Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dog Adventures Old And New

I haven't been able to sleep much lately. My thoughts are consumed with all things doggie--and I am really out-of-my-mind excited about our new puppy--but probably not for the reasons you'd expect.

A long time ago, when I was a Brittany I wouldn't recognize anymore, I was engaged to a guy I was dating (Or at least in my mind I was engaged. My thirty-four year old self would've put the brakes on that notion real fast as soon as 1) he didn't tell his parents about our engagement and 2) he couldn't afford an engagement ring, but could spend $2K a week going to bars). It wasn't a good situation, but something good came out of it. In the course of one of our conversations, when he asked me what I wanted for a wedding present, I told him I wanted a West Highland Terrier. I'd seen one before on a commercial on tv and had decided then and there that a Westie was the dog for me. As talk of the wedding continued, I slowly realized that I was actually looking more forward to getting the dog than being married to him. I wanted a reason to be home, to go on long quiet walks in the park, to curl up on the couch with my dog and read, or write, or sew. I didn't want to be out partying, drinking in bars, and clubs, and socializing with half the known universe. I'd tried hard to convince myself that that lifestyle was lots of fun, but, in time, it became clear that it just wasn't my thing. Eventually I broke up with him and bought myself Tuendi.

Tuendi went to grad school with me, was my only roommate, my best friend, my cheerleader. Having Tuendi opened me up to a whole new world of life-with-dog. A world where I could be an introvert, and not have to fight against my basic nature. When Tom (another introvert) and I started dating, we bonded over her antics and the quiet world of walks outside. I learned about dog rescue and pet therapy, we adopted Sammy, and I even wrote my master's thesis on therapeutic dog characters in young adult literature.

After Tom and I got married and we moved to Cincinnati, we became active in a Kentucky terrier club and started entering Sammy in the Earth Dog trials. One early anniversary, we even went to Camp Dogwood, which is basically a summer camp environment for people and their dogs.

For a while there, dogs were my universe.

And then we had the boys.

That put an end to my doggified world really quick. After you have children, your pets, no matter how much you love them, fall down the pecking order substantially. I'll admit, for a few years there, I didn't have the energy, the emotional resources, or the time to care about the dogs beyond their most basic needs. Even something as simple as taking them for a walk became an impossibility--trying to maneuver a double stroller and a tandem leash up a busy road in an unsidewalked neighborhood just wasn't going to happen. I had to put my life on hold for years of sleepless nights, diaper changes, and sweeping up pounds of Cheerios from off the floor, and everything I wanted to do with the dogs had to go on hold, too.

I kept telling myself that after the boys were older, things would go back to normal. I pictured happy family walks (sans stroller). Earth dog trials as a family, when the boys were old enough to go and not incite a riot among a group of already hyped-up terriers. Games of fetch and nights spent watching doggie antics. But then Sammy got sick, and we were instead dealing with his aggressive outbursts. We tiptoed around the house in fear of setting him off, and for a time, I forgot how much joy having dogs had brought me in the past. How having them, and even before that, the thought of having them, had actually changed the course of my life for the better.

One of the most unexpected aspects of having to put Sammy down was coming to terms with the fact that those happy, carefree doggie days I'd loved and benefited so much from were behind us. I grieved over the fact that the boys would never know the pure joy of watching Sammy hunting, or racing, or going to ground. That they'd never laugh at the sight of two young Westies zooming in the backyard. Never know me when I was young, with hobbies and interests outside of theirs. Never know me as I had been.

I can't tell you what made my mom or grandparents or great-grandparents tick when they were younger. When childish pursuits gave way to true interests, when they were still free to indulge in hobbies that would give way to child-rearing, and possibly be lost forever. I have an incomplete picture of them, just as, no doubt, my children have an incomplete picture of Tom and I in our heyday. And it makes me sad.

But I realized that that doesn't have to be the end of  the story. The boys are older now, and are curious about who their parents are. They ask a lot of questions about what we used to do before they were born, and we have started telling them about the dogs and the amazing things they used to do together.

For her part, Tuendi has really blossomed over the last few months. She's interacting with the boys more and more. Yesterday she even sat for the treats Sam and his friend were trying to give her. Even though she enjoys being the top dog around here, I don't think she'd object to having a new friend around. Like the rest of us, she has a huge capacity to love--to scoot over and make room in her heart for just one more. But then again, she was the one who initially taught us how it's done.

So we're starting over. Repeating the past and heading into the future all at the same time. I'm sleepless because I know what's coming and yet don't know what's coming. I've lived this life before, but now it's all new again.

 Our next big doggie adventure awaits. May it once again change us for the better.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this, brittany. i had ideas about dog ownership as an adult that didn't quite pan out the way i thought with my kids in the picture either. but i think right now, lucy is very happy to be part of our family.

    i would love to get another dog to keep her doggie company, but we just can't do that at this time. i bet she'll have a good long life, being a small terrier, and maybe eventually we can add a puppy eventually.

    in the meantime, i can't wait to read about your puppy adventures to live vicariously!

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