After losing my Irish Setter, Finney there was a definite emptiness in the apartment. Acting as his seeing-eye person for over fifteen years had probably brought us even closer than the typical relationship between a loving companion person and their canine best friend.
A period of time went by when I debated whether it would be disloyal to Finney’s memory to consider finding another companion. But after a few months I realized that he devoted his life to making me happy and I was sure that he would approve of my finding another friend.
I was able to find an Irish Setter breeder about forty miles from Chicago in a northwest suburb. I called to inquire if she had any puppies that were for sale to a good home. The breeder, Irene met my inquiry with a series of questions to determine whether I would be a fit companion for one of her dogs.
I could tell that she wasn’t impressed with my being a single person, living in an apartment, working long hours and attempting to raise a puppy. But I explained that I had lost my blind Irish Setter and had been his seeing-eye person for 15 years and that seemed to thaw some of the iciness in her tone. She agreed to meet me – to evaluate whether I was a worthy candidate.
After an hour interview with Irene she suggested that she had a puppy who was seven months old and it would probably be better for both of us to take a dog who was a little older than an eight or ten week old. I agreed. So she sold Tristan to me, but she had a lot of stipulations.
I was required, under the terms of the sale, to call her every day for the first two weeks Tristan and I were together to give her a progress report. The next two weeks I had to call her at least three times a week for the same purpose. After that I had to call her at least weekly for the next two months. If I failed to make those calls, she had the right to “repossess” Tristan.
I thought this was a little bit much but at the same time I appreciated how concerned she was about the people who would be companions to her dogs. And as it turned out, calling Irene became less of an obligation than an opportunity to speak with a new friend. In fact, we became extremely good friends and she came to dinner several times. I think she enjoyed seeing Tristan more than my cooking.
Tristan was your typical goofy Irish Setter – but more so. If you’ve heard that Irish Setters are stubborn – you’ve heard correctly. Tristan would always do what I asked of him – if he had a mind to do so. If not, he would look at me with his beautiful mahogany face and beam an expression that I translated as “In your dreams.” But like all the Irish Setters I had known he loved people – he loved everybody. He lived to love people.
When he was three years old I had come home late from the office – but knowing I would be home late I had come home during lunch to take him for a midday walk. I quickly prepared his dinner and then we went out for our usual mile long walk. It was a crisp fall evening and we both felt invigorated by the gusting wind and the cool temperature. As we were returning on the loop home, a man came up to us. I sensed a threat in his body language as he approached us on a not particularly well-lit side street.
I thought about crossing the street simply to avoid a possible incident but as I started to take Tristan across the street, he rushed up to us, brandishing a large hunting knife. He demanded my money and watch.
Having been through a mugging once, I wasn’t about to put up any resistance. But as I reached for my wallet, Tristan pulled free of my hand and attacked the man’s left leg – viciously. The assailant dropped the knife in the bushes and tried to kick at Tristan to free him from his leg. I could see that Tristan had ripped the man’s pants and later, when we got home, I saw blood on his muzzle. He had done some damage while protecting me.
I started to yell for help and at the same time tried to pull Tristan away so that the man wouldn’t be able to harm him. I finally got him to release his grip on the man’s leg and my assailant, deciding that he had met his match, started running – or more exactly – limping away from us. Tristan and I made our way home and I called the police to report the incident.
When the police arrived to take my report their first comment was that I would have to have Tristan impounded for observation for a two week period. This was the ordinance regarding dogs who bit humans. Obviously, I thought that this was ludicrous. Tristan wouldn’t have bitten anyone if I hadn’t been assailed by a thug.
The good news was that I could keep him at my vet’s for observation. Since I had a great relationship with the two vets who owned the practice, I knew that I could keep him at home and have them sign off on his quarantine after the appropriate time passed.
Well, the police never apprehended my potential assailant. And Tristan came through his “quarantine” with flying colors. I did have him examined as I was concerned he might have caught something from the man who tried to attack us.
Several weeks later I ran into a member of the church choir that I had directed several years earlier. Isobella was a Hispanic lady whose family came from Guatemala. She worked in the medical industry and enjoyed the usual socially liberal mindset with which most in my neighborhood felt comfortable. I hadn’t seen her for quite a few months – and as it happened – this incident happened just a few doors from her apartment.
After describing the incident, Isobella looked at me and asked, “So when are you going to have your dog put to sleep?”
Naturally, this question not only disturbed me because I wondered about the state of my friend’s sanity, but it also ticked me off. How had Isobella come to the idea that this loving animal should be destroyed for doing his job and saving me from what could have become a nasty incident. So I asked her to explain that statement.
She said, “Well, think about it. If you had been attacked and even stabbed, you have medical insurance. You could have gotten treatment. But the guy who was going to attack you is probably poor, most likely does not have insurance and will probably go through the rest of his life with a bad leg.”
I know that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that my Chicago neighborhood was in the Illinois State Senate district that gave President Obama his political start. I can also say with one hundred percent certainty that Isobella would have cast her vote for him, not only for the Illinois Senate but subsequently.
If there is anyone out there who wonders why this President is presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression I would refer you back to Isobella’s thought process. People with her mindset are responsible for putting him in the White House.
As for me and my more rational readers, I would suggest that we might all be better off if we franchised the canine vote. At least they have a realistic way of looking at how the world really works.