I love dogs, like love love dogs. In fact, I dream of retirement on a farm with so many dogs. Enough to fill the fields and enjoy the wonders of the land.
I have always lived with a dog, starting with the day I was born. First, there was Bruno, a German Shepherd who spent his days protecting our family and his nights wooing the neighborhood females while outrunning the dog catcher. He was my first understanding of someone who was dying of old age. I used to go downstairs before bed to tell him goodnight. And I’d tell him that if he had to die that night, it was ok and we loved him.
Then came Sally, a black lab mix who thrived on pizza, candy, getting her nails done, and photo shoots on the picnic table. I taught her as many tricks as I could including how to take the parts of my dinner I didn’t want to eat and to chew them quietly under the table.
Shortly after, there was Brandy. A Frankenstein-like mixed breed who was put together all wrong, except her brain was on point and she was smart, opinionated, and clever. She liked baseball, water bowls, telling the other dogs what to do, and trying to kill our pet rabbit.
Next was Cody. We chose him out of a bathtub full of black lab puppies. I picked each and every one up to see which one we wanted. I turned around and my Mom was holding him, his head on her shoulder and we just knew. Cody lived through much including two torn acls, a near fatal spider bite, and wood floors. He loved my mom, figuring out his next path to relieve his floor anxiety, stealing food, and not sleeping. Like ever. We’re pretty sure he never actually slept. Cody was the last dog my parents owned.
When I was on my own, I found him. A golden orange mixed breed with a sweet face and the softest ears. We (my partner and I who learned that day that I make a decision and run at it) named him Carter. He was trouble, and I learned quickly how to guess which household item he’d consume next…duct tape, shampoo bottles, deodorant, my sister’s wedding necklace, playstation controllers, camisoles, season 5 of 24, and many more. He loved to play, hike, walk, eat, cuddle, and get lost. His first companion with us was a mini french lop rabbit named Rocky. They were friends, until Rocky lived out the last bit of his 9th year into old age.
So, we decided to find him another companion and headed to a no-kill shelter with Carter in tow. My partner saw her first. A small black and brown rottie mix hanging in the back of her cage. She looked at me and didn’t really say hi, but I agreed to meet her. She walked into the room and sat in my partner’s lap. He was convinced and so was I. She met Carter in their play area in the back. She kept trying to get his attention but he was too focused on peeing in all of the baby pools. But they were convinced he tolerated her, so home she came.
As I was pulling out of the parking lot, it started. The barks, play, romping, in the back of the car. We panicked and laughed, glad that Carter finally acknowledged her. We named her Penny, show name Not Penny’s Boat. She still warms our hearts at 9 years of age. She loves barking at absolutely nothing, fried chicken, donuts, sunbathing, and me (yes, she ended up picking me anyway).
We love dogs, and have had many. But somehow this past June we forgot all about these lovable quirky qualities that you have to train through or learn to live with. Because we decided now was a good time to adopt a second dog. In a pandemic. When we’re all home all of the time. And with a 2 yo who was just coming of age in their “terrible twoness.”
We connected with a local rescue and they matched us with a cattle dog mix who was blind in one eye. He fit all of our criteria except his energy level was a little higher than we had wanted. But we’ve got this, we’ve dealt with so much before in dogs. He was so sweet when we met him, and good with the kids, so home he came.
Then, we came inside. And they started “playing.” We were convinced they might be trying to kill each other, but we couldn’t tell. It went on well into the night, followed by telling him over and over that he could not sleep in our bed. We finally won about midnight, only to then have him wake us up at 5am. Penny just rolled over and went back to bed. I got up with him the first day. Then, he hit repeat. Every day.
His energy level was beyond what we expected. And he nipped, a lot. He herded us like cattle and just wouldn’t stop.
We put our heads together and called a trainer and reached out to the adoption group to ask for help. They said they are indeed playing, just loudly and roughly. My daughter says it’s like watching a fight between a grizzly bear and a black jaguar. The trainer helped us think of ways to keep him calmer, busy, and stimulated.
I was worried we couldn’t keep him. My partner kept saying how he just wanted another Penny. I reminded him that the perfect dog is always older than 5 years and has been living with you just as long. Penny’s favorite pastime these days is sunbathing on the deck during her nap.
But we committed, and we named him Bear. Short for his show name Lord Beric Dogdarrion. His show name may actually come in handy one day as my oldest is convinced she is going to train him on agility and he will be on tv.
But as I type, this little red heeler is curled up next to me sound asleep. On my bed none the less. But we’re doing it. He loves to wake up at 5:30am, eat dirt and cardboard, ride in the car, steal the kids’ toys, and snuggle, with full on doggie hugs.
We’ve learned that we can work together to make this work. We’ve learned that we can always say no, even though this time we stuck with our yes. And we’ve learned it’s easy to forget all of the hard stuff about dogs after the years, because we love them so. However, we know this loud, rambunctious, attention demanding, lovable puppy is and will be “the perfect dog.” And will remain so until he’s 29 (I haven’t told my partner, but the longest living dog ever was a cattle dog who lived until 29…picture my daughter at age 34 telling her friends that her childhood dog just died…)
In the meantime, look for us soon on tv. If you’ve read about my daughter, you already knew she’ll make this happen. Lessons start in a couple of weeks!