The story of Snapper
by Rich Reuter
He wasn't much more than a six-month old fuzzball on 4 springs when he came to live with me. All tongue, folded-over ears, bottle-brush muzzle and unbridled curiosity, Snapper was coming to be my first dog rather late in my life. I was 33 years old and living by myself in a townhouse and Janet, whom I would later marry, was still living at home and wanted a dog to show at dog shows. So she bought Snapper from a Kerry Blue Terrier breeder in California. Janet couldn’t keep him at home so he came direct from there...to live with me.
It took barely a week before he had the run of the house.
Supposedly he was housebroken when he came and, never having owned a dog, I took the breeder at his word and assumed housebroken MEANT housebroken. So it was with some surprise that I registered Janet's reply to my comment as we took the train into work that I'd left young Snapper loose in the house.
"You WHAT?" she replied. It was only when she explained that while he may be housebroken, that didn't mean he wouldn't chew or gnaw his way through whatever he might find and my confidence in my puppy slipped mightily.
It was a long day at work, wondering if Snapper was at home having the time of his life sampling all the new smells...and tastes...and it was with genuine dread that I unlocked the front door when I got home. Snapper was right there, bouncing up and down, eager for me to get inside so he could jump on me and say "welcome home" properly. I stepped inside and, after scratching him behind his ears, I looked around. Nothing looked out of place. I walked into the dining room, the kitchen, the living room...nothing amiss. I went upstairs to the bedroom, the bathroom, the other bedroom and found everything as I'd left it.
My pup hadn't let me down. He'd confirmed my faith in him and as I told him how proud I was of him, I didn't realize it at the time but I was having the first of many, many conversations I'd have with my friend.
Snapper was bred to be a show dog and Janet bought him to be a show dog...as well as our pet...so we soon began to enter him in puppy matches. As "Tontine's Out Of The Blue," he took home trophies his first time out and he never looked back. He was young and proud and if dogs had egos that could be measured in quantity, he would have needed a wheelbarrow to carry his. Quickly he was entered in regular dog shows and again he did well from the beginning. It wasn't long before he accomplished the superb feat of becoming a champion before he was a year old.
Oh, I was proud of him. My ego fed off of his. I'd stand at ringside watching Janet work with him and hear the spectators talk about what a great looking dog he was. Later on in his show career, even if he lost, onlookers would come up to us and tell us that they thought Snapper should have won. And I'd look over at him, chock full of himself, and know HE knew he should have won too.
It wasn't all glory for him. Sometimes he'd put up with days of preparation before a show and infinite grooming by Janet right up to show time, only to lose. We'd return home disappointed but as soon as he was loose in the house, I'd find myself looking at him and thinking how perfect he looked. And when he got a bath and Janet trimmed him, he’d stand in front of us and look us straight in the eye with his head slightly cocked and seem to say "I AM great looking, aren't I!"
After a year or so, we decided to send Snapper to a professional handler to see how he'd do on a national schedule. It meant my dog would go to live with the handler for a while and go to dog shows across the nation. It would also mean he wouldn't be home with me.
He was mightily missed. No shadow followed me from room to room. I did not feel his alert brown eyes watching me and there were no barks for "good morning". Those wonderful ears that bobbed as he walked weren't getting my special scratching. He was away from home but he was doing well. Janet and I would go to some of the shows but because it would upset his relationship with the handler if he saw us, we had to stay out of his sight. It wasn't easy to watch from a distance and I was hurt when we learned he had formed a special bond with one of the handler’s helpers. Nobody could understand why until they met me. Snapper had chosen someone who had the same height and build as me. I wasn't forgotten after all.
For a time, he was #2 Kerry Blue Terrier in the country. We were pleased but we also missed him and we brought him home after five months on the road and, after another few years of local dog shows, he retired. He wouldn't be a top dog in a show ring anymore but he would certainly be master of his domain at home. If we were watching TV and Snapper decided we weren't paying enough attention to him, he would walk over and sit down directly in our line of sight with the TV...and stare at us. If I walked into the room where we kept the doggie treats, he'd be right there at my heels, watching and making sure he was going to get a "doggie bone". The unofficial nickname of "King Tut" that his attitude earned him when he was at the dog shows didn't stick around very long...but the attitude did.
One day we noticed he was having trouble with his back legs and soon after he began to drag his back paws as he walked. Visits to the vet accomplished nothing and we were given pills to help alleviate the problem but it persisted and soon got worse. X-rays showed a small tumor but doctors felt it wasn't the cause of the problem. Much too quickly we had to hold him up in back to keep him from almost falling over.
But he was still game. He still managed to put his front legs up on the couch to get his ears scratched and he still tried to come over to see us when he felt the need for more attention. We could see his frustration when he would make up his mind that he was going to get up and walk but finally his back legs just wouldn't let him.
It was a dreary, rainy Saturday morning in early May when we came home from breakfast and decided to take him to the vet for the last time. He'd been a proud dog all his life and to allow his body to slowly desert him just wasn't right. As I lay on the floor next to him saying goodbye, trying to give him all the hugs I knew I would miss, I could see his big brown eyes watching me. I'm sure he sensed something big was up but he couldn't have had any idea what we planned to do.
He trusted me when I picked him up and put a blanket around his now useless back legs. He trusted me as he sat in my lap during the 5-minute trip to the vet and he was still trusting me when, my eyes averted and crying openly, I thrust him into the vet's waiting arms. Right up until that point I had pretty much decided that I would stand by him until it was over; to stand by my pal, my friend, my confidant.
But I couldn't do it. My repayment to him for all the times he'd met me at the door after work, all the yelping, "Welcome home! Where' ya been's," all the willing ears he'd lent as I talked to him about my problems, was just a short transfer to a strangers waiting arms. It was with a shattered heart and through a watery veil of tears that I sneaked one quick, blurred glance at him as he left. Big, brown eyes still alert and head held high, he was still proud and just before the door closed behind the vet, I saw the familiar back of his head and those wonderful ears that bobbed up and down one more time.
But in the back rooms of my mind, it's the memories of Snapper that still hold me, and they will forever because he was my first dog, my most special dog. He really was my friend, someone who seemed to listen intently to whatever I had to say. He was the one I counted on to scare away anyone that might bother the house when I wasn't home. He was the dog I only had eyes for when he was in the show ring, all others pale in the background. It was he who was my shadow whenever I got up to walk around the house.
He still lives in my memories. He belonged to me...and I to him. That will never change.
Last Updated: 09/27/2005, 6:52 pm