This post is for all the dog lovers out there. You know who you are. We pass each other on early morning or late evening walks in the summer when it’s cool enough for the pups to get their tour of the neighborhood without overheating. Or at the vets, as we try to corral our furry friends as we wait for our turn in the exam room. At the dog park, watching with wonder as dozens of dogs of all breeds and sizes playfully interact with each other. We can learn a lot from them.
I got my first dog when I was about ten years old. A scrappy retriever mix I named Phantom. She was black with a white patch on her chest and we happily adopted her from a neighbor’s English Setter litter. I was going through a tough time in my childhood and Phantom was a source of much needed unconditional acceptance. She was also an escape artist and could wriggle her way under or through any fence or enclosure known to man. This was ultimately her undoing as she met an untimely death when she escaped our fenced in back yard, managed to get into our neighbors yard, ventured out onto their ice covered pool cover and drowned after the ice cracked. She was only four and my heart was broken.
I didn’t get another dog until shortly after getting married. Like many young couples, my husband and I decided to start out with a puppy and see how it went before committing to actual human offspring. Our first dog was an exuberant farm bred golden retriever we named Barron. Barron saw us through many of life’s experiences. He offered comfort in the form of soulful eyes and gentle nudges after my brother died in a plane crash. He was there for hugs and long walks after a miscarriage. He was there to celebrate when we returned from the hospital with our daughter and then our son. He was a gentle playmate for our children, a willing receptacle for any leftovers and a faithful watchdog keeping me safe when my husband was away on business trips. Barron lived to the ripe old age of 13. The last year was difficult as he slowly lost energy, was unable to enjoy our walks and started becoming senile. The lifecycle of a dog is like an abbreviated human life cycle. We see the full circle in the span of a decade or so.
We waited several months before beginning the search for our next pet. In fact, for reasons for which I no longer recall, we decided to adopt a cat (!!) from the shelter. Maggie was an adorable four month old kitten, white with gray paws. Independent, like most cats, she took it upon herself to curl up on top of whatever I was reading at the time and occasionally offer up some cat cuddling. Still, we yearned for another dog and my ever resourceful husband found a litter of Golden Retriever pups from a breeder in Wisconsin. In case you didn’t know, Wisconsin is known for their Golden’s and we weren’t disappointed. We picked up Cooper at a farmhouse nestled on several tree lined acres. After several weeks of email interaction and an adoption process that seemed oddly intense, we ended up with the cutest golden retriever puppy in the world. I am not exaggerating. The. Cutest. Puppy. Ever. If you don’t believe me, look at this picture.
Cooper comes from a long line of show dogs. His granddog won the Westminster dog show. He looks like the Madison Avenue version of a Golden Retriever. And he is the sweetest dog ever. Really. The. Sweetest. Dog. Ever. He just turned 11 and he’s starting to show his age which breaks my heart. Oh, and if you are wondering about the cat.. Maggie wasn’t so keen on the puppy and showed her displeasure by urinating on various bedding. In our house, dogs rule and Maggie went to live with an elderly widow and is still loving her life as the queen of her castle. And now we have Dash.
Dash. How do I begin to describe him? When Cooper was around 3, we decided it would be fun to have a second dog. We had two kids, so why not two dogs? We liked Goldens, but two dogs with that level of shedding concerned us. We thought maybe adding a little non-shedding breed would be a good idea. My husband had seen a cute little dog at our sons baseball game and found out that the breed was called a Havanese. And so began the search for a Havanese breeder. We found Dash at a breeder outside of St. Louis, another farm style location.
My husband and our kids made the trek with the goal of picking out the puppy onsite. There were 5 in the litter. Four girls and a boy. You guessed it, we got the boy. Apparently, Dash (who was then named Doogle and was briefly named Duncan afterwards) was the outgoing sibling in the bunch. He came bounding out to greet Joel and the kids, while the shy sisters hid in the bushes. He’s a lovable, feisty, hearty little dog who quickly assumed the alpha position – and Cooper didn’t mind one bit. They make a cute pair. Like many small dogs, he gets carried around quite a bit, is spoiled, still “goes” in the house and really thinks he’s a big dog. He runs circles around Cooper on our walks and eventually exhausts himself and will lie down on the spot to recuperate. He also isn’t quite sure of his name, as about half the time we call him “Fluffy.” Go figure.
Dogs are such blessings. Yes, they shed (Cooper), destroy many things as puppies, ruin carpets (Dash, aka Fluffy), cruise the counters searching for snacks (any large dog), bark incessantly when the doorbell rings (in real life or on TV), cost you a small fortune on vet bills and pet sitters, can be overly friendly to visitors (hello crotch sniffers) and can disrupt a perfectly good nights sleep.
On the other hand, they are loving, accepting and non judgmental. They are there at the back door the minute you get home, tails wagging, eyes bright. They keep you company in the bathroom. They will clean up food spills without being asked. They make sure you get your 10,000 steps in. And they instinctively know when you need a furry shoulder to cry on, a belly to rub, or just a paw to shake. They watch with razor sharp focus as you prepare dinner, nap besides you as you read or watch TV and happily sit outside enjoying the simple things in life. We can learn a lot from them.
At this point in my writing, I walked upstairs to find that little Dash (aka Fluffy) had both vomited on my bedspread and peed on the carpet. This, while the sliding door to the back yard was wide open for his convenience. Oh, the irony.. And we are already thinking about our next dog…
Here’s to the wonderful, loving, accepting, sometimes messy and always there for you dog(s) in your life!