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Doggy Kisses: My Life in Dogs.

Karen is from Connecticut. She has a degree in education. She loves game shows, animals, the beach, and her family.


Doggy Kisses

There are two types of people in the world; Dog People and Cat People. I am a dog person, from a family of similarly minded dog people. I don’t remember a time when my family didn’t have a dog. They appear in holiday and birthday pictures. They are on holiday cards. Their pictures plaster the walls of my parent’s house with the same enthusiasm as my school pictures used to. Abby even had mail delivered to her at the house with her name on it.

Dogs are preferable because dogs offer companionship and unending love. They are sincere to a fault. They recognize emotions and offer support. They provide protection. Dog people seem to be more intuitive, showing empathy and sympathy. Dog owners tend to offer and provide the same invaluable loyalty their pets do. Walk around with a dog, and people can tell that you are approachable and kind. You can make dog park buddies, and kids always want to run up and pet your dog. No such thing with a cat.

Cats are more independent in nature. They have those claws that make cuddles less welcoming and more dangerous. They’d rather go unnoticed and undisturbed for the most part. To cats, an owner is for food. Cat shedding is abysmal, and their litter boxes smell horribly. Tending to a dirty litter box is an immediate non-starter for me. Additionally, I’ve seen toys for cats, and I’m not buying into it. I’ve played fetch with a dog that can outrun a school bus. A cat, what, swats at a cloth mouse? Unimpressed. And those cat climbing structures? I’m not giving up a corner of my house to a cat treehouse, especially when there can be another dog bed there.

We moved to a house with a yard when I was three years old, and from then on we had dogs. Benson was a Beagle, who was scooped up from under my Grandfather’s care when he was traveling back and forth to Florida often, and didn’t have the time and space for a dog. What luck, for our family and Benson. I was young, but I remember his howl, that unmistakable Beagle howl.

Benson moved slowly and scratched constantly. He tolerated children. Who could blame him? He was an old guy. He may have been the only family member who wasn’t thrilled when we got a new puppy a few years later, a weimeraner. That was a dream of my Dad’s; his second weimaraner. He had one as a boy. These dogs are impressive gray giants who would gladly sew themselves to their owners, only to be separated to chase the occasional squirrel or rabbit. Being a weimaraner meant that Max was a little puppy for about a month or two before he grew into 80-100 lbs of goofy loving wiggles with innate hunting skills. Benson only wanted his space when he nipped and howled at Max those few times.

I remember seeing Max for the first time. Dad and Tom picked him up at the airport late one night in winter, so I had to wait till the next morning to see him. There he was, a little gray ghost curled up in Tom’s bed. He never really abided by any rules about no pets on furniture or beds. In fact, none of our dogs ever did. We’re dog people. We’d never enforce such cruelty.

Max followed us kids off to the bus and greeted us when we returned. My cousins and I would dress him up like a doll. We got a kick out of the William Wegman photos of Weimaraners. He was a real good sport about it. We still have a picture of him in one of my mom’s dresses. He would bring us rewards of dead bunnies and hamsters occasionally, leading to a blood-curdling scream. Maybe he killed them accidently when he wanted to play with them. Think Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

We got Max when I was around 5 or 6, and we had him till I was in high school. Larger dogs tend to have shorter life-spans. I most likely didn’t know that at the time. He got a brain tumor, and would bleed from his nose. It was a nuisance and gross, but I think we were more sad than anything else. Sad that we were losing him. He passed on his own time though, downstairs in our basement family room. It was the summer I was turning fifteen years old, just a day or two before my birthday. My mom bought me All Dogs go to Heaven on VHS or DVD. No one was in the mood to celebrate.

When Max died it was like we lost a member of the family. He had such a large personality and presence. This was a dog family though. After Max died my parents found the space and love for Abby. Dad was now able to tell people that this was his third weimaraner. She was a big girl, but nowhere as big as Max. She was purchased from a top notch breeder. Dad would have it no other way. She could almost keep up with Tom as well as Max did. What she lacked in speed and agility, she more than made up for in love.

I was heading to college by the time she was pregnant with her first litter. This was part of Dad's masterful plan to exponentially increase the gray ghost population. She was a good sport about it. She had a big litter too, eight or nine puppies. They were adorable. Mom and I named them all, and held them and petted them constantly like they emitted a life-force we couldn’t be separated from for too long. After eight weeks they all went to hand-picked loving families, except for Jesse. Jesse stayed with Mom, Dad, and her mom, Abby. To remember those other pups, there are infrequent Facebook messages or posts.

Having puppies isn’t easy business, but Abby was a good mom. Her daughter turned into her partner in crime; knocking over trash and getting into rat poison. They were surprisingly resistant to poison and any attempts to get them to settle down. After several more years though she started having trouble holding her bladder and bowel movements. She lost her energy. Tom made a little step stool, so she could still get on the bed with Mom and Dad, but then she started having trouble doing the stairs. It was a slow deterioration. It’s common in the hips of larger breeds. It grew harder and harder for her to walk. She looked tired.

The family decided it was time to put her down. A traveling veterinary service came to put her to sleep at our family home, where she would be most comfortable. Dad offered her a piece of hamburger, placing it by her mouth so she could have a final treat, but she had lost too much strength and had no appetite. I imagine she felt our love through it all though. She lay on the couch and the vet team administered the shots then she was gone. I’ve never seen grown men cry like I did that day. That broke my heart evenmore.

Jesse was probably a little lonely, but I also think she enjoyed being the top dog, the only one around; the focus of all the love and receiver of all of the dog treats. I was out of the house by now. Dad was on his fourth weimaraner. Jesse loved to run. She was needy and cuddly. My brother and I were out of the house by then. Jesse grew to have a little bit of that only child spoiled-ness. She was clearly Mom and Dad’s dog, probably their favorite child.

I began living on my own, eventually. After a good many years of this independence I got a dog of my own. The others were family dogs. This one would be my responsibility alone, and she would be obligated to love me above all. I felt ready. I had my own apartment that I had been living in for more than a year or two. It had a little yard. I had the time. At the age that most people would have children entering grade school, I was leaning into adulthood by rescuing a dog.

It fell into place in an emergency, but it was kismet. There was no hesitation. My mother’s cousin was breeding small dogs when she had a fire in her designated kennel area. There were several Shih Tzus and a brand new litter of Chins that needed new homes fast. Mom stepped up and took in the Chin mommy and puppies. I desperately wanted to help too.

We drove up, and I saw separated kennels with several Shih Tzus. I didn’t know which one I would be taking in, but it was pretty apparent which pup needed loving. Sally had bad glaucoma in one eye. Her fur was matted. The other dogs were pushing her around. Poor girl didn’t deserve this. She had been bred numerous times. She was older and tired. Initially the placement was supposed to be temporary, but I should have known when I saw her that this would be forever. She would be welcomed into a new life of luxury. All she needed was one on one nurturing.

I enjoyed having her companionship. She had the cutest little face, my “little lion.” She grew to have quite a wardrobe, because who wouldn’t buy those baby blue sweaters and corduroy dresses! A red velvet number for the holidays. Sally didn’t go on walks like some dogs might. She had no concept of what a leash was. She preferred to be carried and placed on the ground to do her business when she chose, so I’d carry her down the three flights of stairs in our apartment and then up again. She couldn’t hop, so I’d hoist her up on the bed.

I didn’t like to be separated from her. I brought her on vacation and took her shopping. She’d sit properly in shopping carts while I strolled through Target. She had that beautiful fur, more like hair. It needed to be tended, so she had a groomer that came right to the house. Of course the groomer, Stephanie, loved Sally. She was the most mellow client. I didn’t even think she could bark for the first several months I had her, then one day I left her alone in the bed, and I heard the teeniest bark from the bedroom. She had found her voice, and she was telling me she wanted to get down. What a sweet angel she was. I would be driving home, and I’d just smile knowing that she was there waiting. Her little feet would make a click clack noise as she ran toward the door to greet me. In short, it was love.

I knew Sally was a senior dog when I rescued her. We guessed that she was around thirteen years old. She had never been spayed, and had probably been bred more than she should have. This led to her having repeated bladder and uterine infections in her advanced age. She would have accidents inside the house and spot blood on the blankets. Once I was told that there wasn’t much the veterinarian could do given her age, I just wanted to make her as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. And I think I did. She lived with me for two years before she passed. She died peacefully at home, one minute breathing, and the next, not. I would have loved another decade with her, but fifteen is a long life. She was the sweetest girl, and she brought so much joy to me. I cried rivers when she died. I placed her on my lap while we drove her to the veterinarian for the last time. They would cremate her and I would have her remains. I knelt by her dishes when I returned home, and cried again until I couldn’t cry anymore. It was hard to say goodbye, but I like to think I did well by her. I still have a little chest filled with her darling dresses. I wanted them as memories of her, and because I knew I had room in my heart to adopt another dog. I would save all the tired, older Sallys if I could.

I was living in Tampa a couple months later, and I was searching the pet adoption websites daily. It is tricky to find the right fit. I wanted another older dog, and a smaller breed would be most practical. Senior dogs are the best. They come trained, usually, and you don’t have to wonder how big they will grow. I made several inquiries before I found my girl. Daisy was living near Orlando about two hours away from me. Her family was moving to a smaller place, and couldn’t take her. She was about twelve years old, and she was a perfect size. I felt horrible that she was being separated from the family she had been with for so long, but I knew I would spoil her. When I met her she seemed scrappy. That’s the best way to express it. She’s a terrier, through and through. She was all bark and sniff from day one. There was no timidness. There would be no velvet dresses in Daisy’s future. More like she would be coated in mud. She’s great with a leash and loves her walks. That was all fine with me. Different, but not better or worse, just different. She settled into the car quickly for the ride to her new home. She curled up in the front seat. She was alternately watching out the window and glancing over at me. I smiled widely, immediately loving my new buddy.

Daisy and I got along splendidly. She was my partner in exploring Tampa. She was my first friend there, probably my best. We visited every dog park within 25 miles. Who could imagine there would be so many. It’s not like that in New England. We went to the beach, the farmer’s market, and a Halloween parade. She was, and is, definitely all about the smells. She can be a handful to walk, because she’s so pokey. Whatever’s going on, her nose knows. She has always needed her space too. At the dog park she is quick to spread the word, “Do Not Disturb.” That’s fine by me though. I can be the same way.

Daisy and I enjoyed Tampa, but circumstances changed, as they often do. We made a move back to where I was from, in Connecticut, after two years of being a pair of independent girls in Florida. I’m lucky she is good in the car, as it was an eighteen hour drive. I didn’t know what she would think of New England and its varied weather, but she didn’t have much of a say. I like to think she’s been enjoying it. Daisy is happy and healthier than ever, and roaming the streets of suburban/rural Connecticut like she owns the place.

Of course, she adores her Grandma and Grandpa. She has so much open space now. One of the biggest changes has been getting used to, and getting along with, her new “big little sister.” My parents have their fifth weimaraner, Harper. Jesse had died when she was about ten years old, around the same age as our other weimaraners were when they passed. My parents waited a respectable amount of time, but then were ready to fill their empty nest with puppy magic, named Harper. She is much bigger, younger, and energetic than Daisy. I didn’t know it was possible for a dog to run in the back seat of the car until I drove with Harper. Sometimes Daisy puts Harper in her place to get her space and curb the enthusiasm. People get a kick out of that when they see it. Harper is over seventy pounds and Daisy is under twenty pounds.

Daisy and I are thriving, for all intents and purposes. We are eating well, making use of the kitchen for a change. We get plenty of exercise and take deep breaths of country air. I know Daisy is old, but you’d never be able to tell from looking at her. She’s playing like a little pup, running with a skip in her step. She likes to take Harper’s toys out of the box, and toss them around and squeak them while giving Harper the side eye. Harper stands by befuddled, hoping someone will put this atrocity to an end. Daisy may be her happiest at those moments. She is certainly happy and healthy. That’s what matters. And, I will keep her safe and love her until the universe says it’s time. I don’t have to think about that now though.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Karen Michelle C