One of my earliest memories in life involved a dog.
I was probably about four years old. I was standing in the front lawn of a little country church after my older sister’s piano recital. A large dog was running toward me.
I could feel myself screaming, begging someone to rescue me as this enormous animal bounded toward me. I was so small and so far away from the ears of my parents that I felt like I couldn’t be heard.
Just as my life passed before my eyes, I felt my dad’s arms. He picked me up out of harm’s way as the beast rushed by.
Since that moment, I have never liked dogs. Throughout childhood, if a dog ran toward me, I ran the other way. As I got older, I learned to just ignore dogs. As long as I didn’t acknowledge their jumping and begging, they seemed to eventually leave me alone.
But once I was an adult, I started to notice something odd about all of the people around me. They would run TOWARD dogs. When a dog started circling around their legs, they would lean down to pet the dog. They would rub its neck or stop to play.
What was going on?
I finally figured out that most people in life seem to love dogs. They know how to relate to dogs. Dogs were actually their friends.
I tried to learn how to get to know dogs. Dogs came and went in my life, and little by little I became better at not hating them.
A few years ago, a shift began. I met a big brown dog that belonged to a friend. He had thick dark curly fur. He was gentle and quiet. He didn’t bark or jump on me. He sat calmly as I petted him.
Could it be that I could like a dog?
Our daughters have always loved dogs. They have begged for a puppy since they could talk. When we go for walks, they stop and ask to pet other people’s dogs. They clearly did not inherit my dog-hating gene.
I was starting to bend. I decided that maybe we could get a dog if it was exactly like the big brown dog. A golden doodle. That was the answer. We’ve been researching this breed of dog for a few years now, but I still have so many concerns about a dog.
No. 1 is the poop. (OK, that’s No. 2.)
Then, there’s the stinky breath. The chewing on furniture. The health issues. And of course, the problem about them dying and then everyone is super sad.
All of this is to explain my frame of mind when a friend texted me right before Christmas break to ask if we could take care of their dog while they went on vacation. It took me a while to answer. I knew we had to do it for the girls. They would love nothing more than to spend a week of their break with a dog. It would be like a vacation to them. Still, I was scared.
The dog arrived a few days before New Year’s Eve. Things were going well. The girls took him for walks and let him outside. I filled his bowls with food and water.
We came home late on New Year’s Eve, expecting him to be sound asleep. Instead, he greeted us with all of the excitement and joy a little dog could muster. He circled each one of us, jumping as high as his little legs could thrust him.
“Hi! Hi! Hi!” we imagined him saying. “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!”
“Your’e back! I missed you! Where were you? Did you have fun?” (I’m the one who would mostly put words to his barking to interpret for the rest of the family.)
By the fifth day, I was the one taking him for walks. While he loved our daughters, I was starting to become his favorite. He would sit by me while I worked on my computer. He would snuggle by me when I watched TV. He would follow me around the house. I’m pretty sure he loved me.
(I even made him a little name tag to put on his collar.)
By the last day, we had all decided our response when his owners would call to set up a time to pick him up.
“Oh, sorry. Bradey is busy right now. You’ll have to call back later.”
“Bradey can’t come to the phone right now. He’s having too much fun. Maybe try another day.”
We did eventually give him back. It was a sad day saying good-bye.
I went back to my life with only two-legged children. Three of them are teen-agers, and I hate to ruin it for anyone, but they don’t rejoice when I walk in the house or sit at the window and wait for my return. Some days, I’m lucky to get a “Hello, Mom” before they retreat to their bedrooms for hours (or days).
I’ve decided this might be why I’m suddenly longing for the love of a puppy. I need a creature in my life who is always happy to see me. Never mad at me. Accepts 1/4 cup of dog food like it’s the best thing in the world. The healthy three-course human meal that took me an hour and a half to create doesn’t get nearly the same reaction.
I’m starting to think dogs aren’t so bad.
In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I can survive without one.
What about you? Do you love dogs? What kind of dog advice can you give me?