Dog Family

Christmas card 2010 with (l to r) C (Scout), C (Calpurnia & Dill), & A (Atticus Finch)

We are officially dog people.  It’s not only because we have four dogs in our immediate family, one belonging to our middle daughter, and two who joined our oldest daughter and her husband.  It is because we enjoy every aspect of canines.  We study dog breeds in our many dog books.  We find ourselves greeting strangers in parks and asking them all about their furry companions.  We simply love dogs.

Once, on vacation with my Bunco friends away from my family, I sat on the beach and spoke to every dog family that passed us by.  The height of my trip was my chance encounter with two absolutely stunning Boyken Spaniels.  My friends were amused but not impressed.

It really started with Boo, our scraggly Yorkshire Terrier/Maltese mix who grew to be a truly gorgeous golden-haired dog.  Later, I had another crazy idea:  to duplicate Boo’s intelligent and loving demeanor with puppies for my friends.  My husband, once again, hated the idea; he had enough dogs with Boo and Scout, our Shih Tzu/Poodle mix.  I elicited the support of our youngest daughter, who loved the idea so much that she offered to chip in $50 of her birthday money to have a dog all her own.

We answered an ad in the newspaper for a toy poodle.  Again, we drove the two hours “just to look.”  Our oldest said very little but did remind us that Daddy would not be happy.  By this time I wondered if the girls could detect that really, Daddy had no say so in the matter.

We saw a Parti-Poodle for the first time in our lives when we met Atticus Finch.  He was brown and white spotty ball of curling fur.  We didn’t feel like rescuers as we did with Scout and Boo, so we had a harder time forking over the money.  Somehow, we just couldn’t leave Atticus Finch behind.  He was destined to join our family.

Atticus Finch’s favorite pose
Atticus Finch, always insisting on driving

By this time, Boo was queen of the household.  She and Scout fought for this title and challenged each other constantly.  Scout retreated to her private kennel; Boo chose to be anywhere I was and usually on my lap.  Boo’s gentle nature was evident in her every move.  I loved nothing more than kissing the top of her soft little head.

When the puppies came, the status quo in the canine hierarchy changed dramatically.  The older three dogs didn’t appreciate the yapping, demanding little buggers.  They retaliated by soiling the dining room floor.  Over and over.  As much as we loved having the puppies around, when they left to go home with friends, we breathed a sigh of relief with the housecleaning!

We didn’t intend to do so, but we ended up with two of the puppies, Calpurnia & Dill.  One was promised to our youngest.  The other, well, we kept that puppy until the new owner decided he just didn’t want a dog in the house.  By then we were in love and couldn’t give the puppy up.

Christmas card 2009 with (l to r) Calpurnia, Boo, Scout, Atticus Finch, & Dill

From the time Dill was able to walk around without flopping over, he was different than the other puppies in the litter.  He never rough-housed, was always content just to sit and be held, and was just plain lazy.  One of the pickers actually chose him and called him something else, but by the time he was to be taken to the new home, I did not want his gentle nature to be overwhelmed by the boisterous family. I got a Sharpie marker and painted his white chest fur.  The new owner never knew the difference and got the more active, rowdy puppy.  Dill was ours!

Christmas card 2008 with (l to r) Calpurnia, Boo, Atticus Finch, Dill, & Scout

Sadly, two summers ago Boo became violently ill on a Saturday night.  After talking to the vet, I stayed up with her and tried everything he told me to do until the next morning when it was evident that we had to do something more.  She died in my arms on the way to the emergency room.

I cried for three days and couldn’t speak to anyone.  I was devastated to lose my precious Boo.  I never dreamed that I would feel so much love for any of my dogs.  By the time she died, however, she was different.  Having puppies changed her in ways that were certainly not desirable.  She snorted constantly, loudly.  She didn’t just ask for attention, she demanded it, rising on your lap like a prairie dog and pressuring you not only to pet her but to look at her.  She couldn’t abide for you not to focus on her every time she asked.  She was the spokesdoggie for the group.  If any of the pack needed to go out, she would come to you and tell you, pressing you, until you got up and did their bidding.  She insistently told you it was time to eat too, slapping the dog bowls until you filled them.  (If you ignored her, she had no problem with turning over the water bowl in protest.)  The others just stood behind her, waiting.  She stopped sleeping with me, preferring her kennel.  I wondered if I had sacrificed too much in letting her have puppies.

Her sweet boy, Dill, however, has Boo’s original personality.  He wants to sit quietly beside you or on your lap.  He nudges you to be petted, but if you say no, he just sits there and looks at you with his big brown adoring eyes.  And like his mother, he has risen to be spokesman for the pack, barking at us for mealtime, with the others lined up behind him in silent support.  Our veterinarian did predict that one would do this, but we never dreamed it would be sweet, quiet Dill.  We were amazed.

Virtually every dog lover who comes to visit wants to take Dill home.  Even my mother, who never loved dogs, comes over just to see him and the rest of the menagerie.  He dotes on her even more than the others.  She is smitten.

My Sweet Dilly

Dill follows me throughout the house, sitting at my feet when I work.  He even can’t let me to go the bathroom without accompanying me.  Forget privacy, he seems to say.  He sleeps with me, cuddled next to me, sometimes in my arms and on my pillow just like Boo.  So, I can’t help but to kiss his little soft head.

Christmas 2010 without Boo. From left are Dilll, Atticus Finch, Scout, & Calpurnia

Without my other dogs, I don’t know how I would have gotten over Boo.  When I cried, they sat with me with their soulful eyes and seemed to say, “Don’t worry Mama.  We are here, and we will love you.”

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2 Comments

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  1. 1
    samantha stacia

    Great post-awww, I felt so bad about boo-Im so glad that you did have her puppy though. I had a dog for 15 yrs and I cant have another, they are too much like children and I am still not over him. I am a cat person by upbringing so I stick to them now as they are much more independant.
    I love the part where you think about when the kids will figure out Daddy really doesnt have a say, lol-its the same in my house!
    I also left a message on your wall at shewrites, read it as soon as you can ok?
    Samantha Stacia

  2. 2
    Carroll Thomas

    Emily, I certainly enjoyed your wonderful family story and photos. My favorite parts are “Daddy had no say”, “a Sharpie marker”, “the Spokesdoggie”. I had already figured out the Spokesdoggie part from the photo of Boo before reading the story! Body language, you know… [I particularly partial to the name “Dill” – my Mother’s Mother’s name being “Dillie” and my Father’s Mother’s name being “Dell” (close enough)! The best Grandmothers anyone could wish for.] You have paint a very colorful portrait of these very special and wonderful Dogpeople spirits among us! This part we never lose even after they’ve left this plane of existence. Thank you for writing and sharing this with us. Carroll

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