When Finnegan Came to Stay

I loved Finn even before I saw him.  We had arranged to meet Carol, a Cairn exhibitor and breeder, in a nearby parking lot.  We had been to her house, talked with her about lots of things, but we hadn’t actually seen this litter yet.   She got out of her van and walked around to the side.  Carol opened the door, reached in, and brought out an adult Cairn on a lead.  “This is the pup's mother,” she said.

I want a dog that looks like that, I said to myself.  The mother was smart-looking, in both meanings of the word: her intelligence was obvious as she looked around, and her show–groomed coat made her sharp.  “And this is the pup,” Carol said as she lifted out a much smaller and fluffier version of the mother.

Finnegan, ready to jump

I want that dog, I whispered to Becky.  Carol agreed to bring the dogs to our house, which was close by.  Carol’s aunt was with her, so soon Carol, her aunt, and the two Cairns were in our kitchen.  We had a child gate up in the door to the dining room, and our two elderly Shih Tzus watched cautiously from behind.

I put the pup on a lead and took him into the back yard.  “He’ll just sit there, or fight you,” Carol said, “he’s never been on a lead.”  Instead he walked around with me for a few minutes, then we went back in.  Carol had been telling Becky about what it takes to raise a Cairn, especially how rowdy they can be and how much trouble they can get into.  After a good deal more interviewing, Carol agreed to sell us the pup.

We found out some time later that as they left, Carol’s aunt told her that “those people didn’t listen to a word you said.  That dog is going to kill them.”  She was very nearly right, of course, but that’s another story.

Finnegan, sketched by Cheri Wallingford

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a puppy and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumor, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair,
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still),
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear!

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent,
Though it's not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the longer we grieve:
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long.
So why in Heaven (before we are there!)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

— Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
From The Lost History of the Canine Race, by Mary Elizabeth Thurston, Andrews and McMeel Pub., Kansas City, 1996.

Finnegan at the window

Finnegan passed away on the 27th of August 1999.  We cannot express how much he is missed.