When our youngest son started third grade, somehow he convinced his mother that the family needed a dog. He didn’t need to convince his father, who was already there. But it was the mother who needed to be convinced, and the 8-year-old somehow managed it.
We researched dogs, looking at all kinds of breeds. We talked to dog owners. The requirements were small, not prone to being “yippy,” low-shedding, and good with children. Finally, after reading about a particular breed in one of the big dog magazines, we found the dog we were looking for. We would learn later that the magazine lied about “low-shedding.”
We found a breeder. There was at that time only one in our metropolitan area, and she was known as crazy. So we headed west, about 300 miles west, in fact, across Missouri and into Kansas. Some 40 miles northwest of Lawrence, down a dirt road and over a log bridge, we found the breeder and the puppy. And we took our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel home.
Judith Summers and her son Joshua went looking for a dog, too. They were looking to help fill a London flat and a family life emptied of Summers’ larger-than-life husband, television producer Udi Eichler, who had died from cancer. Eichler was known to the rich-and-famous (actor John Thaw, he of Inspector Morse fame, read a poem at the memorial service) and the no-to-rich-and-famous. Summers thought she knew what she was getting with George, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Summers was wrong. (She got hers two years after we got ours. I could have warned her.) George transformed the family’s life.
She tells the story of what happened in My Life with George: The Inspirational Story of How a Willful Dog Brought Joy to a Bereaved Family. It is as much the story of life with a dog as it is a memoir of love, loss, grief, and the attempts for a family to recover and go forward.
Cavaliers are everything they’re claimed to be – friendly, gorgeous, gregarious, happy, the kind of dog that people stop you on the street to pet. Like most dogs, they have healthy appetites. They also eat things they shouldn’t. They’re also prone to physical ailments, and will make you best friends with the often-weekly visits to the veterinarian. Our vet bills alone put the vet’s daughter through college. But you pay, because the loyalty these dogs express evoke a similar loyalty from you. Just ask Summers. She figures she spent more than $20,000 on vet bills – on top of what the pet insurance paid.
|Judith Summers and George|
George was the type of dog who created stories – stories about what happened to prospective boyfriends, about interactions with other dogs, the battles for control the cat waged, the constant, ongoing need for grooming (and vet visits), and what happens to your heart when that face looks up into yours and smiles.
Summers is a writer and author who lives in London. She’s published Soho: A History of London’s Most Colorful Neighborhood (1991); The Empress of Pleasure: The Life and Adventures of Teresa Cornelys (2003); and Casanova’s Women: The Great Seducer and the Women He Loved (2006). She’s even published a sequel to her story of life with George – The Badness of King George (2010), the title a clever takeoff on the “The Madness of King George.” She lives in London.
My Life with George is the real thing – Summers knows this subject of Cavaliers because she’s lived it. And she provides the good, the bad, and the crazy of what life is like when you own this particular breed of dog.
Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.