October 1, 2011 Dogs I Love Dogs Growing up I always wanted for us to be “dog people.” My friends had dogs in their well-styled homes, usually Dachshunds, with German names like Fritz and Gretchen. Another family had an English Bulldog named Folly. Even the tiny mother of the family doted on this drooling, snorting, hulk of a dog who lived in the house. I couldn’t see my mother ever touching a dog much less naming one. I talked my parents into a Cocker Spaniel, and I named her Bridget after a tv dog. I tried to housebreak her so that she could join me on the sofa for television or sleep with me, but I was never successful. I just didn’t know how. Outside went Bridget. Then there was Gatsby, a second golden Cocker Spaniel who came along after Bridget died in childbirth. I was sad to lose Bridget, but I didn’t really love her like I wanted to love her. Gatsby went away, but I don’t remember how. I took care of him, but I still hadn’t learned how to love him anymore than I did Bridget. My husband and I got Bronte after our youngest child reached three. Bronte was a beautiful, black and white spotted English Springer Spaniel. My husband hunted with English Setters, and we loved to look at hunting dogs of any breed. We housebroke Bronte; she was not that difficult. But, I found that her size didn’t jive with our small children, and she growled when they touched her while she ate, so out the door she went. C & C with Bronte The growling proved to be a troubling sign. Worse, she snapped at our youngest daughter when she was three. We didn’t heed the warning signs, and a quick, “Mommy may I pet Bronte?” ended up with a bite to her face, requiring the skill of a plastic surgeon. We put Bronte down the following morning with no sadness. We found out from the vet and from research that Springer Spaniels have a propensity for biting as they age. Not only had I never done research as to the best dog for our household needs, but I had put Bronte outside and withheld affection from her. She became the lowest on our family totem pole, and she knew it. Not to be deterred on my “loving dogs mission” and thinking I had learned my lesson with my previous neglected dogs, I answered an ad in our local paper for a Shih Tzu/Poodle mix puppy, also black and white spotted. I took the girls along, and the younger two immediately bonded with one particular female. Our oldest kept saying, “Daddy said no dogs. I hate dogs too. You are going to be in sooo much trouble.” We left with Scout. I trained Scout with a kennel. She learned quickly and soon became a real member of our family. Somehow, after a couple of years, I decided that Scout needed doggie company. My oldest daughter again reminded me that Dad hadn’t wanted another dog and certainly wouldn’t want a second to live in the house with Scout. She harrumphed and said once again that Scout was all right as far as dogs go, but really she hated them. I answered an ad, this time for a Yorkie/Maltese mix. How cute would that be? I always wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. My oldest went along because, as with Scout, I told the girls that we would just look. We drove up to a tiny ranch style house with an unkempt yard. A buxom lady in her duster came out carrying an old baby pen. Then she went inside and brought out what looked like a rat. Its hair was thin, and it was covered in fleas. We could hear dogs barking inside the closed screen door. “How many dogs do you have in there?” I asked the lady. “Twelve,” she answered. “I don’t know,” my middle daughter said squeamishly. She, the dog lover and the one who supported my second dog notion, didn’t think the 12-week-old puppy in the pen looked like it could be salvaged. She wouldn’t touch her because of the fleas. We talked. I stammered. The girls were horrified at the surroundings. “Mom,” the oldest pulled me to the side. “You can’t leave her here. You have to take her.” “But I thought you were dead against another dog.” “She’s covered with fleas. She’ll have no chance here. Look at it like a rescue.” I walked back to the lady who had pulled a plastic chair under the tree beside the playpen. “Would you take $225?” The asking price was $250. I hated to reward her in any way for her irresponsible breeding practices, but I knew we had to take that puppy home. She agreed, and Boo was ours. The oldest was the only one to agree to hold her due to the fleas. She was also the one who helped me bathe her and brush out the thin, shaggy mess of her hair. Boo & Scout Boo with Crazy Hair Boo slept with me from the time she came home. She never wet the bed. She allowed me to cuddle with her, often sleeping cheek-to-cheek on my pillow, unlike Scout who never wanted to be touched in bed. She followed me around the house and gently climbed my legs so that I would hold her constantly. She loved it when I kissed the delicate, soft hair on the top of her wee head. She taught me, finally, how to love dogs. My oldest daughter, too, gradually became one of the strongest dog lovers in our family.