Like the royal family, Levi was born into a job. In the beginning she belonged to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the plan was that she would live with me and my roommate for a year, and then go on to be trained as a guide dog, and then go on to be someone's assistance dog. Life and plans. It's a funny thing. That year there were interviews, references, and home inspections. She arrived with a training manual, and a little green vest that said "Future Seeing Eye Dog". For that first year, my roommate and I were suppose to take her everywhere and get her use to everything. She rode the subway daily, went to class, hung out in my office in the York Federation of Students. She was a regular at The Grad Lounge, came on dates with me, and sometimes slept in several different places in the same week. She knew our subway stop, and if I fell asleep on the train, would wake me up as we pulled in. She never let me sleep past St. Clair. I'd never had a dog before, and had no idea how I would come to love that puppy. She made me into a dog person.
I imagine everyone has heard the story of how we came to be together longer than a year, skip this and the next paragraph if you don't need to hear it again. At the end of the year, the CNIB called to say that it was time for their dog to come back. I rented a car to drive her out to Oakville. We had a long last frolic on a beach, some high-end dog treats and drove West. I felt a bit like Thelma and Louise, and considered that we should just keep on driving. But we didn't. She trusted me, and I took her back. I missed her so much. Missed, missed, missed, missed. Missed her so much I got a hedgehog. Three or so months later, they phoned me back. They liked her body and her temperament and said that they wanted to have her in the breeding program. Did I want her back? I said yes. My roommates said no. We moved.
When we were reunited, we slept on bunk beds. I put my bed up on stacks of milk crates three high, and she had a cozy den underneath. She no longer got to come everywhere with me, so we had longer walks, more off leash time, new adventures. When she was three, she had a weekend date with a hot stud, got knocked up, and had nine puppies at a facility in the country. All the puppies' names began with B. She didn't like all those little mouths, when I visited she was clear it needed to be all about her. The puppies, they never write, they never call, they too would be old now. The following year, at her physical, it was discovered that she had cataracts, which are potentially hereditary, and disqualified her from the CNIB breeding program. She became a dog without a job.
When we first met, she was small enough I could hold her in one hand. I never stopped calling her "little dog", and she never stopped thinking of herself that way. She would lie down on the ground for any dog, was scared of cats, and if something frightening happened when we were out together, she would hide behind my legs. She protected me in other ways.
We walked picket lines together, and trained for a half marathon. She loved both. She loved the mornings we would go down to the lake together. Levi loved a beach. Any beach, although sand is better than stone. Once, we rented a cottage on a beach and Levi could see the water from inside the living room. She was so infuriated at the injustice of being kept inside, when the water was out there. That first summer, when she was a puppy, when we went swimming, she rode on my back, but ever after that, she swam beside me, and when she thought I had gone too far from shore, she would swim circles around me to make me turn back.
Levi loved swimming. She loved fetch in the water, but found it incomprehensible on land. She had a face that said "human, if you wanted that, you should not have thrown it away. Fetching it yourself will teach you." She always wanted the biggest
Levi was an actor. She was always ready with a rendition of "No, nobody has ever fed me, ever." and it's companion act "Really, a walk, and a cuddle, neither have ever happened in my whole life." The evening she got me and two room mates each to feed her dinner remained famous. I think it's the only time she got three people to feed her the same meal, but twice was not uncommon.
Levi travelled. We drove out to the East coast together, where she established that salt water is just as good as fresh water for swimming in, with the waves perhaps making it even more fun. We also discovered that she loved a hotel room, and that she preferred to be a dog of comfort, and luxury, with a white puffy bed spread if that can be arranged. Bear and Levi drove back to Ontario without me, sending pictures and postcards along the way. By then he was already family to her, as well as to me. Levi always had great taste in people, and I should have paid better attention to her on this. It would have saved my heart.
We joked that she was an Emotional Safety Dog. Levi didn't like it when people fought or even argued. She could tell when raised voices were in jest or for real and would sleep through the playful ones. If there was genuine upset she would try to get in the middle, and run back and forth, as if saying "hey, hey guys, cut it out". If that didn't work she would demand to be let out, and the sound of her breaking out often would end a disagreement. When a person was not good for me she would signal her displeasure by peeing, or by shredding their things. She was very targeted with both behaviours.
Levi loved the outdoors. She loved camping, perhaps because then we would share a tent and sleep snuggled up together. She loved snow, and even as an old dog would bound through it, sticking her nose it to sniff the frozen smells. She loved boats. She was very happy on a canoe trip, and didn't even mind wearing a vest and carrying heavy items, she was just glad to be together and part of the pack. We once went white water kayaking together, and she was unsure that I was safe without her and preferred to ride on the bow of my boat than be left on the shore.
She was my dog, and I was her person. She was my longest domestic relationship. She snuggled The Small when he was a baby, gained weight when he started on solids, and persevered as he learned to stand holding on to her. She made faces when he was not gentle with her but didn't walk away. If you have known me in the last fifteen years, you have known my dog. She was the kind of dog who inspired other people to get dogs. Big gentle floppy dogs. Dogs so nice, you forgive them for how much they shed.
She was my dog, and I was her person. She was my accidental dog, a one year volunteer project who became family. Then again, she was a girl dog who arrived with a Jewish boy's name, and pretty much everything else matched just as well.