AT HOME IN HEATH: PRECIOUS AND HER PALS
Moving to the Central Coast of California had been Bill’s idea and while I was glad to oblige him his dream, I was never really happy there. Oh, I had some happy times and made some great friends, but Texas was home. I frequently say that getting Precious was the best thing to happen to me while I was in California.
When it all got to be too much, I’d take Precious on a drive to Moonstone Beach in Cambria. There, with the wind blowing my hair and the sound of the surf erasing all other sounds, I’d indulge in a pity party of major proportions. For awhile, Precious would be content to lay on the bench next to me or sniff about in the sand, but eventually she’d let me know she was ready to start walking. We’d stroll along the boardwalk and somehow the smell of the sea and the beauty of nature all around me would let me know I was going to make it. Some of Precious’ joy at being alive would wear off on me.
My Central Coast Dog
The Central Coast of California was a perfect place for Precious. She enjoyed the adventure of climbing the rocks along the jagged coastline with us. She would never run into the surf like other dogs did, but loved following along on a sandy beach. The weather was always on the cool side, so pretty much wherever we went we could take her along, because all we had to do was crack the window a little and she would be fine in the car.
Even though she was fine in the car, we didn’t leave her there unless there were no other choice. In California, many restaurants allowed dogs on the patio long before Texas establishments ever dreamed of it. Frequently, when the restaurant didn’t have a patio we’d secure Precious to something near the entrance and keep an eye on her from inside.
Then Precious would delegate herself as the official greeter. She’d lay on the walk outside the door until she saw someone head her way. Then she would haul herself to her feet and do the welcome dance I loved so much. Invariably, the people headed into the restaurant would stop and pet her. Very occasionally, Precious would not rise on someone’s approach. She seemed to vanish into the sidewalk as they passed. I’d make note of these people. I wanted to be sure I didn’t run into them in a dark alley or do business with them.
We had a cat named Mish-Mish when we brought Precious home. Mish-Mish was getting older and we’d been shopping for a kitten to perk him up when Bill fell in love with Precious. Shortly after Precious moved in, Mish-Mish left. This was an indoor cat that abhorred the out of doors. Then one day he just disappeared. We’ve developed many theories about it, among them that he left in a pique of jealousy, but we never saw a trace of him after that; even though we scoured the neighborhood for days, calling his name and rattling the treat jar.
Soon afterwards we got a little lavender point Siamese kitten. Bill called him Silky, but I insisted his name was Criminal Cat. You would have thought we bought the cat for Precious rather than for us. They were fast friends. I was just hoping Precious wouldn’t pick up Silky’s criminal tendencies. I had dead rats delivered to my door and the cat thought nothing of mine was sacred.
One of Silky’s favorite tricks was to knock my things to the floor and among his most frequent objects of disdain were scrapbooking supplies. See, once something was on the floor, Precious would oblige him by chewing it a little or at the very least licking it. You really couldn’t discipline Precious, because it was down on the floor, her territory. In the picture, Silky had raided the bathroom and destroyed the toilet paper roll, but as soon as we arrived home, Precious urged us to come see what they had done.
We were living out in Los Osos when we first got Precious and it was a very rural area. Our house was built around a courtyard with a gate, so we turned it into Precious’ playroom. We kept her food and water out there and she made our lives easy by using the flower beds as her private bathroom.
Then one night we were wakened by frantic barking. Bill ran to the courtyard and I followed him, turning on lights along the way. Bill didn’t see what caused the commotion, but he heard the sound of something climbing through a grated opening in the courtyard’s brick fence. Then a pair of raccoon peered at us through the gate.
That night we brought Precious in with her food and water and shut down the doggie door. As I held the sweet dog it seemed her heart was beating out of her chest. The next morning we boarded up the break in the brick wall and limited Precious access to her playroom with doggie fencing. We were taking no chances with out beloved pet.
Precious and the Golden Girls
Precious was thrilled when the doorbell rang. As if she were hearing something I was unable to hear, she’d start barking frantically as soon as it went off, eager to perform her welcome dance for whoever was on the other side of the door. Watching an episode of the Golden Girls in the Pismo Beach house we discovered their doorbell sounded just like ours and Precious had no way of differentiating between them.
We developed the habit of watching the Golden Girls for the pure pleasure of observing Precious. She’d be sleeping between us on the couch when the Golden Girls would get a visitor. Precious would jump and bark, letting me know I was supposed to answer the door. She had no idea why Bill and I erupted into howls of laughter. Eventually, she’d figure out no one was coming in and she would go back to sleep – just about the time the Golden Girls’ doorbell would ring again. It was a treat we enjoyed for a long time. The reruns ended before the fun did.
In the years to come, Precious lost her ability to hear. I hated that she could no longer enjoy the frantic joy she felt when the doorbell rang, but most of all I missed her obvious pleasure at the sound of my voice. I still spent a portion of each day assuring her that she was the most wonderful dog on the face of the earth and telling her how much her mommy loved her.
I hope you’re enjoying these memories of my darling Shih Tzu. I’ll only force a few more on you. Come back next week and find out about her move to Texas.