I’ve always been a dog person. When I was little I used to crawl under the kitchen table and chairs just to be near our keeshond Dolly, who was way in the corner because she was trying to get away from me… she growled if I got too close so instead I would just lie there and watch her sleep until I got bored. Then there was Kissy, the younger keeshond who loved attention but often wouldn’t sit still long enough for hugs and cuddles. But that didn’t stop me from trying to use her as a pillow! I remember my parents referring to both of them as their furry, long-nosed kids. I can’t imagine what growing up would have been like without those “siblings” of ours.
Aside from our own there were also dogs owned by aunts and uncles or family friends that we got to see on a regular basis. Growing up we learned how to live with and treat various sizes and breeds of dogs respectfully and as family members, and for the most part they were all great dogs. When I was a kid, though, I was too young to really understand the responsibility involved with owning a dog. Taffy was my first experience with that.
We got Taffy a few years after my “siblings” were both gone. This time my mom insisted the dog had to be non-shedding, so we opted for a small mix – poodle and cocker spaniel, or cockapoo. Taffy was my first experience living with and training a puppy, and from what I can remember it was mostly a painless experience. That is, aside from the first two or three nights of her howling due to being left along in her crate… my animal-loving heart was tortured! I quickly learned to get comfy on the laundry room floor next to her crate, and I’m not sure much school work was done that week due to lack of sufficient sleep. Taffy taught me about raising and training a puppy (which was largely circumvented by my grandparents living with us for a time and their generous but annoying habit of spoiling of their “grand-dog”).
Then there was Jade, a doberman mix. My beautiful, graceful, affectionate dog-horse. She was my first dog experience where I really felt like she was mine, I think because she was the first dog that was not a “family” dog. This is strange to say, of course, because Jade was my brother’s and his wife’s for the first 9 years of her life, which sort of makes her the ultimate “family” dog. But once she came to me, Jade was my responsibility and where I went I knew she would always come with me. And because she got older and her body started to break down, I was truly taking care of her rather than just living along with her. (I should note that while I say “I” here to emphasize how I felt, my husband and I adopted Jade together and she was our dog.) Jade, in her neurotic yet patient wisdom, taught me compassion and the true meaning of a furry companion.
Now Harlowe, a little border collie/Australian shepherd cross, has come to fill the gap that the lack of a dog in our lives has created over the past year. We adopted her as a puppy and she will be with us until she’s finished with us – a first for both Tavis and myself. We’ve only had her for 3 months so far and already it seems like a lifetime. My dog-loving soul feels whole again with her around, and I’m learning so much as she views us humans as her pack mates, her family. She’ll be with us for a long, long time and I’m excited to learn what else she has to teach me.