#miscellany

FACEBOOK

Twitter

WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

Girl’s Best Friend

25 comments | August 27th, 2012

(by Mir from wouldashoulda)

We had a dog, when I was growing up. Her name was Topsy and she was a miniature poodle; she was, without question, my mother's dog. She adored my mom, and tolerated us kids. Sometimes she tolerated us less than others. I liked the idea of having a dog, but the reality didn't pan out quite like the sitcoms I watched. Topsy wasn't big enough to serve as comfy backrest while I read, nor did she behave like those television dogs who just adored the kids in the house. Mostly she loved my mother and I came to believe that owning a dog meant you had to feed it and let it out and occasionally it might deign to let you pet it.

I grew up and moved out and—save for a rabbit I briefly acquired in college—was pet-less for many years. When my first husband and I got married, we talked about the big family we planned to have. We'd have a houseful of kids, sure, and maybe a dog. Maybe two dogs. Once we were more settled, that was. Well, we got "more settled" (whatever that meant) and discovered that having kids wasn't going to be as easy as we'd hoped. We tried for a baby for a long time with no success; then I got pregnant and miscarried. Things were not going according to plan.

While on vacation to visit his family out in the country, we discovered that his grandfather's neighbors had a dog tied up in the yard with a litter of puppies. As mama and pups were somewhat neglected, the puppies (who were not tied up) kept coming under the fence to visit (and scrounge for food and attention). I forget how many days we were there, but by the time we were getting ready to leave, we'd fallen in love with the runt of the litter. We worked up the nerve to go next door and ask the neighbors if we could have him. He waved his hand and said he'd be glad not to have to feed him, and that's how we ended up with a tiny black mutt barely big enough to be away from his mama.

We named him Huckleberry, and his sweet and mellow disposition turned out to be mainly the side effect of being half-dead from worms. Once he'd been fixed up at the vet's, he turned into a goofball with ten times the amount of energy we had, but we loved him to pieces because he was our surrogate baby. The first few nights we had him, he cried in his cage at night, so I slept on the floor with my finger stuck through the bars for him to lick. All of the love I'd hope to lavish on the babies I didn't have went to that crazy dog. We took him on walks and over to the park to play fetch. We snuggled on the couch and let him sleep in our bed.

Finally, I became pregnant with our daughter. It was a rough pregnancy, and while on bedrest, Huckleberry was by my side and seemed calmer, even—he was happy to lounge on the bed with me all day long. Once I returned to work, though, Huck changed. He developed separation anxiety and started destroying things in the house. We had to crate train him for his own protection (one day I'd come home to a neighbor explaining to me that they'd rescued Huck after he had eaten through the "wing" on our window air conditioner and gotten stuck in the window), and he barked and howled for hours in protest. He never did bond with that stupid crate.

Once the baby was born, I was home more and Huck initially seemed less anxious, but he became fiercely protective of his new charge and was aggressive whenever people came to the door. We worked with him as best we could between caring for a baby, and then a baby and a toddler, and then the marriage falling apart. By the time my husband moved out, Huckleberry was routinely "herding" the children into walls and trying to kill the UPS man. Eventually he was taken to a family member's 6-acre homestead, where he lived out the remainder of his days in a more suitable environment, with other dogs, and plenty of things to bark at.

Hindsight is 20/20; knowing what I know now, there's a hundred things I would've done differently. I wouldn't have gotten a puppy, for starters. ANY puppy. And I certainly never would've gotten a puppy mutt of questionable breed. Once Huck was grown it was clear he was mostly some sort of herding dog, which made him the wrong breed for our family. I also should've had a trainer come work with us the minute his behavior became difficult. I was a novice dog owner who'd only ever lived with a fairly persnickety dog in the past. I made a lot of mistakes with Huckleberry. I was very, very fond of him, but unfortunately for all involved, between his breed and the slew of family issues we happened to have, I don't know that I ever had the time and energy to form a really secure bond with him.

Now. Three years ago—after extensive breed research and dedicated stalking of our local pet rescues—our family adopted Licorice, a Shih Tzu/Poodle mix. We took her to training class right away, and that was as much (or more) about training us as it was about training her. I'd love to take credit for her charming disposition but I can't; I think she's just the kind of dog people are talking about when they tell you about how some animals seem to be all the most marvelous aspects of the best humans without any of the drawbacks. I think back on all of the crap that was going on when my first husband and I owned Huckleberry, and how the poor dog—who, really, just wanted a walk and for someone to toss him a tennis ball—ended up neglected in all of that, but at the time it seemed unavoidable, and then I look at Licorice. Because right now, our family is under a lot of stress, and things are busy, and we have places to go and things to do and we're in crappy moods a lot more often than I wish we were… but instead of feeling like "… plus, I have to take care of the damn dog," I feel like Licorice is kind of the glue keeping us all going forward together.

This dog is just as happy wandering around in the garden while I pick tomatoes as sleeping at my feet while I work at my desk. She curls up next to me on the couch and dances around with joy when my husband comes through the door. She endures every ministration from the kids and gives them kisses. She sits by my son at dinner every night, knowing he'll likely drop something delicious. She's a furry little ball of love and acceptance, is what she is. I love her so much that I tell my husband that whenever it's her time to go, he's going to have to have ME put down, too. Licorice just plain cheers me up. She can (and does) jump straight in the air about to my waist-level (pretty impressive for a dog of her size), particularly if she's excited about something. She sits in my lap and leans into me for ear rubs when I'm sad, and races around the house and skids around corners on the wood and makes me laugh when she throws her toys for herself. We taught her to sneeze on command for treats, and now whenever she wants something she goes into a sneezing fit, automatically, hopeful it will win her the kibble or the walk or the piece of bacon in your hand.

She works better than any anti-depressant I've ever taken. True story.

Life is still stressful, and there are plenty of things I wish were different, but I truly believe that one 12-pound mutt is largely responsible for my continued somewhat-sanity in the face of adversity this year. Is that weird?

I feel silly, discovering the infatuation of this "puppy love" in mid-life, but maybe I just never had the right dog before Licorice. Or maybe I didn't have enough life experience to truly appreciate how awesome unconditional love is.

Am I turning into a crazy cat lady, minus the cats? (Is there such a thing as a crazy little dog lady? I've never put Licorice in my purse!) Do you credit an animal with getting you through a difficult time? Is there a way to quantify the happiness a beloved pet adds to our lives?

(for more Mir, go here)
 

25 comments

  • The Lamb Lady

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Licorice is a riot and it was pretty easy to see that she would be a good match for your family. You guys rescued you, so the least she can do is rescue you. right. back. Much love and prayers.

    Report this comment

  • The Lamb Lady

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Her… you guys rescued HER… sheesh

    Report this comment

  • Nelson's Mama

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. Nelson is with me always: steady, faithful, funny and loyal. But, he isn’t the first, nor will he be the last – can’t imagine life without a devoted canine companion, they simply make life bearable.

    When my last dog died, I stopped and thought for a long time about how her life was a perfect example for how I should be living mine…

    Report this comment

  • karen

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    There is no question dogs can bring so much joy and comfort and companionship to our lives. I told you recently I found and adopted a poodle/cocker mix very similar to Licorice, and he has that same personality. When I leave the house on errands, etc… he literally lays in the hallway resting his head on my flipflops until I return. Even if there are others in the house. The joy he shows me when I walk in the room, when he gets to snuggle on the couch with me, when we go for a walk… it’s just a beautiful thing. And they are unconditional. Doesn’t matter what you look like, what you feel like, what’s for dinner or not for dinner… they LOOOOOOOOVE you. Just that.

    There is also not a doubt that there is such a thing as the right kind of dog for any given situation, and the wrong kind of dog. I do remember your SUPER trials. Thank the powers that be for Licorice. :-)

    Report this comment

  • Karen

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Sharing your life with the right animal(s) makes a world of difference. I’m a crazy cat lady, and I credit the cats with helping my youngest handle her teen years well. They are also wonderfully therapeutic for my autistic daughter, who just adores them. Plus, they are wonderful and entertaining in their own right. Nothing soothes better than a purring cat curled up next to me.

    Report this comment

  • suburbancorrespondent

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    In The Exact Same Moon, Jeanne Marie Laskas talks about a stray beagle who wanders into (and then out of) her life precisely when she needed him. It’s uncanny, sometimes, what our pets can do for us.

    But I still don’t want to have to deal with any more poop, ever. I shall have to go dog-less.

    Report this comment

  • Tenessa

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    I’m the crazy animal lady. I’ve always had cats and once I moved out of my parents’ house, tons of other animals. Since parenthood, I’ve pared the animals down to cats and I LURVE them. My oldest cat is twenty. I’ve had him since I was 16. He was a rescued kitten and he has been marvelous. He looks siamese, but he’s not. He was this male kitty who protected his territory, but took such great care of any babies (kittens, puppies, and humans). He has always been so gentle with them when they play wrestled around on the ground (puppies/kittens) or carried him around by his armpits or pulled his tail (humans). He was the ultimate mouser and would even bring me birds he’s caught (not my favorite trait, I have to say).

    Now, he sleeps about 23 hours out of every day, can’t seem to make it to the litter box in time, can only eat wet food, is mostly deaf, and has really bad arthritis in his rear hips. He doesn’t groom himself anymore so I have to brush him, shave him if necessary, and bathe him. Still, he is precious and I cannot imagine life without him. He always give me snuggles when I most need it, even now in his senility. The. Best. Cat. Ever. (sorry, Sith, love you, too!)

    Report this comment

  • Claire

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    I feel the same way about my wee Jack Russell Daisy. She makes me smile everyday and brings me such joy. She’s only 3, gives great kisses, sleeps on my lap and our our bed (husband not impressed). We are lucky to be blessed with 4 legged family members!

    Report this comment

  • J

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    You are NOT a crazy dog lady. I have three and I love them so, so much that like you, I’ve told my husband that when that inevitable time comes have a pyschiatrists number handy. They give so much more back in return and I take “parenting” them very seriously.

    DO NOT SHOP, ADOPT!

    Report this comment

  • addy

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Puppy poopie head came to us when we desperately needed him. He is old a more like Mr. Magoo now – but we still need him. He doesn’t ask for much (treats, walks, ear rubs, torture the cat) but he gives so much. Not looking forward to “that” day. Nope nope!

    Report this comment

  • victoria

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    My father will tell us about studies done which he has read about. A group of people who each have a pet to take care of will be healther and live longer than a similar group who have plants to tend to. The pets “demand“ attention where as the plants only need water thrown on them once a week.
    So, we can give pets much credit for our own well being :)

    Report this comment

  • Stacey

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Totally makes sense to me. When my husband was deployed overseas during our first year of marriage, it sucked out loud. And even though our new dog was also going through separation anxiety and ripping the house to pieces while I was at work, she was THERE when I got home. And we snuggled and missed him together and bonded (after I cleaned up her messes). And now he’s back and I can’t imagine our little family without her. :)

    Report this comment

  • Cheryl

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    Our dog Sandy, who lived with us for 18 years, was the best secret-keeper!! I could tell her anything, and she would not share with anyone!!

    Ha – to be honest, she was the best dog ever. Several years ago, I went through breast cancer, and lots of chemo, and she was there with me all the way. She followed me everywhere in the house during that time, I think just to make sure I was OK. If I was resting on the couch or the bed, she would sit beside me on the floor, the whole time. I really do not think she would even lay down during that time – it was like she had a job to do, and nothing was going to happen to me on her watch!

    The day we had to put her to sleep was one of the worst days of my life. Our whole family felt like we had lost our best friend.

    Suddenly I feel the need to get a tissue, and maybe just have a quick peek at her photo in the hallway as I go by.

    Report this comment

    • Mir

      Posted on August 28, 2012

      Oh Cheryl, I’m sorry you lost such a wonderful friend. Though 18 years—that’s a good long canine life! Just not long enough, huh? Sending non-creepy Internet hugs.

      Report this comment

  • Lucinda

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    We have cats and they are great. They snuggle with us and cheer up my children. I like them but they are nothing like what my dad’s dog has done for him.

    I hate the dog. Truly. She has bitten every grandchild and peas in the house and is obnoxious. But my dad has PTSD and he has bonded with this dog. She loves him unconditionally and he always knows what to expect from her. He has spent outrageous amounts of money in vet bills on this dog and I shudder to think what will happen when she dies. But she has helped my dad stay grounded. For that I will always be grateful to the little jerk.

    Report this comment

  • Jeanie

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    I’ve had dogs all my life, usually more than one at a time (I currently have three). I just can’t imagine life without them. I adore them, and I must say the feeling is mutual. My shih tzu Kenzie also sneezes for her “cookie” every night, but I have to say “Where’s Kennnnnzie’s cookie?” At that point the other dogs think their names are Kenzie, too, and everyone heads in the kitchen.

    Hi, Nelson’s Mama!

    Report this comment

  • RuthWells

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    You’re not at all weird. When I came home from the hospital earlier this year, Theo (our goldendoodle) put on such an amazing welcome home tribute that it moved me nearly to tears. I had been gone for all of six days, but you’d have thought it had been months.

    Report this comment

  • Rocky Mountain Woman

    Posted on August 28, 2012

    I had my sweef beagle for 17 years. I still miss him, not ready for another dog yet…maybe when i retire…

    Report this comment

  • E

    Posted on August 29, 2012

    I have a maltipoo, Sophie, who sounds very much like your Licorice. This little 10 pound dog melts my heart, makes me smile, brings comfort when needed, and simply brightens my every day. The added joy this little dog brings to our household is immeasurable. I treasure my little furball and all her lovable quirks and antics, and I understand exactly how and why you can love Licorice like you do. I’ve had other dogs whom I’ve loved over the years, but this one? This one is truly special. Often when I look into her big brown eyes I actually feel my heart swell up with love.

    Report this comment

  • Kate in Michigan

    Posted on August 29, 2012

    My basset mix,Teddy (officially Theodore Roosevelt Dog) is his own breed. Great Northern Snugglehound.

    I’ve been renovating our house, and have been up on an extension ladder, scraping and sanding our wood siding. Poor doggie has taken to sleeping DIRECTLY UNDER me (on the ground). He keeps getting covered in paint chips and sawdust. Every time I go inside for water, so does he, and when I get up to go back outside, so does he.

    He lays across my lap as I read, and I end up putting my mini-laptop on his head/neck as I work. He just sighs with pleasure.

    With all my heart and soul, I love this ridiculous mutt.

    Report this comment

  • Cathy

    Posted on August 29, 2012

    I completely relate to this on several levels. When I was a kid, we had cats and dogs, but none of them were “mine” – they were my mom’s, my dad’s, my sisters’… basically anyone’s except mine. I longed for an animal that related more to me than anyone else for years, until I gave up and assumed that it was never going to happen.

    Then two things happened:

    1. After I moved out, my parents adopted a dog that was being neglected by our neighbors. Francis was the best dog we’d ever had – when I’d come home for the holidays, it was hard to tell sometimes if I looked forward most to seeing Mom and Dad or Francis. My boyfriend (now husband) and I would take long walks in the woods with her, playing fetch literally for hours and laughing at her antics (my favorite is when she couldn’t find the stick we threw and instead came charging back with a six-foot fallen tree limb). Francis passed last year after a sudden illness, and we all miss her dearly. My parents were so stricken with grief that my husband drove 7 hours to their farm to comfort them. Going home hasn’t been the same since. So while you can’t necessarily quantify the value a beloved animal adds to your life (just as with humans, really), that value is there. And we all miss it when it is taken away.

    2. My husband and I moved across the country and were unspeakably lonely without our family and friends. We decided to get a cat. We happened to walk by a pet store that had adoptions from the shelter that day and came home with two. The outgoing, social cat (Luther) quickly became my husband’s; we soon despaired of the shy, scared cat (Sabrina) even liking us. However, she and the other cat were inseparable and we didn’t have the heart to return her for another. After a year of patience, she jumped into my lap one day. Since then, she’s been MY cat.

    We knew these cats would be a consolation to us in our loneliness until we made new friends in that part of the country, but we had no idea how much they would help us keep things together down the line. Shortly after we adopted them, tragedy struck my husband’s family — within the span of months, both of his parents and his brother died. Sometimes I think the only thing that kept him more or less functional in this time was his cat, Luther. I believe he understood my husband’s grief. That hyperactive, energetic cat would sit next to my husband for hours, sometimes looking up and meowing softly. I don’t know what I would have done in that time without Luther’s help.

    There are some people who say that animals can’t feel affection, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience. I think those people just haven’t met the right animal yet!

    Report this comment

  • lisabug

    Posted on August 29, 2012

    We have a shi tzu/pomeranian mix, named Lucy Mae, who is an absolute delight! She is the family sweetheart beyond a doubt. I was laughing, agreeing, and wiping tears as I read your post today. I couldn’t have expressed my feelings for Lucy Mse any better myself. Thank you.

    Report this comment

  • Brandi

    Posted on August 29, 2012

    My cat has, hands down, saved my life. I love him a ridiculous amount. I’ve moved him across oceans for goodness’ sake.

    I often tell my husband that he and I will die together. I’m joking. Mostly.

    Report this comment

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Puppy love and a recipe | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - [...] Tuesday, and that means I’m over at Feel More Better. Today I’ve written a little love letter to Licorice, …
Have a Comment? Share It. All opinions but NO judgments allowed.

MORE STORIES