From the moment I saw him, his coat the color of cappuccino, his tail-less behind gently swishing, I was a captive of his elegance. His reserved surface demeanor shielded a loyalty and passion with which I felt instant kinship.
I had never even heard of a Welsh Corgi. In Louisville, where I grew up, dogs came in two varieties: poodles which all the rich people seemed to have, and lovable mutts for the rest of us. Animals were a luxury not many people could afford.
But in the heart of urban Washington, a pet was a necessary vigilante, I reasoned, peeling off what seemed an enormous number of bills for his purchase on a day that now seems a lifetime ago.
An instant ease in relationship ensued between the dog and all of my children, despite their differing temperaments.
He suited the driving, high-energy eldest; the nice, yet fierce, middle one; the solid, funny youngest.
They loved his un-doggy attitude at dinner -- no hunger pang could make him wolf down his food. He approached his dish with slow grandeur and looked around like a monarch surveying his kingdom before deftly attacking his meal. That used to crack the kids up.
In a moment that must surely have been a momentary rebellion against our "changing" neighborhood, (and on a day when I had spent considerable time on the telephone to the city trying to get our alley cleaned), we named him Llewellyn -- as in Llewellyn of Wales.
We were also spurred by the knowledge gained from his breeder and a dog book from the library that the Queen of England always kept a couple of Corgis.
Llewellyn was always an anomaly in the economically and culturally diverse neighborhood in which we lived. "If he is a boy dog," said the kid down the block, "why do you call him Lou Ellen?" This was usually followed with the refrain: "Hey lady, hey lady! Why'n't your dog got no tail?"
And then there was the driver for Goodwill Industries who wanted to assure his safety (he need not have worried) by ascertaining the dog's name and taking refuge in friendliness in the event of any unexpected moves. (He seemed equally capable of administering a surreptitious kick if provoked, so I quickly obliged.) "Lou Ellen!" he cackled loudly. "I once had a girl friend named Lou Ellen." His "heh-heh-heh" trailed off behind him as he went about picking up the objects he came for, obviously caught in a reverie of X-rated reminiscences.
"Love is the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own, or another's, spiritual growth," says Dr. M. Scott Peck and . . . it is only human beings who possess a spirit capable of substantial growth."
I like and accept that definition. But with Llewellyn, there was certainly a spectacular coinciding of his and my will, and an instant synchronization of his temperament with that of the entire household's.
He saw the children through chickenpox and measles, trailed behind them to nursery school and welcomed them back from college. He was dependable -- there to be nuzzled when a pensive child wanted to sit alone and declare her independence from, and revulsion with, everybody else in the household -- with a lone canine exception.
He was there through the good and bad times, the rough and smooth times, an unobtrusive dog growing older, wiser, slower, deafer, who was the perfect complement for the vicissitudes of complex, sometimes colliding lives.
We returned his devotion. I held him in my arms and rushed him to the vet after a bully attacked him once when he ran away. For a period, he and I were jogging partners -- he stood so impatiently by the door every morning that it was unthinkable to indulge my frequent lazy impulse to sleep in on weekends.
Last Sunday, the youngest teen-ager and I had made plans to take the ailing Llewellyn to the vet. She found him lying on his side, his elegant head angled toward the sky, soft brown eyes open but unseeing.
I could not bear to look -- so overpowering were the emotions and the surge of memories which I assigned to him. So a friend lovingly wrapped him and bore him away, and the grief was for a tie severed after more than 15 years, the grief was for a lost "friend" and member of the family.