my rays of sunshine

Before there was even the thought of Ella and Louis – the Magyar Vizsla brother and sister that I talk and write about a great deal – before them there was a dog who came walking up to our car on a little road in southwestern South Dakota on the way from Sturgis down to Colorado. There was no intention of taking this dog. None. She was a mop of very dirty black hair, and looked painfully hungry. After giving her a bit of food, she jumped into the car and insisted that she was coming with us. Clearly of her own volition.

Lyle in snowy Colorado

Her name was Lyle, and there was something about her that I’d never experienced as a dog lover. See when I was a child, we always had dogs. My brother Michael had an incredibly strong connection to each one, but the very first dog, Dandelion, lived an astoundingly long time and he was especially fond of her. So much so that when she died, he was unconsolable. From my perspective, this was preposterous. ‘What’s wrong with you?‘ I wanted to ask him. ‘The old dog’s gone, which means we get a brand new dog. Maybe even a puppy.‘ He only wanted Dandelion. Once again, this made no sense to me.

So, back to Lyle. Brought her to Germany, and she was my only responsibility in the early days when I was still polishing my German. She’d run alongside my bicycle as I went to get papers from the main train station. She’d watch German television with me and offer sympathy when I insisted that I’d never get this language.

She was the perfect café dog. For hours, she’d sit next to me as I nursed my tea (sometimes even a coffee) and read book after book in my native tongue and sometimes even struggled through the daily papers in the adopted one. She was simply happy to be alongside me.

You see where this is going, right?

Lyle and me

In late January 2005, Lyle was healthy one day & violently ill the next. Before I could even consider taking her to the vet, she was up through the night unable to sleep. Took her out to the street in the middle of the night and she desperately wanted to go deep in the snowy bushes and be left alone. I held her the rest of the night and sometime around dawn she died in my arms.

I was suddenly my brother who I’d ridiculed. For months, I cried everyday. She had been my companion in such dark, frustrating moments. I didn’t want a shiny new puppy. I wanted Lyle.

Still brings tears to my eyes when I think about her.

Sometimes you really need more time to grieve the passing of a pet. And anyone who says they need more time…

I completely understand that. Without reservation.

But in this case, the only way to still the waves of inconsolable emotions was to get a new dog. Or in this case two new dogs. Then there it was written in the local Munich paper:  ‘Hamburg family has Magyar Vizsla puppies‘. Went to get them at Easter time. In the photos, they were still tiny. They were anything but small when I first saw them. The thing that sealed the deal for me was Ella laying next to me on the bench at the family’s house in Hamburg, and she began to purr. Just like a cat. She still does it to this day. It’s easily the most adorable thing she does, which says a lot. Louis was very standoffish. Over the years, he’s grown to become anything but that.

Here they were when they were still quite small:

Louis (on the left) and Ella as puppies

And if you know me at all, you know that my day revolves around these two. Happily. I’m sure I’d go outside if I didn’t have them begging to be taken, but I wouldn’t go as often. Or for as long.

I literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of them. I’m loathe to include too many, but here are some of my favourite:

earnestness
Ella listing to the port side
in the autumn leaves
Going up Wendelstein-one of our favourite hikes
serious glove tug
goodnight happy dogs

Happy Birthday my rays of sunshine. You give so much more than you take. Thanks to all of you reading for loving them too.