Photo: Justus and Ike the Pug
Had to take both dogs to the vet for their annual check-ups yesterday. While that's an ordeal in itself, the good news is that they're doing well for two older, big dogs.
My hubby and I went out to dinner Saturday night and talked about Justus. Mastiffs in general have a lovely gentle disposition--Sadie, our first, wasn't properly socialized as a pup and when we got her at four months, it was pretty much too late to do much about it. She loved our family, but to avoid stress all the way around, we let her stay in the kitchen when company came over.
But back to Justus. Back in November 2001, I was on the treadmill during LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY and I heard they were having "dog week." On Friday, they were going to feature the smallest dog and the Guiness World Record dog, a mastiff named Hercules.
Well, I thought it might be fun to fax in a photo of Justus and my son . . . and maybe, just maybe, they'd hold it up to the camera at some point during the week. So I printed out a photo of Jussy and my son, and wrote this really stupid letter that went something like this:
I don't know how big Hercules is these days, but our Justus is 275 pounds and he's wonderful.
I faxed the letter to the show and forgot about it. But the very next day I got a phone call from the producer--they wanted me to 1) go to the vet and have Jussy's weight verified and 2) if he really was as big as I said, they wanted us to fly to New York to be on the show.
"But he won't fit in a crate," I told them.
"Not to worry," the producer said. "We'll buy him a ticket so he can ride with you in the cabin."
Long story short--we juggled our schedules to fly Jussy to Manhattan. Yep, ON the plane. My husband kept saying we were crazy, but I said it was the chance of a lifetime and we had to take it. People asked if I was going to be on the show to talk about my books--I saw no, I was going for my DOG.
The trip took place in early November, and everyone was still suffering the effects of 9/11/2001. People were still jittery in airports, and the security lines were looooong. Anyway, Justus charmed (and calmed) everyone in the airport. He walked straight through the lines and patiently stood around while people petted and kissed him and asked us 100 times how much he ate and how much he weighed. When Jussy grew tired, he'd never snap or growl, he'd just sort of turn away like he needed a break.
We were picked up at the airport in a cargo van (not a good idea, because we were bounced around like tin cans--me and the dog in the back), so I told the Regis folks that a car would be better. So, after spending the night at the Mayflower Hotel across from Central Park (Hey, a dog has to have some place to go!), we were picked up in a stretch limo and driven to the show.
In the green room, we met Hercules and his owner, and another mastiff named Moose--they brought in a ringer! If you'd like to see the actual (edited) video, just keep reading.
Now--Gelman had rigged up this teeter-totter thing that looked a little flimsy. So we did a dress rehearsal, and Jussy hopped up on the contraption just fine, but when it MOVED, he decided he didn't like it. So in the actual broadcast, of course, he REFUSED to get on the thing. I was holding out bagels and assorted foods I'd filched from the green room, but Justus was having none of that teeter totter. My hubby was at the rear, pushing with all his might, but it's not an easy thing to move a mastiff that doesn't want to move. Then Hercules' owner stepped in and hefted the big boy up on the scale.
Cutting to the punch line: Justus was declared America's SECOND largest dog. (And, for the record, he was not obese. Just big.)
I had a speaking engagement to (literally) run to, so I took off while hubby, Regis, and Justus posed for pictures. In the airport on the way home, hubby and Justus gave autographs and posed for more pictures. Joan Rivers even walked by and said she'd seen them on the show.
After the show, Jussy enjoyed about a week of celebrity. He was on the local news and made appearances in the schools, but one appearance was especially memorable. We took him to a class of handicapped students, many of whom were blind or otherwise visually impaired. And Justus stood there, patiently, while these kids patted him from nose to tail. He was so patient and gentle with them.
I miss him . . . and I wish I could be as patient. Sometimes animals can be models for us, no?
Hug your dog today!