I met Taj at a Petland in Orlando, Florida. It was 15-years-ago. Not long after graduating from college, and shortly after marrying my ex-wife. It feels like a lifetime ago. He was a Shetland Sheepdog — like Lassie. But he had a blue merle coat that had not filled in yet.
Taj was already 6-months-old when we met. Sadly, he spent those months confined to a small cage within the plaza pet store. After playing with him for a few minutes, I knew he was mine. I named him after my favorite surfer of the time, Taj Burrow, and he came home with us.
We lived in a small apartment. When I took out the trash, I would let Taj tow me to the dumpster on my skateboard. I thought it was fun, and good exercise for him. Little did I know, he must have thought I was chasing him with the skateboard. As a result, he developed a lifelong hatred for skateboards. It wasn’t the only thing Taj hated. He also hated lawn mowers, golf carts, delivery trucks, and vacuum cleaners. But nothing living. Taj loved every person, dog, and creature he ever met. There wasn’t an aggressive bone in his body. Once, I watched a butterfly land on the end of his long snout. He just stood still, and just watched the butterfly in appreciation.
Above all else, Taj loved food. I’ve never met a more food motivated dog. He ate loves of bread, plastic bag and all. He ate entire pies wrapped in tinfoil. If you turned away from your plate for a moment, he would snatch your entire meal away faster than you could blink. Of course, he got disciplined for this behavior, but the reward always outweighed the punishment.
In his early days, Taj spent a lot of time at the Lake Baldwin Dog Park in Winter Park. The moment he was unleashed, he would run like a bat out of hell across the 20+ acres of land, herding groups of dogs like they were cattle. Then, he would cool himself off at the edge of the lake with his buddies. It was his favorite place in Orlando.