I’m just going to put it out there. I love dogs. I have almost always lived with at least one member of the canine variety and I plan on doing so until I am no longer able to care for a furry friend. My early years were spent with a Cockapoo named Maxie. She was a miniature in size only. My parents adopted her before I was born and saved her from an abusive environment. Because of that she was a bit skittish around unfamiliar people. We usually had to keep her in a bedroom when company was over to avoid any incident. She was a loving dog and loyal to the family until canine parvovirus finally claimed her at about sixteen. After a few years of a pet-less house, my father surprised the family with an amazing ball of fur and fury that would grow into a 200 plus pound St. Bernard, Bernie. She was too smart for her own good and would use her size and strength to escape the back yard sending me sprinting through the neighborhood after her. She was the family’s center of attention for about three years. Then came rescued sisters. A Smooth Collie already named Lassie and a Shepherd, Malamute mix aptly named Rusty, would grace our home and create a circus for many years to come.
I mentioned they were sisters. Yes, they were litter mates. Two completely different dogs from the same mother. Ah, biology. I will let you do the research.
These three amazing animals kept the family company, entertained, protected and comforted for the next decade, even as I left for college and then moved out to start my adult life. No visit was complete without at least a few moments of play with each one of the three. They were each unique with their own personalities. They went through rawhide treats like Double-Mint gum. They patrolled the house for intruders. Most were birds, squirrels or just traffic going by the house. There was never a burglar, but we made them all feel like they had kept out Danny Ocean and his crew. The only real crime that ever took place was the untimely death of a new vacuum every year. Cause of death, dog hair.
As I transitioned into my adulthood, I began with a few rescued cats. I loved each of them dearly. They were affectionate and great companions. But, there was something missing. My cats never poked me with a cold, wet nose to get up and play ball. They never greeted me at the door with manic joy, even if it was just a short time since I had seen them. I missed that. Then, after a while something magnificent happened. I met my wife. She is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. By this time, I was again pet-less. So with my new girlfriend, came a wonderful Black Labrador Retriever mix by the name of Melanie. I rediscovered what I was missing. Shortly after I fell in love with both of them came some news that hit close to home. This ball loving, bed hogging, cool floor seeking companion was diagnosed with diabetes. Just like me. My soon to be wife was devastated and began to talk to me about how hard it would be to put her down.
I have never been one to put my condition out in the open. People know, I will talk about it, but it does not define me. But now, I had to stop and open up. I drew parallels between the two of us. And she began to see that this could be manageable for her too. It would require a little extra attention, but she could live a rich normal life. And she would. She stayed with us for another six years, making it beyond her twelfth birthday. As time passed and we moved to Phoenix, after four years, our girl developed cataracts. We checked into getting the removed, but were told they would only grow back. Instead of giving up, we took a different route.
After looking at a number of dogs, we had decided on a Siberian Husky. We wanted to be sure he was the one, so we looked at a few more. I was satisfied but my wife wanted to look at one more that caught her eye. It was all over. This dog chose us and I don’t think there was any way we were going home with anyone but her. We got the living breathing Ajax tornado. She was a bundle of puppy energy wrapped inside the fur of an American Bulldog. We named her Abby. For those of you who are familiar with this breed, she was of the Classic variety. She took to Mel immediately. She would lead her around the yard and through the house. At night they were always together. Abby would go off on her own to burn what seemed to be an endless amount of energy. She always came back to check on her big sister.
As Melanie began to age, Abby needed a new playmate. We were looking like we had before and this time I connected with a Boxer. It took a little convincing but she came home with us. This would be Sophie. She fell right in with what we could now call a pack. Unfortunately, it was only for a short time. Our beloved Melanie, welcomed her newest sister with open paws, but was only able to stay with us for three more weeks. We all felt the pain. But we had a new addition to the family. Sophie would not let us stay down. As a puppy, she was a true clown. In trying her best to keep up with her sister, she grew into a gorgeous, stout Boxer. She was my constant companion.
We had a few new challenges with our changing family. Abby was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. This meant, we had more frequent vet visits, new, special food and supplements to keep her healthy. They worked. As Abby grew, she became stronger and would only occasionally show outward signs. Sophie had her own heart murmur. As we learned, this is fairly common for Boxers. These challenges only brought us closer with our girls. So, with Abby at four and Sophie at two, we decided it was time to expand the pack.
Again we looked at many dogs and were undecided. On the third or fourth trip to visit, I had decided I wanted to take a close look at one dog in particular. On our prior visits, there was one dog who was not the one at the front of the kennel begging for attention. She was quiet and still but our eyes had met. I decided (on my own) if that dog was there she was coming home. If she was not, we were going to put the search on hold. I guess I don’t have to say, she was there. The cutest little Boston Terrier was cowering in the back. I asked to see her. When she was brought out to us, she was handed to my wife. We named her Maggie.
Maggie started life with a severe case of giardia. We did not care. We took her to the vet almost weekly at first. We could not cure her. We got to the point that the vet told us she needed a series of injections that would either cure her or kill her. We took the chance and Maggie is still with us.
As Maggie grew, she wanted to be the alpha. Abby was having none of it and Sophie just did not seem to care. Abby ruled the house, Sophie was the nursemaid and my close confidant. Maggie became my wife’s BFF. We had a happy mostly healthy pack for another five years.
About three years ago, my heart was ripped out when Sophie was diagnosed with pancreatitis and lymphoma. I still have a tremendous amount of guilt that I did not see symptoms in time to help her. We put her on medication that gave her a brief remission and made her feel like her old self for a few more months. We gave her one more Christmas, but it was not to be. Our Sophie lost her fight a little over a month later. Abby was nine by this time and her hips were beginning to bother her again and then she blew out a disk in her back. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, a year and a half later, Abby left us also. My soul was crushed, and so was my wife’s, but we still have Maggie.
Here we are, the two of us with our daughter. That is what all of our girls are, our daughters. Maggie is eight and in good health. We have a long list of breeds we want to look at for the next member of the pack. Our next son or daughter could be a pure breed. It could be a cross breed, or even a mutt. It won’t really matter because I know when that next dog connects with us, our list goes out the window and we will have our new child. I look forward to spending time with a new one, seeing the bonds that they will build. I also look forward to seeing Maggie with a new brother or sister. I want to watch her bond with a new furry person, like her older sisters.
I know with every new addition to the family, there is the inevitable pain that will one day come. Would I trade my time with any of my kids to take the pain away? Do not even suggest it. Like any human member of the family, the pain, after time, is easily outmatched by the pure joy they bring. I can’t wait to see who is next!
I would love to hear about your family and I encourage you to donate to the ASPCA or your animal friendly charity. Look into adoption. You will never regret it.