City Hounds

Just sniffin' around…

The Beginning

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t like dogs when I was a kid.

Maybe more accurately, I didn’t know dogs.  My parents got a puppy when I was 2 or 3 years old,.  He was a cute little black Cocker Spaniel named they Buddy.  He didn’t last long.  He couldn’t be trained to stay in the yard, and we didn’t have a fence.  Mom and Dad hated to chain him up – they both grew up on farms and didn’t like to see dogs on chains.  Still, to keep him safe, he had to be chained.  But Buddy wouldn’t stay chained.  He figured out how to get loose, and Mom had to search the neighborhood for him a couple of times.  Mom was frustrated, and there was no way to keep him safe (they didn’t want to put up a fence), so Buddy was rehomed.

Next, I got a cat.  I had her for years, and she looked a lot like Frodo.  Definately NOT the same personality, though!  She wasn’t a friendly cat, although she did occasionally let me tuck her into my doll buggy and rock her to sleep.  My mom was adamant that she not sleep on my bed or get on the furniture – and she didn’t (sometimes I’d love to know how they trained her not to get on the furniture, because I can’t train my cats to do anything…).  She was put downstairs every night when Mom & Dad went to bed, and she was an indoor/outdoor cat.  I loved her, but we never really had the chance to bond.  She lived to an old age, though, and died while I was in college.

When I was about 7 or 8, I went to stay at a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve.  They had two collies.  I’d been there before; even spent the night before.  But after a few hours, one of my eyes began itch, then to swell shut.  My mother had to take me to the emergency room, where they surmised that I probably had a dog hair in my eye, and I was probably allergic to dogs. Sure enough, allergy tests revealed a BAD dog allergy.  Since hardly anyone in my family had dogs, and the few that did had poodle mixes, we’d never realized it.

From then on I avoided dogs because being around them made me really miserable.  But, as I got older, my reaction lessened and become manageable.  I still sometimes react to new dogs or to a lot of dogs at once, but it’s not the problem it used to be.  Thank goodness, because when I was about 20, THE dog came into my life.

I attended college about 250 miles from home.  My college was actually near the area where my parents grew up, so they purchased a house in their hometown, knowing they would eventually retire there.  It gave us a place to meet on the weekends and spend time together.

One night we heard a noise on the front porch, and found a tiny, furry black puppy playing with an empty Diet Coke can. We couldn’t find an owner; neighbors claimed they had seen the pup hanging out with an older stray.  He couldn’t have been hanging out for long, though, since he was only about 7 weeks old.  Unable to find his home & unwilling to take him to a shelter, we named him Happy (because he so obviously was) and I took him back to school with me.

From then on, we joked that Mom and Dad & I had shared custody of Hap.  Sometimes he stayed with me, sometimes with them.  When Mom and Dad retired and did, indeed move back to their hometown, Hap began spending most of his time with them.  Steve and I were married by then and both working full time, and it was impossible for us to get home during the day.  Since Mom and Dad were home all day, it seemed logical that Happy should stay with them.  They claimed not to be dog people (and really aren’t), but Happy won their hearts and they really adored him.  My extended family (also, mostly not dog/pet people) loved him, too.  Happy was invited to all family events, even if other dogs were not.  He was friendly, patient, good with kids, and a wonderful house guest.  He didn’t get on the furniture, bark, or dig in the yard.  In fact, he didn’t leave the yard – Mom and Dad didn’t have a fence in the new house, either, but it wasn’t a problem with Happy.  He didn’t even need a leash to be walked.

Happy was a dog of our hearts, that once-in-a-lifetime pooch for my parents.

Of course, Happy got old.  He slowed down and finally, he got sick.  His energy level dropped alarmingly low, and he began limping badly.  The vet found cancer, and also discovered a dislocated hip, probably done when Hap jumped in or out of the car.  One or the other might have been treatable, but he was both sick and in pain, and treating both at the same time was impossible.  The vet sent test results to the Univerisity of Illinos Vet School to be reviewed, and they advised the same.  It was time to let Happy go.

I was devastated, but that was nothing compared to my parents.  It was as if they’d lost a child, and both swore they’d have no more dogs.  I think my dad was embarassed by how attached he was to Happy, and swore he’d go through that loss again.

For me, Happy opened the door to the wonderful world of dogs.  When Steve and I finally had a house, yard and jobs that made it possible for us to have a dog, we adopted Red.  That was just weeks before we lost Happy.  Red and Happy didn’t get to meet, but I like to think they would have been buddies.  Just a few months ago I had a dream that Happy came back, and he was showing Red and Ruby a thing or two about being great dogs.  They’re both pretty awesome already, but Happy’s paws are pretty hard to fill.

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November 9, 2011 - Posted by | Reflections

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