Dog Days

About two years ago, I sat Stewart down to have a serious discussion.  Almost an argument, but not quite.  I had been pushing for a while to get a dog.  Stewart likes dogs, but he’s not a dog person.  However, I made it clear that in the near future we would have to get one.  I never imagined our family without a dog.  It was a dealbreaker.  (Okay, not really, but I didn’t feel I would be “complete” without a dog, and I didn’t want to have any resentment toward him).  Stewart’s main concern was that a dog was a huge responsibility, and would take up too much of our time.  We had two kids that required enough attention as it was, not to mention two cats as well.

Lily

You wanna get what, now? After making us suffer through the babies?

Tuna

Whatever. As long as I can still sleep.

 

I am a dog person.  I love dogs.  If I see a dog anywhere – on the sidewalk, in someone’s yard, in a Facebook photo – my attention is drawn to it immediately.  I’ll walk up to dog owners and ask if I can pet their dog.  I inquire about its name, age, and breed.  I love the goofy canine personality, and the fact that they’re happiest when they’re with their human.  The cute factor doesn’t hurt either.  Most of all, however, I love dogs because as a child, my family was blessed with the sweetest, friendliest, funniest, most adorable dogs.

I was just a toddler when our German Shepherd Elka died, so I don’t remember her well, but I recall a faded photo of her lying next to my cradle as I slept.  My mom tells me she was a fantastic dog.  Every German Shepherd owner I know says that they are a perfect family dog – loyal and friendly, but also strong and protective.

After Elka, there was Snoopy, a white and black-spotted spaniel.  Mom thought she was beautiful.  Unfortunately, she was hit by a car on our busy street, so she was with us for less than a year.  Butch also suffered the same fate, and he was with us for an even shorter time than Snoopy.

In 1980, my parents looked at some Black Lab/Irish Setter mix puppies.  They picked a cute little girl, all black, with a bit of white on her chest.  When the sun shone down at just the right angle, a hint of red highlights appeared in her fur.  We named her Lucky, because we needed her to be just that.  We couldn’t have another dog come to an unfortunate end.

Lucky

Lucky, in her glory, basking in the afternoon sun.

Lucky lived up to her name, and was with us for fourteen years.  We moved away from the busy street in Illinois to a quiet neighborhood in Michigan, where Lucky could roam the woods and swim in Lake Michigan.  She camped with us, chased squirrels, and was sprayed by a skunk on more than one occasion.  Every now and then she sneaked away from the house, and she, along with a few of her canine neighbors, headed to the house on the corner, where they knew there would be treats from the sweet old woman who lived there.

Mom and Lucky

My mom and Lucky, camping at Imp Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

 

Lucky became my mom’s fifth child, a younger sister to me and my siblings.  In short, she was a significant part of our family.  When she grew old, her body gave out.  She couldn’t run through the woods, swim in the lake, or even take a walk around the neighborhood.  Before we had her put to sleep, we treated her to one last meal of french fries dipped in ice cream (no plain fries for her, thank you very much!).  The night before, I cried with my mom, and then my brother, sister, and I lay on the living room floor with her, petting her and whispering how much we loved her.  Saying goodbye was heart-wrenching.

That was the summer before my senior year in highschool.  A couple months after she died, I felt the itch to get another dog.  I loved Lucky, but I missed having a family dog too.  A friend and I went to the local humane society, and there we found the cutest, fluffiest, sandy-furred pup.  The bio card on his cage said that he was a shepherd/husky mix.  I was smitten.  We took him in a private room, and watched as he walked crookedly over to us, which only added to his charm.

I went home and begged my mom to go with me to the shelter.  I knew she missed her girl and didn’t want a replacement for her, but I also knew she wouldn’t be able to resist this little guy.  She made it clear that if we got him, he would be my responsibility.  She went to the shelter with me a couple days later, and, sure enough, he came home with us the same day.

We named him Stormy, a name which my brother and I agreed on, after “Storm” in X-Men.  Yes, Storm is a girl, but the name stuck and he grew into it.  I tried to stay true to my word, taking him for walks and bringing him outside in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  In time, though, he became my mom’s dog (which was fortunate since I left for college the next year).  She took him to some obedience classes, but overall, just like the rest of the dogs we had owned, there weren’t any behavior issues to deal with.  It didn’t take long for my dad to fall in love with him too.  His fur grew longer, and longer still, and by the time he was an adult, it was almost a foot long.  He was definitely not a shepherd/husky mix.  No, we guessed that he was a bearded collie or something similar.  He was a big dog, mostly in length and height, but when he got wet, he looked like a drowned rat.

Stormy

I mean, come on, look at him! How could anyone say no to that face?

Stormy was a happy-go-lucky guy, always playful and friendly.  He flounced through dune grass and crunchy fall leaves.  His nickname was “the chick magnet,” because he attracted so many people when we took him for walks in public.  When we went to the beach, Stormy would chase and bark at the waves.  When I came home from school on the weekends, he would put his paws on my chest and we would “hug.”  His one quirk was licking the toes of anyone who had bare feet; we called it “the slow lick.”  It was gross and disgusting (and we all secretly loved it).

After twelve years, Stormy’s legs gave out.  My entire family was headed to Montana for a week for my sister’s wedding.  My parents decided to put him down before they left.  Again, a heart-wrenching decision.  We loved that dog.  He has often been called the “favorite.”  There was nothing about Stormy that people didn’t like.  He was a dog with charisma and a heart full of happiness.

Mandy and Stormy

Stormy, in his full splendor, and me, in my PJs and hat.

My family never felt complete without a dog by our side.  These dogs were my family.  This is what I tried to explain to Stewart when I wanted to get a dog.  This was why I had to have a dog.  Stewart made a great point – it would be a lot of time and work.  I told him the dog would be my responsibility, only requiring occasional help from him and the kids.  Lucky and Stormy were easy, so how hard could it be?

Little did I know, in the two years following that conversation, we would have three dogs.  Three dogs that we no longer have.  Three dogs that didn’t get the chance to become part of our family.  Three dogs that left me feeling sad, angry, and full of failure.

I’ve come to grips with those feelings, for the most part.  Yet I still have the need to air it out and release all of the negative emotions I now relate with owning a dog.  So, stay tuned for my next post, all about Sugar, Lefty, and Ollie, and my admission that Stewart was right all along.

 

Do you have a favorite pet?  Do you consider them part of your family or just a nice four-legged friend?  Have you had any negative experiences with pets?  Let me know in the comments below…

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Three Dog Night: My Failure to Find the “Perfect Pet” | The Lorix Chronicles
  2. elizabeth
    Sep 30, 2014 @ 10:38:30

    Oh, and here’s the story I wrote about our sweet Abby girl just a few weeks ago. Dogs really do have special places in our hearts, forever. http://mamalovesyouandchocolatetoo.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-loyal-family-pet-is-never-forgotten.html

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  3. elizabeth
    Sep 30, 2014 @ 10:37:22

    Mandy, I loved reading about your favorite family dogs. I, too, have been trying to convince Mark that our family will never be complete until we have another dog. He has all the same concerns as any husband would, yet I just beg and plead on behalf of the children’s sake (and mine). His fear is that any one we try to have would never be as great as the one we had, which is what I’m guessing will be what your next post is going to say. I’m anxious to read it soon.

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