September 10, 2009 in Washington Voices

This home can’t stay dogless long

Stefanie Pettit
 

I miss having a dog.

In addition to being the wonderful creatures that they are all by themselves, dogs really do inspire the humans around them to be better people. I know an argument can also be made for cats, but I’ll leave that to someone else. My husband and I are both dog people and have had dogs most of our lives.

Bruce grew up in Alaska and had a lot of dogs. He was a junior musher and raced sled dogs with people like Joey Reddington Jr., son of the man known as the father of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. I had dogs for most of my childhood, though only one at a time.

Let’s face it, dogs really do love you unconditionally. There is nothing more comforting than a dog putting her head on your lap and gazing up in your face when you’re feeling blue. And how could you not feel like the king of the world when your arrival at home at the end of the day is the highlight of your dog’s day? There really is no better friend on the planet.

So how come we don’t have a dog in our lives now? Well, part of the answer has to do with where to build a dog enclosure (there’s a his-and-hers side to this issue), my bad knee (which isn’t happy going up and down stairs a lot in order to let a dog outside, even if the yard were fenced) and the fact that we’ve fallen into a leave-town-at-the-spur-of- the-moment routine that being dogless makes so much easier.

Bruce and I have had two dogs, each of whom lived for 15 years. Bonnie was a Dalmatian and a great companion. She was the dog of our early married years, the one we threw sticks for at the lake and took out on adventures, who believed that the only good cat was a treed cat. And she was a nanny dog for our young sons, guarding them gently but constantly.

After Bonnie came Seltice, who was – well, we’re not sure exactly what she was. Her mother was a vizsla and her father, seen hopping the fence after his one and only date with her mother, appeared to be a yellow Lab mix. Seltice was a loving family addition, who delighted in romping in the woods with our oldest son and following our youngest through the yard as he picked up pine cones. But she was also neurotic and, despite her heritage, hated the water and trembled if she was forced to ride in a car, blowing as much coat as she was able to on any drive anywhere.

I remember Bruce’s edict that dogs shall never be up on the furniture – and then finding him sitting sideways in a chair, his back against one arm of the chair and his legs draped over the other arm, reading a book – with Bonnie on his lap and the book resting on her back. They both looked up at me guiltily. Hey, it wasn’t my rule!

I remember the day Seltice died. She had been ill for a long time, so when we came home late one afternoon and found her on her blanket in the front hallway, breathing heavily. We knelt by her side and petted and talked to her. She was not responsive.

We decided to unload the car, knowing we’d have a decision to make right away. In the few minutes it took us to bring in our bags, Seltice’s breathing got very shallow. We sat down with her and she slipped away.

Several people have told us they believed she waited until we got home, until she knew her people were safe, until everything was as it should be in the house, before she let go. I don’t know if that’s true, but I like to think it was.

There’s something special about dogs. A house seems less a home without the warmth that a dog brings to it. Bruce and I both miss living alongside a four-legged family member.

We’re at that point when our longing for a canine friend in our lives is starting to overpower all other issues and conveniences. We’re looking wistfully at notices in the paper about shelter dogs. Sure, we’ve got to figure out the backyard matter, but I think we’re going to get there.

This has been a dog-free zone for too long, and Bruce and I surely have room in our house and in our hearts to become better people. I’m pretty sure a wagging tail, a slurp on the hand and a furry greeting when we walk through the door will ensure that we do.

Reach Stefanie Pettit by e-mail at upwindsailor@comcast.net.


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