I come from a large family. I never knew my dad, but my mom was caring and very protective of my brothers and sisters and me. She made sure all of us got enough to eat, but if one of us tried to eat too much, she would stand up and move across the room or even leave. As we got older and more rambunctious, she seemed to have less and less patience, and she stopped feeding us as often. Sometimes she would bark at us to back off, so we started eating solid foods.
I have a hard time talking about the day my new family came to get me. I was young, way young, but my mom wasn’t feeding me at all anymore, and I was old enough to live on my own. That first night was terrible in my new home; I was locked in the laundry room. My new mom and dad shut at least two doors between me and them, but it did them no good; I was loud and I let them know I was scared and unhappy. I really did not understand where I was to relieve myself so I went everywhere; well, everywhere but on a newspaper they put on the floor. I was afraid to mess up their newspaper.
As the weeks went by, my new mom and dad and a little version of Dad played with me, and I really enjoyed the attention. The little dad would let me sleep on him while he watched television until Dad or Mom came in and made Little Dad turn off the TV and do something called homework. I still do not understand why everyone got mad at me for chewing on their shoes. I was teething and the smelly leather was perfect for my tiny teeth. I will never chew on Mom’s shoes again; she was so mad when I chewed that strap off that I thought she would send me back. I didn’t want to go back. I was happy with my new family, and I discovered that their attention span was much shorter than mine. I had nothing else to do but to look for something fun to do while each of the three of them only had time to fuss at me occasionally.
The day came that I was able to go outside and play by myself. If possible, outside was more fun than inside. There were fast little animals that ran up trees. I never got close to catching one, but I kept trying. I discovered that a fence around the backyard stopped at the ground, so if I dug under it, I could go to the nice yard next door. The people next door did not have a friend for me, but their backyard was magnificent with beautiful grass and tasty flowers. The game we played was fun. I would dig under the fence, and they would put bricks in the hole and I would dig another hole. I wish all humans were as entertaining.
The only downside of playing outside was having to sleep outside too. Mom and Dad got a 50-gallon drum, turned it sideways, and called it my house. It was not much of a house, no porch, no overhang when it rained, and seriously cold to the touch in the winter, but it was mine and I liked it fine. They put a couple of blankets inside for me to lie on, and on cold nights they tossed in another blanket. They tried letting me stay inside some nights, but that white sofa was just too tempting. Somehow Mom knew I had slept on the sofa even if I was careful to move to the pad on the floor before she walked in.
Dad took me to a stranger one day. The stranger put me on a very uncomfortable metal table. Two other strangers held me and talked sweetly to me and rubbed my head while the stranger moved behind me. Whoops! I am not sure what happened, but it was uncomfortable. I determined to keep my eye on that stranger. Then I felt a sharp stick in my backside and I was more than ready to go home. The stranger tried to make up with me by giving me a treat; okay, I took it, but I still was not happy and was much relieved when Dad and I got back in the car.
Riding in the car is fun. It is a bit dangerous if Dad has to stop suddenly, but most of the time I stick my head out the window and love life. Mom and Dad take me to events they attend outdoors where I get to meet new friends; the problem is I never know when we get in the car whether we are going on a field trip or to see that stranger I don’t trust.
Before letting me out in the front yard, they always put a leash on me, either to get in the car or to take a walk around the neighborhood. Going on a walk takes a while. I have to stop to check out each one of the many smells. My favorite way to start involves running out the door to the front yard without a leash. The humans run and play and try to catch me while I run around them and keep just far enough away so they cannot grab my collar. Sometimes I run down the street and that really sets them off. Everyone jumps in the cars and takes off, yelling my name. It’s great fun.
One day Dad took me back to the stranger, and this time I had to stay while Dad got back in the car. I was not happy. I was less happy when the stranger walked in with two more strangers, and the last thing I remember was a sharp stick. I woke up with a pain in my stomach; I was dizzy and very sleepy. I went back to sleep until later when Dad came to get me. The stranger put a big piece of hard plastic around my neck, which was very uncomfortable. Over the next few days the place in my stomach started itching, but I couldn’t reach it because of that round plastic thing. Only when my stomach didn’t itch anymore, Dad took off the round thing. Never trust strangers.
I love my family. Every day may look the same to humans, but to me, every day is different. Sometimes I sleep all morning, and sometimes I sleep all afternoon. Sometimes I chase those fast little animals up trees, and sometimes I find an old toy to chew. I love to eat, but I run around enough and Dad takes me on enough walks to keep my figure trim. I have heard my family had another best friend before me and one before her. That’s the thing about the relationship between my human family and me. To the humans, I am just one of several friends over the years; to me, my family is the only thing I will ever know.
Editor’s note: Hazel Hodges is the eighth boxer the Hodges family has had, going back to Winnie in 1979. Each dog has pretty much looked the same as the others, and as one of our children said, “If you know one boxer, you know them all.” Still, we remember distinctive personality traits of each. We remember Gretchen, who somehow got her front feet into a tire swing and hung for hours until we got home to release her. Her chest was raw from rubbing all day. Millie somehow got a branch caught between her collar and her neck and twisted around until her eyes were bulging when we got to her. Diesel was our wild child whom we finally had to give away when he ran up the street and took the diaper off a neighbor’s child. Charlotte had a congenital heart issue that caused her death at age 6 months. Winnie rushed outside into the backyard, pushing our 3-year-old down the steps and knocking out her baby tooth. Jennie jumped into a child’s bed and wet everything, including the child.
Boxers are amazingly fun dogs to have. They are plenty smart but are one of the most stubborn of the dog breeds. They are strong and loyal, and they love the children in the family. They are curious and will get into trouble, yet they will look into your eyes for acceptance after tearing out your in-ground landscaping lights and spreading the pieces throughout the yard. They will chew off the fringe of your oriental rug. Do not leave the hamburgers on the edge of the counter while you go to the bedroom to change. When you get back, the boxer will look at you as if to say, “What?” Boxers are great.