You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, “My God, you’re RIGHT. I NEVER would’ve thought of that!’ – Dave Barry
It isn’t healthy how much I love my dog. She is with me every moment I am home. And when I have to go out, I worry about her. So much in fact that I am hesitating even planning a family vacation because I worry how it will affect her. These feelings are so close to how I felt about my children when they were babies and to some extent still now, I feel guilty. In fact, since my kids are getting older and less dependent on me, Bell has eased herself right into the would-be empty nest spots that they used to occupy.
Nearly two and a half years ago I decided I wanted a dog. Up until then my husband pretty much forbade me from getting one. I tend to get over attached to animals — okay, let’s face it, I am a sentimental slob and love them to a point well beyond what would be considered “healthy.” Every time we have had any sort of pet, I become so close to them, that when they leave this world, I am a basket case for weeks.
I have lost some close family members and a few close friends, but losing a pet is different. It is like losing a piece of yourself. This isn’t to discount losing family or friends, because that is also nearly unbearable, but for some reason I cannot accept a pets death as readily as I have been able to accept people’s. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh.
Death is never fair and I am never ready for it, regardless if a person has been ill or has lived a long life, but maybe because when a person dies, a piece of them is carried on in the people whose lives they’ve touched, it is somehow cushioned. My grandmother died nearly 15 years ago and I still think of her if not every day, pretty close. There are so many things I learned from her that I use in my daily life and traditions she instilled in me that it is as if she is still here. I suppose as long as I remember her and the gifts she left me, she will never truly be gone.
When our pet rabbit, Pepper died four years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get over it. We found him after someone set him “free” at a state park. He was a domestic rabbit and would not have made it through the night in the wild. For seven years he was a part of our family. Not to the extent that Bell is now (I tend to think dogs are more loving than rabbits, at least in our case), but a loving addition none the less. Even though he died peacefully and I knew he had lived longer than most rabbits his breed, the loss was palpable. It left a hole in my heart that mere memories cannot heal. To this day I mourn his loss.
I’m not sure if it was the loss of Pepper or that the kids were finally old enough to join me in “ganging up” on my husband, but one night when he got home from work, we were waiting for him. He walked into the great room and found us sitting on the couch. He knew something was up. He cautiously sat on the opposite couch and I told him, “We want a dog.”
No begging, no justification, no preliminary conversation to cushion the blow, just “We want a dog!” He sat there a moment staring at us. I assume he was weighing his options. Before he could come up with a million reasons not to, I flipped open my laptop and continued. I told him I had found an 8 week old border collie/Australian shepherd puppy that needed rescuing. I turned the monitor toward him with Bell’s picture full screen. He looked at her and I could see him physically soften.
I’d done my homework. One thing my husband could not stand was a dumb dog. I think all dogs are great in their own way, but for my husband, a dog had to be smart. This breed was rated number 1. How much better could it get?
Without argument, my husband stood up, walked out of the room, saying over his shoulder, “If that’s what you want.” Done! He might have thought I would follow him to fortify my case for a dog, but I didn’t. I let it go. I didn’t say another word about it. I’d won. He didn’t say no and that’s all I was looking for.
The next morning after he left for work, the kids and I got in the car, drove 30 miles to where Bell was and brought her home. When my husband came home from work, I set Bell in the middle of the back hallway floor, right where he would come in. The kids and I hid around the corner and waited. The door opened and in a funny, baby-talk voice that I hadn’t heard since the kids were babies my husband said, “Well hello there! Aren’t you a cutie.” He was hooked. Since that day, Jingle Bells has been our baby-dog. My husband refers to her as our “love child” and “the daughter that loves me.” My daughter loves him, but she is a teenager, so it’s only natural that there be a little friction from time to time.
Being a stay-at-home mom, I spend the most time with Bell. I feed her, bathe her, walk her, play with her, and twice a week when hubby is working, she sleeps with me. The other nights she sleeps with my daughter, Gracie. She is spoiled rotten and that’s the way I like it. I look at rescuing her as justification for making her life as happy, fulfilling, and easy as possible. She gives us unconditional love beyond anything I could have imagined, so the least I can do is let her sleep on the couch all day, walk her every morning, play with her, feed her healthy food, and love her with every ounce of my being. See — just like a kid, except my kid’s days of sleeping on the couch all day are numbered, they aren’t much into exercise, playing has nearly been outgrown, and healthy food does not always win over the junk food they try to sneak. Still, there’s the love.
I can’t imagine what I’m going to do when something happens to Bell. Just typing that statement my eyes have filled with tears, there is a lump in my throat, and it is taking everything inside me to hold back the tears welling up in my eyes. So today, I am going to love Bell as much as I can, sneak doggie kisses as often as she’ll give them, and do my best to give her the “dog’s life” that she deserves, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.