Get out your hankies … this post may tug at your heart if you are a dog lover.
It did for me and my family.
A few weeks ago I did something out of character: My family and I adopted a dog.
It was out of character for me because I did not grow up with dogs. Except for a short period where I owned a dog with my ex-husband, I have never had a pet. (I will explain more as I go.)
The dog’s name was Thor. That’s a picture of him above. He’s an adult lab/husky, about 5-6 years old, from a no-kill rescue here in Colorado. He’s beautiful and will make the right person a great running partner or companion. He and I ran well together while he was in our lives.
Sadly, Thor turned out not to be the right dog us. The rescue he came from advertised him as “good with kids of all ages” but when he met my 18-month-old niece, he constantly growled and barked at her. It scared me. (FYI, my two little nieces — a 3-year-old and the toddler mentioned above — are moving into my neighborhood. That’s why it was crucial he get along with them, too.)
I consulted with an animal trainer about Thor after the incidents. She concluded Thor wasn’t the right match for us, or us for him, and it would take a lot of rehab to get him comfortable with the little. Even then, it wasn’t a sure a thing. It never is, but it’s especially unsettling when you get off on the wrong paw … A bite would be a disaster for him and us.
The experience blind-sided me. I cried like I’d just lost a friend. My kids and I were heart-broken. I realize dogs often don’t know what to make of toddlers, BUT he was fine with my kids. It’s one of the reasons we picked him. Also, I did research on labs and huskies. Both breeds are supposed to be kid-friendly. I was so disappointed when he turned out to be otherwise.
Adopting a dog was a leap of faith. I wasn’t allowed to have pets when I was growing up. Both of my parents were born in Europe and they grew up on subsistence farms. In their culture NO ONE kept animals as “pets.” Yes, there were cats and dogs on their land, but they treated them like livestock. My mom, for example, was a shepherd girl. She had a dog, but he was there to herd and protect the family’s lambs from wolves. They didn’t give the dog a name or keep him in the house.
My mom still doesn’t get the whole American concept of “pets” and she says they are filthy. To a degree, she’s right. If you’re a neat-freak, dogs and cats are like dumping a barn in your house.
But just like running — which we also often do with hearts, not just our heads — being with dogs and living things connects us to nature, and our world, and each other. Dogs and cats don’t just shed hair — they shed light on our humanity; that’s why we’re attracted to them.
That is also why I said “yes” when my kids begged for a dog. I remembered how hard it was growing up pet-less in a dog- and cat-crazy world. (FYI, cats are out of the question. I am allergic to them. If I ever owned one, I would name it “Asthma.”)
I know you can’t expect to teach children REAL responsibility by having a dog. (Yes, I will push Tarzan and Jane to HELP feed and walk and pick up the doggy poo, but I know it ultimately will fall on me and the Dude.)
Dogs, however, are still a great way to show children life lessons in caring as most of us are likely to outlive our dogs.
And just like dating, I have learned it’s important to be patient and wait for the right dog to come into your world. That’s exactly how the dog trainer we worked with, Carie Grant, of Denver Dream Dogs, put it. She helped us with Thor and has continued to guide me as we search for our perfect mutt match. I’ll share a picture and our happy ending when we do.
Speaking of “dog days” … right around the time we met Thor, the Dude (my husband) broke his collar bone and suffered a concussion while riding his bike and training for an organized race. He was forced to skip the event because of his injuries. He is healing and it is taking time.
Tarzan and Jane started school. Tarzan is in first grade, which means he’s big boy now and there all day!
That means … it’s a brave, new world for me, both in terms of my work and writing, which you will be seeing a lot more of again on this blog after my summer hiatus. Woohoo!!
My next post will be Boston or Botox profile #21, Michelle Moreland Walker, of Evansville, Indiana.
Stay tuned and thanks for reading.
“Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!”
Mileage yesterday: 4.5; Mileage for 2012: 806