When I think about my childhood, there are few memories that don’t include a beloved family dog. From a Siberian husky named Nugget who turned up her nose at pulling my sled, but slept at my feet every night, to a mischievous beagle mix named Happy whom we dubbed ‘Queen of the Garbage Cans’ for good reasons, dogs have meant the world to me.
As an adult, I was sure of three things. I would get married, have a child, and own a dog. However, while my husband Greg was excited to start a family, his version of it did not include a four-legged pet. He’d never had a dog and needed lots of convincing that dogs are called your best friends for a reason. Desperate to make our home complete, I scoured the internet, finding picture after picture of dog breeds until he finally weakened. His resolve wavered after viewing the kryptonite known as a Cavalier King Cocker Spaniel. Mere mortals cannot resist the charms of large, melt-your-heart brown eyes, long, curly ears, and a voracious tail wag that resembles a jet propeller.
Within a month, we’d adopted Lizzie, a ten-week-old puppy who flew all the way from Missouri to become a Rock. The moment my finger touched her wet nose through the pet carrier, I fell in love. Yet it was my husband who pulled her out of the container, cuddled her to his chest, and was so reluctant to let her go, that he consented to let me drive home- something he never, ever, lets me do. Lizzie was Greg’s first dog love and he fell hard. Within hours of reaching her new home, Lizzie had Greg wrapped around her tiny paw. I couldn’t help but laugh to see him scurry around the house, finding treats and toys to tempt her with, giving up most of his pillow when she howled, alone, in her bedtime kennel. As time went on, the affection between them deepened. So much so that Lizzie moped when Greg left for work and brought out her favorite toy (a cheetah–print octopus- go figure!) when she heard the garage door open.
Despite our happiness, a part of me felt a bit let down. Prior to Lizzie, my dogs had always been rescues, not pure breeds, and I felt guilty that we hadn’t opened up our lives to a dog in need. In secret, I began scouring ASPCA websites, looking for Cavalier King Cocker Spaniel’s less fortunate than our Lizzie. Then I found a five-year-old named Little Bit. Little Bit had lived a solitary life with an elderly woman who, unfortunately, had grown ill and could no longer care for her loyal puppy. After much cajoling, I convinced Greg to take the drive out to Niagara Falls to “see the dog” knowing that his heart had room in it for one more pet.
And I was right. We adopted Little Bit, who outweighs Lizzie by fifteen pounds, by the way, and our home was complete. Even our cat, Angel, seemed to like the gregarious Little Bit. She didn't have a favorite like Lizzie, and lavished her love on anyone within her tongue’s reach. Despite the fact that Little Bit is now deaf and responds only to touch, floor vibrations and hand signals, and Lizzie is a diabetic who requires Insulin shots twice a day, Greg’s love of dogs has never wavered. And neither has mine. If anything, owning special needs dogs has given me a deeper affection for these challenged canines. I know that I was fated to own them and I take my responsibility seriously. I’ve fed them freshly cooked chicken and rice ever since Lizzie decided she’d rather go into to Insulin shock than eat more dried dog food, and bought Little Bit a Thunder Shirt to help her through the anxiety her hearing impairment produced.
Sure, puppies are adorable, bright and shiny with the promise of long walks and loads of play time. But my life has taught me to weather the rhythms of dog lives the way I’ve learned to navigate the changes in my own. I’m forgiving of messes made on floors when an overloaded kidney can’t wait another minute, or of the need to carry a dog outside because she’s afraid to go out alone, in the dark, with only her sense of smell to guide her. I can only hope that someday, someone will do the same for me.
My upcoming novel, WISH ME TOMORROW, features a diabetic therapy dog named- drum roll- Lizzie J I couldn’t imagine better medicine for the oncology patients my heroine, Christie, councils, than this perky, affectionate dog who, like them, is battling a chronic, life-threatening illness. Please tell me about your significant pet others in the comment’s section below and be entered to win an autographed copy of my upcoming September release. I look forward to hearing about them J Please check www.facebook.com/karenrockauthor tomorrow for the name of the winner. Thanks!