Pampered pet lives dog’s life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2000

Sara givers her "Sugarplum" a big maternal hug. Note Blanquita's customary expression of world-weary sadness. Poor dog, all that love and attention.

Photo Special to The Advocate

There's an old saying: "opposites attract".

Case in point: Sara and Tony Torruella of Huntsville.

Sara is a Butler County native, farmer's daughter and 1972 graduate of Greenville High.

She's gentle and soft-spoken; a "homebody" who loves old "three hankie" movies and vintage TV sitcoms. Sara enjoys a good mystery novel or inspirational magazine, especially when coupled with a steaming mug of coffee or a tall glass of sweet tea.

A graduate of the Capstone, Sara has long been one of the Crimson Tide's most enthusiastic fans.

Tony, her husband, hails from Puerto Rico; talkative and gregarious, this city boy loves to be on the move.

He reads

"The Wall Street Journal" religiously; "MSNBC" is his programming of choice.

And baseball, not football, is his game.

So, what they do have in common?

For one thing, they truly love canines, with one dog in particular presently capturing their hearts. The couple shares their Spanish-style ranch home with a 6-year-old AKC registered Boxer named "Blanquita" (the feminine form of the Spanish word for "white".)

This city dog has been a part of their lives since she was 6 weeks old and purchased to be a companion for their then three-year-old male white Boxer, Blanco.

In a strange coincidence, these two dogs proved to be "yin" and "yang" to one another also.

"Blanco was so easy-going, laid-back, loveable; he never met a stranger," Sara explains, adding, "He was more likely to try to lick you to death than to ever hurt you.

He only looked intimidating."

Blanquita, on the other hand, is a bright, affectionate dog who is also incredibly high-strung.

Scared of strangers and terrified of storms, she is truly a "delicate and sensitive" canine soul.

Despite their very different personalities, Blanco and his mate Blanquita had a happy relationship, enjoying lots of playtime together, eventually becoming the parents of a litter of seven pups.

Sadly, in July of 1998, Blanco died of cancer at the age of eight.

The Torruella family mourned the loss of the loveable canine. Blanquita received even more love and attention (if that's possible.)

At 65-70 pounds, Blanquita is a big housedog that enjoys the good life indoors in climate-controlled comfort.

She has free rein of the rambling house and its fenced-in yard via her "doggy door".

This dog is only banished outside when both "parents" leave the property.

"When we are running errands around town, we take the "little car" (a Dodge compact).

Otherwise, if she sees us leaving in the "travel car" (a Crown Victoria) without her in it, she's frantic.

She can't stand to think we are leaving her," explains Sara.

Because the Torruellas do travel extensively, they frequently have had to board Blanquita in the past, a situation their nervous dog hated.

Blanquita would go on hunger strikes, and even snapped at the kennel owners on occasion.

The solution?

Tony had a special kennel built for her on his in-law's farm near Honoraville.

Now Blanquita regularly boards with the

"grandparents" she loves and trusts, and has fun playing with her canine "country cousins." (They are a bit mystified at this fellow "dawg" getting to live indoors at least part-time.) There is only one problem: no central A/C in the farmhouse.

So poor old Blanquita must rely on lounging right in front of the floor fan to cool off on hot days.

While she does eat ordinary dry and canned food, she is also very much accustomed to special treats, often fed to her straight from the table by her doting owners.

And how many dogs do you know who get to enjoy "Omaha Steak" burgers when their family cooks out?

Blanquita does.

"Well, I don't like to grill with those particular burgers because the lean meat dries out too much, you see.

So, Blanquita gets herself a little extra treat", explains Tony.

Yes, indeed, this city slicker is one lucky dog.

While Sara is certainly the more effusive of the pair when talking about their pet (whom she often refers to as "Sugarplum" and "Mommy's Angel"), Tony is obviously very fond of his sad-faced canine, smiling like a proud papa whenever someone admires his dog.

One gift given to the couple by a family member was a collage picture frame filled with poses of Blanquita, a present a delighted Tony describes as "great, really great."

Sara says she never fails to go on a trip without carrying a photo of Blanquita with her.

It's one way that allows her to "keep" her precious dog nearby no matter how far away.

Blanquita herself works quite hard at making sure she isn't far away from her "mom" whenever the two are in the same place.

She follows Sara from room to room; though Blanquita has her own special bed beneath the coffee table she still spends several hours curled up at the couple's bedside each night.

Tony has several grown children by a previous marriage.

For Sara, however, her dogs have been her only "babies," and she freely admits to fussing and fretting over them like children.

Her wide blue eyes welling with tears, Sara recalls the loss of their first dog.

"It hurt so much to lose Blanco; he was so sweet and funny.

I guess I really can't bear the idea of losing Blanquita, too.

But I know the odds are she doesn't have many more years; it's not a long-lived breed."

With a deep sigh, Sara pauses before continuing.

"So I don't think about it a lot; it's too heart-breaking for me to contemplate.

I just try to enjoy every day I do have with her and appreciate the time we have together."

One thing is certain: no matter how many more years she may have, Blanquita Torruella will have enjoyed a life of comfort many a human might envy before she goes away to "Dog Heaven" to join her mate.

Truly, this pampered city canine lives "la vida bonita"– the lovely life.