There are many great advantages to not having a dog.
No bundling up for walks in the midst of a blizzard…
No home electronics destroyed…
No need for elaborate care plans and pleading for dog-sitting volunteers when you want to have a simple weekend get-away with your spouse. No worrying while you’re away that your dog is probably trampling through your friends’ vegetable garden with abandon at every opportunity, no matter how many barriers they erect.
No fretting about your horse-sized canine leveling grandma or the neighbors with her enthusiastic greeting, and the lawsuits that could follow. No dashing home from work to hurriedly walk the dog before you head out to your other evening obligations. No need for a lint-brush and vacuum in every room and at the office to remove all the dog hair. The. Dog. Hair. Is. Everywhere.
No triple-digit veterinary bills, or monthly double-digit food, treat and toy bills. And speaking of toys, no tripping over tennis balls, stepping on ragged-edged beef bones in the middle of the night, or listening to the nerve-chilling squeak-squeak-squeak of squeaky toys all day long.
And the greatest advantage to never having a dog – never having to say “good-bye” to a beloved four-legged friend after years of companionship. Their departure carves a hole in our hearts that never fully heals.
Yes – there are many advantages to being dog-free. But I honestly just don’t think some humans were intended to be without dogs, and I’m one of them.
Molly was my first – a boxy little Australian Shepherd puppy purchased for protection when I lived alone on a country farm. A territorial breed, Molly knew her job and did it well. Then I met Hubby and we moved to the suburbs together, and she learned to be a civilized house dog. In the process, she dropped me like a hot rock and bonded with my husband. She would literally brush past my open arms to run to him. Molly wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, but she was my (then his) faithful and comic companion for 16 years. We put her to rest a day after she suffered a violent seizure, and it broke our hearts. Hubby vowed to “never have another dog”.
And we didn’t for a year or so…until Jenny came along. My friend’s mother was moving to assisted living, and they needed a home for her big, black, hairy mutt who had been rescued from euthanasia several years earlier when her neglectful owners left her at a veterinarian’s office. Back then, she was skinny, sick and hairless, but the vet and my friend nursed her back to health because of her placid, loving nature. Our quiet routine vanished when Jenny moved in, and she immediately bonded with Hubby (I was starting to get a complex). He had a retail store in town, and she went to “work” with him every day. She was even featured in the local paper, and people came to the store just to see Jenny.
Jenny traveled to Massachusetts with us (where the grandchildren adored her), and to Florida, and North Carolina. Because of the neglect in her early years, Jenny had separation anxiety. That meant she went nuts when left alone, and had to stay in a dog crate. And she was also completely terrorized by thunder and lightning. She tore an extra large and very sturdy metal dog crate (and a section of drywall) to pieces during one storm when we weren’t home. But when she plopped her head on your lap and gazed at you adoringly, you just couldn’t help adoring her right back. Sadly, Jenny wasn’t young when she came to our home, and after 6 or 7 years, she was showing signs of old age. She lost strength in her back legs, and the lost control of her balance, and we made another tragic trip to the vet. Again, there was never going to be another dog – we could barely say her name without shedding tears, even months after her death.
You’ve probably already figured this out – yes, another dog has joined our life.
Last February, when apparently our house seemed too peaceful, we made an impulsive visit to the pound, and brought home a small yellow lab mix puppy who fit into our laps easily and charmed us completely. Tully (named for the Irish city of Tullamore, one of our favorite places in Ireland) has noisily and rambunctiously taken over our lives. She wasn’t supposed to be a big dog. We didn’t want a big dog. But she is big. Really big. And she’s still growing. When she stretches out on our king-sized bed, she covers it from edge to edge.
While she used to sleep curled up in Hubby’s lap, she now threatens to topple the recliner if she tries it today. She wants attention all the time, and seemingly never tires. Her toys cover the living room floor, and her favorites are those that squeak the loudest. She doesn’t like being alone, but she will resign herself to napping on the bed while we’re gone. She can destroy an entire box of tissues if we leave them within reach, but rarely destroys anything else (with the exception of the TV remote she chewed up yesterday). She’s the first truly intelligent dog we’ve had – her wheels are turning all the time, and it’s hard to stay ahead of her. She’s a goofball, she drives us crazy, and she has brought a permanent form of chaos to our home.
And yes, I know that my heart will be broken again someday, hopefully many years from now. Getting a pet means planning on heartache – they rarely outlive us. But the joy, warmth, laughter, and pure unadulterated love they bring into their lives while they share their time with us is invaluable, and yes, it’s worth the grief, no matter how bitter that grief may be at the time.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the store to buy Tully some new treats, and later today you’ll find me in the backyard, throwing a purple soccer ball over and over and over, just to watch her leap and bound and run. And she will make my day complete.