Back in March 2008, Tag and his big brother Cuervo graced the cover of Plano Profile magazine, and in doing so became our first ever “cover dogs”.
Having lived a long and very happy life, Tag recently passed away, or in the words of Tag’s owner, Sherry Smith, “Taggers Tail is Wagging in Heaven”.
Adopted from SPCA at the State Fair Music Hall production of Aida, it was Tag’s extraordinary bond with his soulmate Cuervo that got him on the cover of Plano Profile all those years ago.
And so in memory of Tag and Cuervo here we bring you the original “A Dog’s Best Friend” by Cindy Boykin, published in the March 2008 edition of Plano Profile magazine.
A Dog’s Best Friend
by Cindy Boykin, March 2008
Despite their differences Cuervo and Tag are true soul mates
If dogs have soul mates, these two found theirs. Even though there is a six year difference between Cuervo and Tag, they are clearly joined at the heart – and usually at the hip.
“We had no idea when we named him Tag what a tag-along he would be to his brother,” Sherry Shaw-Smith said. “We have a pretty big corner lot here, so they have all the space they need, but more times than not they’ll be sitting out there rump to rump,” she laughed.
It wasn’t this way from day one, but the dogs’ friendship did grow quickly. Cuervo was already 6 years old when 6-week-old Tag came bounding into his life. More curious than territorial, Cuervo observed the mischievous pup who preferred to pee on the sequined Christmas tree skirt than outside in the grass. He was amazed at the puppy’s insatiable appetite for anything not bolted to the floor – Labs are notorious chewers, Sherry noted.
From the beginning, young Tag had an independent streak, never fearing bigger dogs. Yet he was also loving. If he wanted to nuzzle with his new best friend, he nuzzled, regardless of how Cuervo felt about this public display of affection.
They are different in other ways, too. Tag is a risk-taker. Cuervo is a rule-follower. Tag loves the snow, Cuervo hates it. When Cuervo barks to come in through the kitchen door, Tag barks at the front door.
The journey that brought them to a shared life began 14 years ago. Adopting Cuervo was not an impulse decision, it was divine inspiration. Cleveland Smith said, “I got word from upstairs … it was unmistakable. I’m talking about something that happens from time to time when you get word from the deity up there, and you’ve got to go through with it.”
Sherry confirmed, “He was adamant. He came in and said, ‘I’ve got to go. I’m going to get a dog.’ So I said fine, and went back into my office.”
That was in the early ‘90s and Cleveland went to the old animal shelter on the east side of Plano. Once inside he was drawn to an 8-week-old puppy that had been abandoned nearby.
The dog was picked up and brought in alone. It was his lucky day.
Cuervo not only became the adored pet of the house, he became the beloved dog of the neighborhood. Everybody met Cuervo. Even the FedEx drivers became friends with Cuervo, who happily retrieved packages and took them into the house. Sherry teased, “I’ve signed a lot of important contracts with teeth marks in them!”
Customarily, at the end of a visit by family or friends, Sherry and Cleveland waved so long from the front porch of their blue Victorian home. It was Cuervo who escorted the visitors to their cars and watched them pull away.
Such was the dog-life of Cuervo for six years. Then one afternoon Sherry and Cleveland were at the State Fair of Texas with front-row tickets to see the musical Aida. Cleveland left Sherry momentarily to get a corn dog. When he returned, she was holding a real dog.
“Well, it was his fault,” she laughed. “He left me standing by the SPCA booth.” Evidently a woman was interested in the last of eight puppies being offered for adoption. It was the runt.
She told Sherry her previous four dogs had all been hit by cars, and she was waiting for her mother to come with $40 to get this one. Sherry heard more than enough. This woman was not a good caretaker of man’s best friend, and if money was too tight to buy the dog, how could she afford to feed it?
“I’m just glad the other seven dogs were already adopted, or I would have taken them all home to keep that lady from getting one!” she said.
Two front-row seats became vacant that night. They took Tag straight home and the two dogs met for the first time. Cuervo was not jealous nor unfriendly, he was just biding his time until this little guy went home. After all, Cuervo had been a gracious host to many visiting friends over the years.
But this confident, adventurous little puppy seemed to be settling right in. Cuervo tried to establish some discipline by gently biting Tag’s neck – Tag did the very same to Cuervo. Cuervo curled up for an afternoon nap, Tag nuzzled right next to him. Cuervo walked the neighborhood with Sherry and Cleveland, Tag trotted beside them.
Before long, Cuervo assumed the role of big brother. Because these two dogs are so well behaved and stay in their yard, they are allowed to relax on the front lawn while Sherry and Cleveland are inside. But one day, Tag was just too curious about the bustling activity a few houses down. Workmen were setting up saw horses, lugging big tools around, and making a racket that piqued his interest.
So, he meandered down to take a look. Cuervo stood up and watched. Then he barked sternly a few times, but Tag kept walking. Indignant, Cuervo walked to the edge of his yard and barked again. By this time, the workers had stopped their activities and began petting Tag. Cuervo was not happy.
When Tag finally returned to his own yard, Cuervo barked and nipped at him repeatedly, letting Tag know he had misbehaved. Over the years, their friendship has deepened and even extended to other dogs in the neighborhood. Sherry pulled out a picture of Tag “walking” their neighbor’s overly active beagle, who had gotten loose and ended up in their yard still wearing a leash. Growing weary of the visitor’s antics,
Tag secured the end of the leash in his mouth and settled the dog down.
Another canine pal, an extremely large golden retriever named Dillon, was Cuervo’s best friend for many years. Eventually they accepted Tag as one of the boys. Dillon had one serious shortcoming: He bolted out the front door every chance he got. Dillon lived on the other side of a creek and broad residential street from his two buddies. On several occasions, his owner called the Smiths requesting, “Go check your front porch.” They were never surprised to open the door and find Dillon sitting there waiting to play with his two best friends.
One day not long ago, Dillon’s owner called Sherry and asked her to bring Cuervo and Tag over for a last visit. Dillon’s health necessitated that he be put to sleep later that day. So they all walked over and spent time saying goodbye to their old friend. “Tag and Cuervo were so gentle with Dillon,” Sherry said.
The two dogs also display compassion for each other. Now at the age of 14, Cuervo experiences pain from a previous ACL surgery that required about nine months of rehabilitation. When other dogs come by to play, Tag keeps himself positioned in front of Cuervo to prevent horseplay from getting too rough.
Until recently, the dogs slept in the upstairs master bedroom with Sherry and Cleveland, but climbing the stairs has become too difficult for Cuervo so he stays downstairs. Sherry said, “I sleep downstairs with Cuervo many nights because he hates being alone. In the morning, when Tag comes downstairs, he has a little ritual. He puts his head over the back of the sofa and I love on him. Then he’ll come around, Cuervo gets up, they walk around in semi-circles, then they plop down together and Cuervo starts licking Tag’s face. Every morning they do this. They just regroup, then they go outside.”
On any given day, these two best friends lie so closely together that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other one begins. They are lost in the joyous company of their soul mate.