Alfie, the black lab/shepherd mix, was found in the Kingston ASPCA and is not only gorgeous, but the most charismatic, noble, extraverted, well-mannered and strong dog I have ever known. He was picked up as a stray puppy in Louisiana and I can imagine him now, having decided to break for freedom as early as possible, quickly making his escape and never looking back. He was driven north with a car full of other dogs to the Catskills by animal rescuers. He’s the best model a photographer ever had and is extraordinarily protective, but is slightly bossy and master of a very effective side-eye. When we left him in the shelter to wait for our references to be checked, I could hear him barking at us from the front door. Showing hardly any signs of shelter anxiety common in other rescued dogs, he bounced back like the trouper he is and has doubled in size in the two years we have had him. We rescued a 38lb puppy and now we have a 80lb bruiser. He’s now a card-carrying country dog.
Years ago, a new country neighbor confided that whenever her husband went away on business she slept with a loaded shotgun by the bed, but I believe in accidents, sleepwalking and all the other disasters that Hollywood screenwriters can mustre. A shotgun only wakes you up after it has blown off your leg when you knocked it over reaching for a glass of water. A dog, however, wakes you up before something happens (or will ever happen).
Enter Alfie, my first dog, who barks when someone crosses the street a mile down the road, has a sense of smell so strong he can tell that the UPS guy will be here in an hour and follows me from room to room like a family member who’s afraid I’ll commit suicide. I only have to look out the window with a slight frown and he goes to the window and starts barking ferociously. Last night I gasped at a movie and he awoke with a start and issued a dead stare right in my eyes with one ear cocked until he was confident that all was well. He takes his position in the household as Head of Security as seriously as a Black Lab/Shepherd mix can. In Alfie is combined both the sheer comedy of a Black Labrador with the bossiness of a Shepherd. More important, as a first-time dog owner I don’t even see myself as the master of this dog; he’s not my dog, rather I’m his human. I can’t be alone in believing that the master should not be picking up faeces off the road and carrying it in a little bag. No, I am the servant for the next… ever.