Years ago, when marketer, editor, now agent Molly O’Neill was speaking at a writer’s conference she mentioned a book she was working on. Can’t remember the book, can’t remember the author, but I do remember Molly saying she loved the book but sent it back for edits with the admonishment, ‘not the dog.’ The dog had to live.
It wasn’t always so. Animals were food or protectors or workers.
Pets, dogs, cats, hedgehogs, birds, whatever, are a part of our lives. They are a billion dollar a year industry. Many of us treat them like family. They make messes, tear into shoes, chew on the edges of rugs, and dig holes in the lawn. And we chastise them then we forgive them. You don’t send them to college. You just have to feed, pick up after them and love them.
Others can be forgiven for not having a dog. No one can be forgiven when they mistreat a dog. You don’t like dogs, that’s fine. But if my dog dislikes you, you are gone!
We are the human. We have domesticated dogs, made them dependent, and if they are treated well, they fill the place of unconditional love for each of us.
Cats, as is duly noted in many places are far more imperial, more demanding, more independent. To me, a cat is more of an obnoxious roommate than a pet.
Over the course of our marriage, now in it’s 46th year, we have had eight dogs. The first three were Ralph, Claudia and Marcy, the Lhasa Apsos. Father, Mother and baby, these dogs were present for the first twenty years. When Marcy died at seventeen and a half of a stroke, we stepped back. And went almost eleven months until Grady jumped in the open door of my Blazer, nestled her butt down next to my hip, and the rest of her perched on the console and that was it. She stayed with us for the next fourteen years. Then came Marcus, a mutt if ever there was one, terrified of just about everything, but always up for a cuddle and a treat. Sammy, the rat terrier, found our youngest and convinced her that, fleas and all, she should take him home. Took me three days to kill all the fleas in the car. Tom found Missy in the parking lot at work. A true pack dog, she walked into the house, tried to challenge Grady for Alpha Dog, and lost. Missy, a lovely white and tan coonhound, bonded with Sammy and they were inseparable. Our pack was complete.
Far too soon we were down to just Missy, who never met a couch she didn’t like. And, as age took each pet, and Missy became an only child, she was content. She’d sit at our feet for a while. She’d move to the couch for a nap. She’d follow the sun across the deck regardless of the temperature.
Then we brought home a nine week old puppy. A brindle blue Glen of Imaal. Originally bred in the Wicklow Mountains of eastern Ireland, the shortest of the six breeds of Irish terriers, she was a diva from the beginning. She has fierce teeth, paws that look like they belong to the Where the Wild Things Are monsters, a double coat that keeps her warm and dry regardless of the weather, stands about five inches off the ground and the cutest little butt that can wiggle a greeting or excitement. Presence, Keery has presence.
Keery never gave an inch. She took over as Alpha Dog, almost destroying Missy’s ear in the process. And soon Missy learned that those short little legs kept her nemisis off the bed and the couch and the arm chairs. And then, at age thirteen, Missy let us know she was grateful but done.
Keery was thrilled to be The Only! She loved her run of the household and presented herself to the world as a meek sweet girl….and she was. Most of the time.
Then far too soon, she started down a slippery slope. Since May of 2022 we’ve dealt with intestinal distress, dental issues, and then, the biggie, liver disease. We did everything we could possibly do until there wasn’t.
This past Monday, barely a month past her sixth birthday we said goodbye. We have never lost one this young. She was still a puppy. Not just because they are always puppies, the cute ones and the not so cute ones, but because we had her for such a short time.
Will we get another dog? Yes. What kind? I have no idea, but I think Tom said it best when I asked him. “Just get one with a long life.”