personality seemed absorbed by Loki.

In the last year of his life, back in 1998, Henry began his final months.  He began losing weight, just not at a frightening pace (and he carried a wee bit extra through most of his life, so part of that was a good thing).  He began losing interest in play.  He began sleeping far more than cats do (and they already sleep a lot).  He would not venture into most of the house but would instead spend the majority of his time under my bed until I returned home each day, and even then, he stayed there if there was any abnormal activity or visitors in the house.  I finally concluded that things were getting bad enough to warrant serious attention, and the vet confirmed it was simply age and the related physical degradation.  We talked of quality of life versus quantity (and I will always err on the side of quality).  We talked of looming physical ailments, worsening arthritis, and eventual suffering — all of which were rapidly approaching.  The time was coming to say goodbye.

The day came to ensure Henry would suffer no more.  It was October 28, 1998.  I took off work as I was losing a dear friend — an important family member — and needed time to prepare and lament.  A week would not have been sufficient.  I cried all morning, resting on the couch with Henry and loving him, stroking him, talking gently and lovingly to him.  I let him know I loved him and was doing what was best, that I could not stand to see him suffer, that I would not be selfish and prolong his failing life for my own desires, and that he would soon feel better and be free of the physical body that now trapped his feral spirit.

I cried most of the day, much as I am doing now while I write this, the memories striking me with clarity and emotion regarding events now seven years removed.  Even through the tears, however, Henry knew I was OK — would be OK — and that I would protect him with my life and would act to ensure his comfort and safety.  I explained that I did not want him to go but would not allow him to ache and agonize.  His life was full.  It overflowed with such diversity and memory that it can neither be contained nor explained by any one person.

I wept on the way to the vet that day.  Both Derek and Jenny were to meet me there, as I could not face this alone.  In that special yet distanced way that Henry allowed them, both became a part of his life.  They wanted to be there for him as much as I know Henry wanted them to be there during his final moments.

The tears poured from me when it finally came time for Henry to leave behind his physical pain.  After being my friend and family for so many years, I struggled with letting him go.  Yet, I am an advocate for quality versus quantity.  Henry’s doctor had made it clear he was beginning to suffer, and his age would prohibit solutions while the suffering worsened.  I could not allow him to endure that.

We three — Derek, Jenny, and I — stood in one of the veterinary offices as the doctor explained what would happen.  Henry would simply fall asleep.  He would feel no pain.  The drugs would relax him; quietly serenade his body to sleep.  This, in turn, would help his spirit take flight away from this physical world of pain and suffering, where time is a predator we all seek to escape.  Henry would know again the beauty of true rest and peace.

I fail to understand people who do not see that pets are equally important to us just as our own family members are.  The bond is the same.  The love is the same.  The responsibility is the same.  I am glad my boss at that time understood this and gave me the freedom to tend to a dying family member.

Even now, more than seven years later, I weep.  This post refused completion in one sitting.  Emotions time and again forced me to walk away, to allow myself to cry, to confirm through tears and mourning that he is still with me, and to lament that which is lost.  My heart breaks in his absence, yet it also rejoices in his serenity.

May I never — never — be without this level of compassion for my children: The Kids.  May I never be without this level of compassion for my family and friends.  May I never lose the ability to suffer the loss of a pet without embracing the strength to do it again and again and again.  May I never exist without the will and power of mind to care for the least of these, whether they be human or otherwise.  May I always understand the joy of loss and the sorrow of love.

To my friend:

Thank you, Henry, for the fond memories. Thank you for the friendship. Thank you for the unconditional love and devotion. Thank you for the innumerable good times. Thank you for your faithful companionship. Thank you for being you.

We’ve always said that you would outlive all of us, and you gave it your best shot, as you did with all things.

To my friend and companion with whom I enjoyed so many years, I will miss you. And, I will always love you!

– Jason

[October 28, 1998]

Remembering Arco

No, I'm not referring to ARCO Gasoline, but that is the correct namesake.  I'm talking about Arco, a Doberman pinscher with whom I grew up and spent a great many years.

We adopted Arco when she was but a pup, young, energetic, and full of vigor and vitality.  As is true of all female Dobermans when they are young, she adopted us kids and made us her family.  She was willing to protect us at all costs.  She could be so fierce when necessary, but never was she fierce with us — unless one considers the ferocity with which she loved to play, especially with us kids, always careful yet boisterous enough to be wildly fun.

As feeling safe goes, my siblings and I could never have felt safer than when we were with Arco.  We knew she would give her life for us.  We were, after all, her kids.  We watched many times as she cornered friends and family alike, and even the occasional stranger.  We also watched as she would immediately be put to ease when we said it was OK.  But even in those times of OK-ness, she always kept her eyes on visitors, regardless of who they were, and was ready to pounce if she thought we were in trouble.  More than a few uncles learned this the hard way when they would roughhouse with us and suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a very protective Doberman.  It took only a single reassurance that things were indeed alright for Arco to once again be at ease.  But she still watched.

There was a time one afternoon when my stepsister Michelle had forgotten her keys and was unable to get into the house.  While one would assume she knew better with Arco in the house, Michelle decided she would try to get in via other means — in this case, a back window.  This was not one of the best ideas she had ever had.  Arco was not very familiar with my stepsister (or any of our stepsiblings for that matter), but she did know that protecting our home was a primary responsibility of hers.  You may safely assume Michelle never made it into the house that day.  This was evidenced by damage Arco did to the wall and windowsill, both scratched and gnawed with true protective fervor.

Arco was a very well-behaved dog and an upstanding member of the family.  She knew the rules of the house and followed them religiously.  That doesn't mean she didn't learn to get around them when and where necessary, but she never outright broke them.  That included the rule about not getting on the furniture.  My dad had a rather exacting view of this: pets should always have at least two feet on the floor and never be fully upon the furniture.  This was a rule Arco could follow, but, as a member of the family, she also felt it was her entitlement to sit with the rest of the family as civilized folk do.  And she did just that.

She learned at a very early age that she could sit on the furniture just as a person could (and she very much thought she was a person).  She would back up to the seat in question, slide her ass up on the furniture until her back legs were dangling off like a child's, but would leave her front feet resting firmly on the ground.  From time to time, she would get lost in the moment and would find herself with only one paw on the floor, but a quick reminder would bring her back to reality and cause that second paw to find its way back to its appropriate place.  She could sit comfortably like that, to the amusement of all.

Arco is long since gone from this world, having lived a full life.  She grew old in her happiness, enjoyed canine pleasures both rich and rare, and remained a loyal and loving member of the family throughout her time with us.  But, as is the case with all pets, they grow old before our eyes and are gone from this world far too quickly.  As I've said before:

We as humans accept the fact that we will outlive almost all of our pets.  Our lifespan is longer than theirs and we understand from the beginning that we'll see them grow from babies into adulthood and eventually into death.  It's a measure of a person's character when they can go through that and still have enough love and affection for animals to do it again and again.

Me playing with Arco and Fritz (puppy)

That's a very young me playing with Arco (the puppy) while Fritz looks on.  Fritz was the boss of the house, a dachshund who was much bigger in heart and mind than his physical size revealed.  (The picture is about 30 years old, so forgive the poor quality.)

Me playing with Arco (arco04)

That's me playing with a slightly older and bigger Arco.  Even I have to ask what kind of a fashion statement I was making at that age.  Remember this is in the mid 1970s, so perhaps you'll forgive me for those pants.

Arco standing at attention (aarco03)

This is Arco standing at attention.  Based solely on that look I am apt to assume that the person sitting in the chair in front of her is eating something — and Arco believes the goodies should be shared.

Editor's note: At the time I did not realize that the cropped ears and tail were insufferable for her.  This barbaric practice was common with Dobermans in that day.  (I suspect it still is even today with less civilized people.)  Please do not assume that this picture represents an endorsement of such mutilations.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Arco sitting on the back porch (aarco02)

Much older in this picture (note the gray around her snout), this is Arco sitting on the back porch of my parents’ old house.

Arco resting comfortably in the pallet I made so I could watch television (aarco01)

I had put together an ad hoc pallet in the living room so I could rest comfortably while watching television.  Arco joined me, under the covers and head on the pillow.  Even at this age she was still a big baby and thought of herself as just another person.