When I was little, I was scared to death of dogs. This was a problem since the teenager down the road who baby-sat for me had a little dog named Yogi. With her help, I overcame my fear and spent many days laughing as Yogi dug at the ground like crazy whenever you said “Yogi, get the spider!” I still have pictures of her pulling me down the road in a sled with Yogi trotting right beside and think about him when we pass their house, even though he’s been gone a long long time now.
From then on, I was a dog nut! This was unfortunate, since my father was allergic to all things furry and pets were not in the cards. So? I lived for other people’s pets. Time spent with our extended family was all about me and their dogs. My mom’s sister had a black poodle mix who I took for endless walks whenever we met them camping and my dad’s sister had a dog who I spent hours with, playing fetch, and running through the woods. Screw playing with my cousins, there were DOGS to play with! My entire childhood is shaped by memories of playing with these dogs.
By the time I was seven, I started campaigning for a dog. My Christmas list would look like “Dog. Dog bowl. Dog Leash. Dog Collar….” and after a few years of this, my mom told me that if I didn’t stop, they WOULD buy me nothing but a dog bowl and dog collar for Christmas… but still no dog. It worked and my Christmas list started containing other items, but I never stopped hoping for a dog.
When I turned 13, I was finally old enough to volunteer at our local animal shelter. The first dog that I fell in love with there was a giant Old English Sheepdog named Waldo. Waldo loved to go for walks, be brushed, and would sit half in my lap as I hugged him and sobbed over the fact that he couldn’t be my dog. After those first few trips,my parents told me that they wouldn’t keep bringing me to the shelter if I kept coming home crying, so I quickly learned to enjoy my afternoons there and stop begging to bring them all home.
When I was 17, I got my first job. Working at that very same animal shelter. I fell in love with a black lab mix named Nike and being big and black, he stayed at the shelter forever (black dogs are usually the last to be adopted) I’ll never forget the day that another volunteer greeted me with “Guess what?! Nike’s been adopted!!” – how happy I was that he had finally found a home, but how sad I was for myself that I would never see him again. A few months later, I fell in love with another dog, a shepherd mix named Pedro, who I ended up getting my senior pictures taken with. He was a great sport about spending most of the day waiting in the car while it poured outside (just my luck) but we learned he was afraid to death of umbrellas. I would have loved to learn even more about him, but soon after our photos, he was adopted to a nice older lady.
When I was 21, SuperDad and I started talking about buying a house together. He was busy thinking about square footage, how many bedrooms, and the general layout of the house while I thought of just one thing – “Must have a fenced in yard for my dog.”
We moved into a house in February and started dog hunting in late March. After a few false starts (it’s hard to find a dog that is fine with our opposite work shifts), Joe came home to us in July 2004. He was everything we had asked for – a big goofy boy who loved to play with toys and people. Despite his intense separation anxiety, his fear of thunder and fireworks, and his ability to cut his paws even looking at a sharp stick, finally, my dog was home. One that I could spend time with any time I wanted, without waiting for anyone to visit. A dog that I could take for walks whenever I felt like it. One that I could curl up on the couch with, take to the dog park, post pictures of, and tell stories about. One that would never go home with anyone else when the day was done. After being a dog lover all my life, I finally got to be a dog owner.
Some people spend their childhoods dreaming of getting married. Of having babies. Some people pray for years for fertility. For that promotion or for true love. Me? I spent my entire life praying for a dog. And my beautiful sweet greyhound, Joe, was the answer to waiting my entire life for a dog to call my own. Fifty years from now, I’ll still look back fondly and remember him as being one of the most special dogs that has ever lived – my first dog. For now? I’m cherishing every moment with him.
“List the names of five dogs from your lifetime. Write about why one sparks a stronger memory to you than the others.”
This time last year – Houston, We Have a Problem