She didn’t know it, but my mom grew up with a unicorn and maybe you did, too.  Sometimes unicorns look like Labs, or Border Collies or German Shepherds.  My mom’s unicorn was Princess, a Boxer cross.  According to legend she came in a cardboard box; as is the genesis story of many a Unicorn-Dog. I grew up hearing stories about Princess.  Like the time Grams worked in the administration offices of a university and walked out for lunch only to see Princess riding around

in the backseat of  a convertible loaded with college students. No one asked if they could take her – She belonged to everyone and to herself.  They just picked her up like a friend and dropped her off on campus when they came back and she took herself home.

To better understand the family legend of Princess I took my grama out for coffee.  When I told her who I wanted to talk about she suppressed a chuckle and smiled to herself and told me she was just thinking about her the other day. She went on to tell me several stories I had not yet heard and verified some others.

She recalled stories of princess waiting for whole afternoons outside a store when an aunt or uncle of mine went in one door and out another.  Of the dog being shown around the town grocery store to prove my grama wasn’t there and then catching a ride home with the shop owner who knew where she lived.

The Last Dog Syndrome

Dogs like Princess are wonderful but they can give people the false belief that this is the default setting for being a dog. Any dog who comes after runs the risk of falling short of the legend who came before. Clients will say to me “but our last dog…” Or “But when I was a kid our dog…”. I don’t for a second think these stories are untrue, but I do think they are Unicorns. Elusive and sometimes truly the stuff of lore.  I often see the new and wholly wonderful pup or dog being held up to the image of a mythical beast as wonderful as a Unicorn-dog.  It is really quite unfair. They don’t stand a chance of measuring up.

Magical creatures are magic: when you are with one, enjoy the time, especially if you are lucky enough to recognize it while its happening.  But don’t discount every other dog or person because they can’t meet such a standard.  There is beauty and magic in all of us.

Memories and Expectations

My personal unicorndog Diane was perfect, beautiful and delicate.  Everyone loved her, I could take her anywhere and let kids pet her. All the things we dream of as dog people.  She was a thing of beauty. When she died, people had trees planted in her name and cried as much as I did.  Jonny, in his fluffy majesty, is amazing and has taught me many things already but he will never be her.  He will always be a bit too big, a bit too clumsy; he is not as easy to take out in the world.  But he is great just as he is. I love him with eternal devotion and will not compare him to the sainted memory of Diane.