Karen Elizabeth West
(6/21/47--9/13/71)
After Karen died in 1972, we found some wonderful things she had written. Below is the story of her dog, Dietrich.....
 
A WARM PUPPY STORY
By Karen West

"Diet" we called him. (That's pronounced like "deet.") Found him in a pet store one day when I was trying to get rid of some kittens. A cute little fuzzy Schnauzer, just turned two months. He was full of Hell, and as soon as I saw him I knew I had to have him. Couldn't afford him, really. Even had to charge part of him (I never figured out which part it was exactly).

Soon as we got him home, he walked in, examined the place, and peed on the floor. We had a good laugh over that, and I knew he would be a guy I could love.

We had a few cats then, too (four, to be exact), and Dietrich investigated them all and made his choice. MacDuff wasn't too crazy about him, but he tried everything to get her to play with him. I remember how he used to get his ball, run to her with it, drop it at her feet, back off a little and give a yip as if to say, "Well, aren't you going to play with me?" I think all four cats took turns being Diet's favorite. None of them really disliked him.

In fact, I was thinking just the other day that Diet didn't know ANYBODY who didn't like him. I couldn't begin to count the number of people who offered to take him off my hands. My reply, though, was always, "Over my dead body you will!" --and I meant it.

I remember that he had such cute ways. If you held a piece of food of some sort or a tay in the air for him, and asked him if he wanted it, he would jump on his hind legs and dance around in a perfect circle for you until he got it. He would fetch things naturally and return them to you -- but not quite as far as you. He was a tease, that dog!

And how he loved to have his chest scratched! He'd put up with that for hours on end-- grunting little pleased grunts all the while. And if you stopped scratching, he'd grab your hand with his paw and put it in place to scratch some more. And if you stopped altogether, he'd let you know he didn't like that at all. He'd lie down right under your feet, and as he put his head down, he'd let out a big sigh of boredom which seemed to say, "Oh, it's no use. Nobody loves me." But we really did.

And boy did he love to travel!! Of course, he spent his first two weeks with us in a car (we were on vacation--5,000 miles worth). I guess he was more secure there than in any other place because he knew we'd always be back for him--sooner or later. And he was right again. Whenever we got ready to go anywhere in the car, Diet would get all excited. He was ready to go too. He'd run to the door and scratch to go out, run to the car and sit in front of the door, waiting to jump in the back seat as son as one of us opened the door. He was such a cute guy!

Diet thought he was a big dog. Maybe at one time he was, but when I got him he was only a little Schnauzer--about 15 pounds, standing about 14 inches when fully grown. He always took after the big dogs, though. I remember when he was going to Obedience School. There were all kinds of dogs there--poodles, collies, shelties, German shepherds, etc. But he only took after the St. Bernard and the Great Dane! And they used to look at him as if to say, "Are you kidding??"

As far as dogs go, Diet was one of the best. The vet and everybody said he'd walk away with shows--if it hadn't been for one problem--that right testicle which never appeared. Poor little one-ball dog! 'Course he never knew the difference. He would have been just as happy with two or with none at all. Didn't matter to Diet, and it didn't really matter to me either. I always thought it was a waste of almost perfect conformation, but I was happy just to have him.

Dietrich was a little dog, but he had a big heart. Let someone start to hit someone else and he would be right in there barking for all he was worth to try to break it up (he had a big mouth too). Let a cat get hurt (as happened to one of ours when Diet was only about 5 months old) and he would lick it and sleep with it until it was well enough to play with him again. And he made sure that it didn't take long.

He was very good at entertaining himself, too. That's one of the things that made him so easy to live with. He would go in the back yard and chase cats, chase birds, chase his own shadow, roll in the grass with a toy in his mouth, grunting those pleased little grunts all the while--and he would do these things for hours on end. Once in awhile he would feel like a pat on the head or a scratch on the chest and he'd scamper in and let you know. Then when he'd gotten what he wanted, he'd run back outside to play some more. And once in a while he felt like someone to play with out there, and he'd come in, and get your attention, then run back and forth between you and the door as if to say, "Won't you please come out and play with me for awhile?" If you did go, he didn't need to have you there long, but if you wanted to stay and play with him, that was all right too. If you didn't go, he'd just run outside by himself, happy either way.

One thing Diet had was an inexhaustible supply of energy. He never seemed to "poop out" completely. He was always ready to go, go, go some more. And inevitably he did.

He had a real love for people, Diet did. And what he loved could not help but love him back. Kids, babies, adults--it didn't matter to Diet. He loved them all. I used to say, "Diet will bark at anybody--until they pet him, and then he's their friend forever." And that was true! Well, not quite true. It was not quite forever.

When Diet got hit, I thought of all the things we used to do together--all the happy times and a lot of the sad ones. I thought of all the places we went to see together, and the things that meant a lot to him. Strange to have that reaction at the death of a dog. But he was not just a dog. He was Graf Dietrich von Hi-C, and he was my own.

F- ifteen months is not a very long time, really. That's how old he was. You wouldn't think that you could get attached to something that quick--not REALLY attached--not the way I was. You wouldn't think you could. But you can. At least I can--and I did.

Even Diet's vet was attached to him- -and he didn't see him that much. Just once in awhile. He said to me, "Just thank your lucky stars that he didn't have to suffer. He didn't feel a thing. He died instantly. It couldn't have been any other way." I was glad about that. Then, as the vet stood looking down at my dead dog, he added with a shake of his head and a tear in his eye, "Y'know. I loved that dog."

But that's the effect that Diet had on people. Even people who had seen him only a few times in his short life were shaken--some to the point of t ears. Even the driver of the car which hit him was in tears about the accident. And he had never even known Dietrich. I remember vaguely hearing that man's voice as I leaned over the body of my dead dog. I think he said, "I'm so very sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything? Please? I'm so sorry." It was something to that effect. But I didn't answer. I already had Diet in my arms and was walking with him into the house, crying softly and unashamedly.

Within minutes we were on our way to see the vet, and he was lying on his back in my lap, just as he always did when we were in the car. It seemed to natural to have him there like that. That was our last ride together. He didn't come home with me that time.

The man who hit him was happy when I brought Schroeder to see him. His little girl thought it was the same dog. We let her keep thinking that. I was sorry that she had to see Dietrich convulsing in the street in front of our house. I hear that she cried all day and refused to eat anything. So we let her go on thinking that Schroeder was Dietrich.

He's not, of course. But he's a cute guy. Looks very much like Diet, and he's from the same line of Schnauzers. That helps. He's 3-1/2 months old now-- a little older than Diet was when I got him. But that's OK. He'll learn to live with us just like Diet did.

Most important of all, he's someone to look forward to when I come home at night; someone to play with after dinner; and somebody to love with all my heart, just like I loved Diet. Schroeder is already working his way into the big hole in my heart left by his predecessor. And I have a feeling he can fill it just fine.

 
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revised 2/20/00
Bev Sykes