This morning as I opened my Outlook calendar I saw a small notation in purple, the color I use to denote birthdays and anniversaries, stating "Trivia Arrives (1975)." It was thirty-five years ago today that I brought home my first dog, a cute little ball of black fluff I would name Trivia and end up calling "Trivy" for short.
I had wanted a dog since I was five. We lived in an apartment most of my childhood and a dog had never been an option. The autumn of my junior year in high school we moved into a house and that changed. Around my seventeenth birthday my parents told me I could get a dog but that I would need to be financially responsible for it. They made it clear that it would be my job to feed it and more importantly, especially to my father, it would be me that would pick-up the "dog crap."
As I look back now, I understand how my parent's decision could be considered to be less than wise. My dad would be retiring in a year and they most certainly realized that I was at an age when I would not be around as much. They loved to travel and getting a dog now would clearly tie them down. They knew that I planned on going to college and were well aware that I would not live up to my end of the deal, but they said yes anyway. I am so grateful that they did.
I started my search for my first dog at the Dane County Humane Society but I couldn't find the "right dog" for me. I ended up at the Monroe Street Pet Shop in Madison, WI, which unlike most pet shops at the time, sold mixed breed puppies. That was all I could afford and as far as I was concerned a dog was a dog. I had no clear vision of breed or look, I just wanted a dog.
The pet shop had two puppies reported to be from a mother that was a poodle/keeshond mix. The clerk joked "They never caught the father." One of the pups had a poodle-like coat and was quiet and shy. The other pup, the one I would take home and name Trivia had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with Trivia, a collar, a leash, food and water bowels, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.
Over the next few days I made sure Trivia had her shots, and was spayed. I fed her a veterinarian recommended puppy food, got her licensed, and loved her. But I certainly didn't provide her with the level of care and devotion she deserved or what we would expect today.
I made no attempts to train Trivy and at the time had no idea dog training classes even existed. As a result Trivia was not house trained properly as a puppy. When we moved again a year later she ended up spending time in the basement or an outside pen when I was not around to prevent accidents in the house. Sadly, as I became more interested in girls and other extracurricular activities I was around less and less. My mom, as so many mothers do, ended up stepping in and taking care of Trivia, making sure she had food and water, opportunities to go outside and some level of human interaction. I didn't exactly abandon Trivia, but she was clearly not the priority she should have been and as a result spent more time outside or in the basement then she should have.
Like many dogs, Trivia loved the snow. I still remember that first winter when she would dive into a fluffy snow bank and bury her head, then pull it out to shake off the snow. She was a social butterfly in that she never met a person she didn't like. When I had friends over or had a party, Trivy always had to be in the middle of it and my friends always insisted that she be there.
She was afraid of rabbits or at least acted like it. I can still picture the day we walked around a corner of the house and came within three feet of a cottontail that just sat there. Trivy immediately rolled over on her back before the rabbit could strike.
Snakes were a different matter. We found evidence of several snakes she had dispatched in her pen and even one in the basement. When we would take her for walks we started to notice how Trivia would detect snakes well over 60 feet away. It's fortunate for her we had no venomous snakes where we lived.
Trivia liked toys, and was especially fond of an old tennis shoe. My father was more than a bit distressed at her amorous adventures with that shoe, questioning poor Trivia's sexuality. Strangely Trivia was never a big chewer other than some minor puppy explorations on a kitchen cabinet. She still had her one and only rawhide the day she died, as intact as it was the day I brought her home as a puppy.
Although I had never taught her bite inhibition Trivia was not a voracious play biter, nor did she ever bite anyone. I'm proud to say that she never experienced the physical pain of a choke collar or a leash correction, nor was she ever yelled at. I didn't teach her to sit; I had no idea how to do that nor could I see a compelling reason why I should teach her to sit.
When Paula and I got married three years later I was around even less as we moved into our own apartment leaving Trivia with my parents. A year and a half later I graduated from college and we moved into another apartment, even further away, to be close to my new job. Finally when Trivia was about six and a half years old we were able to buy our first home. It was a duplex, so we were reunited with Trivia as well as my parents.
We finally got Trivia a crate. When we were away at work she spent time out in her pen or with my parents. When we were home she spent time with us and at night slept in her crate. She still loved toys and had a green frog and an old sock that were favorites. She still had the old tennis shoe, but that was kept out in her pen.
It was at this time that we started to call her "Hoover" for the excellent job she did cleaning up the crumbs in the dining room and kitchen. Somehow she also must have overcome her fear of rabbits as we also had two Netherland Dwarfs at the time and she just ignored them. We'd take her for walks in the park down near the river and had a great time together.
Life continued on and when Trivia was almost twelve years old I changed jobs. Once again I was driving over an hour to work and when Paula started doing the same a year later we rented a small apartment in Madison. We stayed there during the week while Trivia stayed with my parents at our house. We still got to see her most weekends, and my parents were quite attached to her, but it was also evident that Trivia missed our being around. Sadly, that situation remained until Trivia crossed the rainbow bridge three years later.
Whether due to hybrid vigor or something else Trivia was the epitome of good of health. She never had a flea collar or flea shampoo, things like FrontLine and Sentinel didn't even exist, and in spite of all the time she spent outdoors she never had a flea. She was never ill and never experienced an accident that required an emergency trip to the vet until the last six months of her life.
The decline in Trivia's health started with bladder control issues and then some trouble getting around. Then one day she tumbled down the stairs and I thought for sure we had lost her. She was barely breathing and motionless. It was a Sunday and this was before the days of emergency veterinary hospitals. We finally found a vet that offered 24 hour service and rushed Trivia off to see him. She survived but it was shortly after that that she was diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome. Paula was working for a veterinarian at the time and we started Trivia on a course of treatment but she quietly passed away in her sleep a few days later just a few months shy of what would have been her fifteenth birthday.
I know there are those that insist animals have no souls and therefore that we will not be reunited with them in the afterlife. I don't know what the "afterlife" is but I am quite confident that Trivia is there and has been watching me and guiding me every day since she crossed the rainbow bridge. She's helped me be a better guardian to the dogs that joined our family after her (Gus, Shed, Queenie, Crystal, Tikken and Dulcie). Everyday my experiences with Trivia help me work with others and their dogs. I know Trivia influences me every single day.
Trivia you were small of stature and your name suggests you were unimportant and insignificant, but nothing could be further from the truth. You had a huge heart and a tremendous capacity to give. Thank you for being part of my life then and now.