In this post I reveal my curmudgeonly nature. Today, August 26, is Dog Day. I am happy to report that I neither own, nor am owned by, any dogs at the moment.
I grew up with dogs. My parents owned Punky when I was born, though they had to give her away because she didn’t like me. (Hey, I was just a baby—don’t blame it on me.) My father got Nick, an English Setter, when I was in the first grade. Nick lived until I was in law school. Meanwhile, my parents bought a Schnauzer named Heidi when I was in college, after my sister became allergic to her cat.
And one grandmother had a Miniature Poodle named Mimi that I delighted in feeding under the table. I gave her chicken and steak and tried to get her to eat my carrots.
For most of our marriage, my husband and I have owned dogs. The first was a half Brittany Spaniel (and probable half Labrador), which my husband named Rickover, after an admirable admiral. Rickover predated our children. He wasn’t too fond of the little human critters at first, but once they could feed him, he changed his opinion.
Rickover was hit by a car at a young age and broke his pelvis. He recovered, and became a very nice pet, because he no longer jumped on people. In midlife, Rickover got fifteen pounds overweight, and my husband put him on a strict diet—so strict that Rickover spent his evenings licking our kitchen floor. But Rickover lived to be fifteen, so we must have treated him all right, despite the injury and low rations.
Two years after Rickover passed on, we acquired two mutts from the animal shelter—litter mates Sara and Lexi, or more formally, Saratoga and Lexington, named after the aircraft carriers. Sara and Lexi were the result of my children’s successful lobbying. I had loved the two dogless years after Rickover died. We could pick up and leave town any time the four humans could manage it without worrying about who would feed him. But my children thought they needed a pet. So we got two.
We think Sara and Lexi were Irish Wolfhound mixes. When we got them from the shelter, we were told they’d top out at about forty pounds each. Lexi grew to seventy pounds and Sara to sixty, and they didn’t need to be on diets at those weights.
The only good thing about two dogs is that they entertain each other. Otherwise, they are twice the expense and bother. And somehow, I became responsible for walking them daily, even though we had a perfectly adequate fenced yard. Together, they outweighed me. They got in a couple of dogfights with other neighborhood dogs on those walks. I lost, whether they won or not.
Sara and Lexi were very happy when I retired. They could spend the cold winters and hot summers in the kitchen, instead of in the outside dog run. I, on the other hand, was not so happy. My husband had to travel frequently, and I was the sole dog caregiver.
Lexi—the neurotic alpha dog—died in October 2010, at age thirteen-and-a-half. Sara then could relax in her old age, no longer subservient to her dominant sibling. But she, too, passed away in January 2012, just short of her fifteenth birthday.
I have now been dogless again for over three years. My husband threatens to get another dog. I tell him he must commit to being sole dog caregiver. He has not yet signed the contract I prepared.
I happily borrow the dogs of other family members. I enjoyed the dogs my parents had late in their lives—another Schnauzer named Mitzi (dumbest dog there ever was, but sweet), a Golden Retriever named Bonnie, and then a Duck Tolling Retriever named Sandy. I’ve become good friends with my mother-in-law’s Portuguese Waterdog, and I’m trying to get my sister-in-law’s dogs to like me, but they are rather stand-offish.
My daughter has a lovely mutt, Langley—named for another aircraft carrier. Langley isn’t the brightest dog either, but she has personality and very soft fur.
The only dogs I really didn’t like were the Boston Terriers that various family members had. They were snorty, snuffly unpleasant creatures. And I’m not crazy about my brother’s overly exuberant Golden Retriever.
So I visit dogs when I need unconditional love. But I am perfectly happy to leave them behind when I go home. I’m done raising kids. Dogs are like toddlers that never grow up. They love you, yes, but they need a lot of care.
I say I’m done raising kids, but I do hope that grandkids come along some day. I’ll consider changing my opinion then. Until then, I’ve done my kid—and dog—duty.
Happy Dog Day! What dogs have you had in your life?