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Dogs I have known...part 8


Well, if Muffin was my childhood dog, I’d have to say Molly was my KIDS’ childhood dog. We got her soon after Rusty (as soon as we were ready to try another dog…which wasn’t very long!). My oldest son was six years old and my youngest son was just a year old. My youngest son does not remember life before Molly.

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Molly was a great dog…the perfect dog for our family, really (especially after what we’d gone through with Rusty). I've never known a gentler dog. I think the best thing about her was how good she was with kids. Experts will tell you you really shouldn’t get a dog until your youngest child is at least five years old. Some even say your youngest should be ten. But who listens to experts? Not somebody who really, really wants a dog. And it worked out with Molly…the kids would climb all over her and use her as a pillow and she'd just lick them in response. I don’t think she ever even growled at anyone much less bit them. (She DID growl at motorcycles, though...and big trucks. In fact, if one was parked too close to the sidewalk or ON the sidewalk, I would have to actually pick her up because she wouldn't walk past it.)

She was a puppy when we got her…an old puppy (ten months old), but a puppy nonetheless. She’d never lived with a family before. Her whole life up to that point had been spent in a cage, so I suspect that’s why housebreaking was such a challenge with her. After she peed somewhere in the house, she understood that she was never again supposed to go in that exact spot. So the next time she’d go in the house, she'd go about three inches away from the previous spot. She needed to be taught that every single spot in the house was off-limits for relieving herself. And about the time she got that, we moved to a new house in Coralville. So we had to start over.

ben and molly

She was not a dog who did a lot of tricks. She could shake hands and she’d fetch the ball once or twice, but that was it. Once or twice and she was done.

And she did not like to go outside in the rain. Or if the grass was too long.

My husband will tell you she was "a good dog, but dumber than a doornail." Don't listen to him. She may not have done what you told her to do, but I don't think it was because she didn't understand...I think she just didn't want to. She was actually a very wise dog...all you had to do was look into her eyes to see that. Especially toward the end.

I still smile when I remember how she'd come running if anyone said “Oops” for any reason. She had very good ears...it didn't matter how far away she was, she always heard "oops," and she always came running as fast as she could! “Oops” to Molly meant somebody dropped some food on the floor. And if there wasn’t any food on the floor when she came (i.e. you happened to say “oops” for some other reason), she’d look at you like “Well??? Where is it?”

Molly was the first dog I had from puppyhood through old age. She started to slow down a few years ago. She developed a thyroid condition, then arthritis. She got really sick a year and a half ago…so sick that we thought that was the end. But she pulled through. We got another dog right after she got better (Mouse, who I will blog about in the next post...and that will be the end of this series). Mouse was about four times her size, but Molly was still the alpha dog. She and Mouse got along really well. In fact, she really perked up when Mouse came to live with us. Our vet said that’s not uncommon…sometimes bringing a young dog into the house when you have an old dog is the best thing you can do for that older dog's health. I think he's right. I don’t believe Molly would’ve lasted as long as she did if we didn’t have Mouse. We got another eight months with her after she was so sick…and then last summer she got really sick again...and that was the end. She was fourteen.

Unfortunately, it happened when we were all out of town, so I never really got closure. And the reason we were out of town was my oldest was moving halfway across the country. So I lost my dog and in a sense I “lost” my son at the same time. But it was never going to be easy to let Molly go…and I think she knew that. Maybe that’s why the end came when it did? If she had any control over it, I'm certain she let go when she did because she knew I would have a very hard time saying good bye. So she spared me that. She didn't actually die on her own...the vet told us she wouldn't make it until we got back, and she was in pretty bad shape, so we had her put to sleep. I still wish I’d been here...seems like the least I should have done for such a good dog. We're going to bury her ashes this spring and plant something pretty over the grave...maybe that will give me the closure I need?

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Dogs I have known...part 7


I had to think about whether I really wanted to blog about Rusty or not. We didn’t have Rusty for very long (not even a month)…and frankly, Rusty is a dog I would like to forget. But I can’t forget him…and I certainly learned an important lesson from him. So…here goes. (It’s a pretty sad story, so if you’re not up for that, you better stop right here.)

This is the only picture we have of Rusty:
Rusty

We got him right after we got a house of our own in Cedar Rapids. By this time I’d decided it was better to get a dog from the P-O-U-N-D (see Buddy Files book 1) than to get a purebred. Except Rusty didn’t actually come from the P-O-U-N-D. I still remember the ad that appeared in the newspaper. Well, I don’t remember the specifics about age, breed etc…this is the part I remember: “Save a dog’s life. If no one wants this dog by Saturday, he’s going to the pound!” What a bizarre thing to put in an ad, eh? But I was all about saving a dog’s life, so I called the number…and we went to see the dog. We weren’t invited inside, the woman came out with Rusty. I remember she was really nervous, and we could hear yelling coming from inside the trailer. I asked why they were getting rid of the dog. She said, “my boyfriend doesn’t like him.”

I remember I tried not to be obvious about my raised eyebrow. (Hello? Boyfriend doesn’t like the dog? Dump the boyfriend, not the dog!) And then she sort of grabbed my arm and said, “Please take him…he’s a really nice dog.”

He seemed like a nice dog…so we took him.

The first thing we noticed about Rusty was he had a “submissive peeing” problem. It wasn’t all the time…just when my husband came home. Or walked into a room. My husband is not a violent man, but for some reason, Rusty kind of cowered around him. We suspected (though never knew for sure) that maybe the boyfriend had actually been abusive to the dog…but that didn’t bother me. Rusty was out of that situation now and he was going to have so much better of a life with us.

Then Rusty bit the neighbor boy. I was shocked when I heard it. Absolutely shocked. Rusty was a pretty fearful dog…we had never even heard him growl at anyone. I couldn’t imagine him biting anyone. No one saw it happen. The kid had come over on his own when Rusty was out in the backyard. And well…I could imagine a situation where the kid had maybe taunted Rusty…maybe even hit him with a stick? Rusty had always been really good with our kids (and my youngest wasn’t even a year old at this point). So…we decided we wouldn’t do anything at that point.

Big mistake.

I was there for the next incident a week or so later. It happened right in front of me…this time to my 10-month old child. I had just pulled the tray off the high chair and set it on the table. I was about to wipe my child’s face and hands when Rusty charged in between me and Andy and…attacked him. For absolutely no reason. I was standing right there…I know Andy didn’t pull his hair or anything. The dog just freaked out. I was able to pull him off before much damage was done, but those few seconds would definitely rank in the top five of worst moments of my life.

I locked Rusty in his crate in the basement and took my son to the hospital. That was the last time I saw Rusty.

The worst of the bite was right around my son’s eye. But he was very lucky…he didn’t even need stitches.

The doctor told me the dog would have to be taken in to a vet where he would be watched for rabies…and then, because he’d bitten two people, he would likely be put to sleep. Fortunately, my husband took care of all of that for me because I couldn't do it. I couldn't do any of it. I couldn't look at the dog...I couldn't take him to the vet...I couldn't even talk to the vet on the phone. It still upsets me terribly to remember all this.

I remember I had plans with friends that night. At first I wasn't going to go, but my husband talked me into it. He thought it would do me good to get out of the house. So I went, but I doubt I was very good company. It’s funny how well I remember all of this…it was 15 years ago! That day left a very strong impression on me. I can tell you what I was wearing...what my 10-month-old son was wearing...what he ate for lunch...what the weather was like...everything!

It was a big shock to discover that I couldn’t save this dog. But I couldn’t…not at the expense of my child. I still wonder if a single woman had answered that ad if things might have been different for Rusty? I do believe he was abused…could someone else have saved him? Maybe…maybe not.


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Dogs I have known...part 6


This is Alycia:

Alycia (2)

Alycia-my-Valentine, to be exact. She was my Valentine’s Day gift from my husband in 1988. We went to look at a litter of shih tzu pups and I remember the lady had set one of the pups off to the side. I liked the coloring of that one, so I asked if that pup had already been claimed by someone else. She said, “No. But you don’t want that one. It’s defective.”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

She picked the pup up and said, “look at her eyes.”

I looked. The pup had one brown eye and one blue eye. “Hey, that’s cool!” I said.

The lady frowned at me because clearly I knew nothing about dogs. “No, it’s not cool. That’s a genetic defect.”

There was that word again.

I reached for the pup and she snuggled up against me. I was sold. This was the pup I wanted.

“Are you sure?” the lady asked. “You haven’t even looked at any of the others. And you’re not going to be able to show this dog because she’s got this defect.”

I didn’t care about showing. I just wanted a dog that would curl up on my lap when I read or watched TV. And frankly, I was a little concerned about what was going to happen to a puppy that had been described as “defective” more than once. Personally, I found the two different colored eyes endearing.

It turned out to be a win-win situation. The lady gave us a deal because of the “defect” and we took the pup off her hands.

My husband and I still didn’t have kids at this point, but now we had two dogs. Alycia and Plato. And they were like our kids. I remember my husband I took a trip out east and left the dogs with my parents. I called to check on them. More than once. More than twice. And each time I reminded my mother to make sure the leash was on both dogs before she opened the door (remember the bean field incident with Muffin?).

Alycia got along very well with Plato. They used to run down our hallway together (usually united in their mission to chase the cat) and when Alycia would get excited, she’d nip Plato’s ears. Both dogs had their own crates, but it wasn’t long before Alycia stopped using hers. She preferred to go in with Plato. And he didn’t seem to mind. If we'd forget to lock them up when we went out, and Plato had gotten into another loaf of bread, we'd come home to find her sitting right by the door (Plato would be nowhere in sight) looking at us like, "I didn't do it!" Even though she might have bread crumbs around her mouth. We always knew when she was sitting there and Plato wasn't around that they had gotten into trouble while we were out.

She wasn’t as much of a “kid” dog as Plato was, though. She put up with the kids when they came along, but she much preferred the company of adults.

When we moved to Rochester, MN, Alycia went to the farm with Plato until we were able to buy a new house. But when it came time to move to Iowa, and we had to give Plato away, we had another option for Alycia. My mother really liked Alycia (she thought Plato was “too big”), so…I asked my folks if they’d take her until we could get a new house. They didn’t have another dog at this point, so they said yes. So I only had to give up one dog when we moved. But then when we were able to take her back, my mother didn’t want to give her back. So we let her keep Alycia. At least we’d still get to see her. In fact, we got to take care of her anytime my parents went anywhere (which was pretty often!).

My mother changed when she had Alycia. Remember those rules I mentioned back when I talked about my childhood dogs? Those rules didn’t really apply to Alycia. I remember my brother telling me that Alycia was IN THE LIVING ROOM watching TV with my mother. (He and I weren’t even allowed to be in the living room when we were kids!) Actually, I think Alycia just knew how to work my mother. She knew the rule about staying in the kitchen, but she’d push it. She’d move into the hallway…then she’d creep a little further into the hallway…pretty soon she’d be at the edge of the living room. Eventually my mother would notice and send her back to the kitchen. But Alycia would keep doing this over and over until one day (after a period of months) she was simply allowed in there.

It wasn’t too long after that that my brother asked me to “guess” where Alycia sleeps. I didn’t have to guess…I knew where she slept. The back hall. That’s where dogs always slept in my parents' house. “Wrong,” my brother said. Apparently, Alycia was allowed to sleep in my parents’ bedroom. I couldn’t believe it! No dog had EVER been allowed on the second floor of our house before. My mother said that Alycia was afraid of storms…that’s why she was allowed up there. But…it didn’t storm every night.

So I guess the lesson to be learned from Alycia is…if you’re small and cute, you can get away with things that other people (or dogs) can’t. Not a very good lesson, I’m afraid. But she really was awfully cute…and another very sweet dog.


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Dogs I have known...part 5


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For those of you who have only known me (and my dogs!) in Iowa, this is NOT Molly. This is Plato. Plato Platypus, to be exact…he was an AKC registered cocker spaniel (that was before I realized that the P-O-U-N-D is a good place to get a dog!). Plato was the first dog I had as an adult. I’m not sure we were even in our first house two weeks before we got him. Both my husband and I were pretty excited about getting a dog. We already had the house...the dog was the next step...then kids. We were truly settling down.

We answered an ad in the newspaper and chose Plato from a litter of 4-5 dogs. We named him Plato because we already had a Socrates. This was Socrates:

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Socrates was Plato’s mentor in Ancient Greece as well as our house.

My husband and I were really into being dog owners, so we did the whole obedience thing with Plato. In fact, we BOTH went to obedience classes with him. And he learned quickly. He was one smart dog!

He was so smart that one day I was working in my office…my oldest son was 18-22 months old at this time. And even at 18 months, my son was really good at entertaining himself while I wrote. There was a little crawl space closet (with a child-sized door) in the room I used for an office. We put up dry-erase board for walls and told our son that he could draw on the walls in there, but he was much more interested in playing with all his Fisher Price sets than in drawing on the walls. He could play with those Fisher Price sets for HOURS. So it worked well. I could see him easily from my desk…and he ALWAYS just sat there and played…until the day he didn’t.

All of a sudden Plato was standing in the doorway, sort of dancing around, running out of the room, then running back in. He clearly wanted me to go with him. I thought he just needed to go outside, so I got up from my desk…and noticed my son wasn’t playing in that little room. In fact, I wasn’t sure where he was! But Plato was very insistent…he even started barking! So I went to let him out. I opened the back door…and there was my son! Caught between the inside door and the screen door. Yeah, that was a “bad mom” moment…but a “good dog” moment! PLATO knew where my son was, even if I didn't. That’s the kind of dog Plato was! (He LOVED kids…when my first son was born, he used to sleep under the crib…I could tell he was going to be the kind of dog who always looked out for the kids. Turned out I was right.)

He was also the kind of dog who got into things if we didn’t crate him when we left him home. He didn’t just open the child proof lock on the cabinet under the sink and get into the garbage, he T.P.ed our entire house! He pulled the toilet paper off the roll (and I mean ALL the toilet paper…even if it was practically a brand new roll) and dragged it upstairs and downstairs. We also had to be careful about leaving food out on the table. He wasn’t that big of a dog…but he could get at absolutely ANY food that had been left on the table or on a counter. He was especially fond of bread (like whole loaves of bread!)…and didn’t mind the plastic. I remember one day I backed out of the garage and realized I had forgotten to lock him up, so I went back in. In the two minutes I’d been gone, he managed to get up onto the table and devour what had been a brand new, unopened loaf of bread. There were only about two pieces left. He never did these things when we were home…it was only if we left.

When we moved from the Twin Cities to Rochester, it didn’t even occur to us to give him away...even though we weren’t going to be able to get a new house until we sold our old house. Fortunately, we had a Realtor who had a friend who lived on a farm. The friend was willing to board our dogs (yeah, we actually had two of them at this point…I’ll tell you about Alycia in the next entry) until we could take them again. If he had known it was going to take us SIX MONTHS to sell our house in the Twin Cities, I wonder if he would’ve been willing to do it? Even though we went to visit our dogs regularly, by the time we were ready to take them back, Plato especially, wasn’t sure he wanted to come back. I remember how he sat by the front door of our new house and looked so forlorn…like he was wondering if we were ever going to take him back to his "real" people? I think our taking Plato back was hard on the guy on the farm, too. He’d gotten pretty attached in those six months. I felt a little bad about that...but not bad enough to offer to let him keep Plato.

So…when it came time to move to Iowa four years later, my husband thought it would be better all around to give the dogs away. We didn’t know anyone in Iowa…there were no long-term boarding places…and who knew how long it would be before we could get a house of our own again? I have to admit I wasn't very happy about moving to Iowa...I didn't know anyone there. And I LOVED Rochester. I had a life there. So moving was bad enough...giving up my dogs just about did me in. But the good news is…Plato is about 23 years old now (that’s 161 in dog years) and still romping and playing with his new owners, who SWORE to me they would take good care of him. I believed them. I'm sure they're still taking good care of him. See, when you give a dog away, the dog never really even ages, much less dies.


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Dogs I have known...part 4


me and Mandy

Okay, technically this one was never mine. This is Mandy, the dog my husband grew up with. And she was probably more my sister-in-law’s dog than his. But when you get married, you don’t just marry that one person…you marry that person’s whole family. And their dog. So I decided I can include her in my blog series.

I loved this dog…she made me LAUGH like no other dog (except maybe the dog I currently have). I’d never met a pug before Mandy, so I’d never heard a dog SNORT the way this dog did. I’ve also never met a dog that SHED so much. You could actually pull clumps of hair out of her back…and it didn’t bother her. But the thing I most remember about Mandy is that she used to tickle my feet (and I am extremely ticklish!)! I don’t remember how she did it; I just remember that she did. And once she started, she didn’t like to stop!

If you’ve seen The Case of the Mixed-Up Mutts
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well…there’s a reason those dogs are pugs. That’s my tribute to Mandy! Though to be honest, they weren’t pugs in the first draft. They were Pomeranians. But there was an illustration issue with Pomeranians, so I was asked to change them to some other breed. I balked a little to start with…those dogs HAD to be Pomeranians. There was a vital plot point later in the story that required it. (Plus this was my tribute to Peggy…see March 1 entry.)

But then I thought about it…and I came up with another plot point (probably a better one!) that required the dogs be PUGS. And one of the pugs in book 2 is going to be a recurring character in the series. As a general rule, I like pugs better than I like Pomeranians. So it worked out.


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Dogs I have known...part 3


When I think of “the dog I had as a child,” Muffin is the dog that comes to mind. Not Peggy…and not Ginger or Heidi….Muffin! This is Muffin:

Muffin

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get another dog after Ginger and Heidi (see previous entry). I still wanted one, but I really didn’t want to get one only to have to give it up again a few months later. So my mother and I made a deal. We could get another dog if:
-it was full grown (no more puppies!)
-it was SMALL.
-it was female.
-it was housebroken.
-it was free.

So I started scouting the newspaper. I found an ad for a part Pomeranian, part toy poodle female, one year old, housebroken, FREE to a good home! The dog sounded perfect…except she was out in the country. I wasn’t sure my mother would drive out in the country to look at a dog. But she did.

And "Poochie" (that's what the people called her!) was the sweetest dog…even my mom thought so. I think it helped that the dog was part Pomeranian (see my March 1 entry.) So of course my mom wanted to know what was wrong with Poochie…why were the people getting rid of her? Well…Poochie had a nasty habit of chasing ducks down by the pond. And not only did she chase them…she uh, killed them and then left them on the people’s back step. I was shocked to hear this little dog killed ducks…but not as shocked as I was to hear my mother say, “Well, we live in town. There won’t be any ducks for her to chase.”

It turned out there was something else “wrong” with Poochie. She hadn’t been spayed. In fact, she’d recently had puppies. Spaying costs money, so my mom hesitated then. I reminded her that was not part of the deal. She said the dog had to be full grown, small, female, housebroken and free. She never said anything about spayed.

My mom thought about it for a few minutes while I sat and pet Poochie…and eventually she gave in. We brought Poochie home. The dog had to sit on the floor in the back seat of the car for the drive back to town (my mother does not like dirt), but I pet her the whole way. I thought it was very fitting that we GOT a dog from a farm, after giving away two dogs to people on farms. The first thing that happened when we got home was Poochie got a bath!

The next morning, Poochie (actually, I’m pretty sure we’d renamed her Muffin by then) and I had an adventure. It was a Sunday morning…I was dressed for church...and we would be leaving for church very soon. My mother went out into the garage and…for some bizarre reason OPENED THE DOOR, even thought Muffin was right there behind her. Muffin BOLTED for the open door. And BOY did she RUN! (I think she missed her puppies and was headed back to her old house.)

I immediately took off after her…in my Sunday best. And it was raining (of course it was!). I kicked off my shoes and chased her in my nylon stockings up the hill, down the hill, around the corner…but I couldn’t catch her. And she wouldn’t come when I called. She was headed for the highway. I was so scared she was going to get hit by a car, but she made it across the highway. So did I!

She darted into a wet and muddy bean field. I went in after her. (This may sound familiar to people who have read Yes, I Know the Monkey Man…yes, T.J. chases HER dog out of town, across a highway and into a bean field, too.) At least Muffin was a white dog…she stood out against the black dirt and the green plants. And being in the bean field slowed her down a bit. I finally gained on her. But every time there was a gap in bean plants, she'd dart into the next row to get away from me. I had to jump over the bean plants to keep up with her. And FINALLY I was able to grab her! I held my wet and muddy dog tight against my white blouse and made my way back out of the field.

When I got to the highway, I saw my dad parked by the side of the road. I sure was relieved to see HIM instead of my mom. We were late for church (my parents were people who went to church every Sunday…I had to be pretty deathly ill to miss church as a kid…and we were NEVER late!)…I was a mess (my mother HATED messes...in fact, messes of any kind made her YELL!)...and this dog was the reason for both. I knew I was in major trouble (I'd been told not to go after her). And I was scared that once again, I was going to have to give up a dog. But my dad calmed me down in the car…he said he'd talk to my mother.

I don’t remember if my mom and my little brother went on to church without me and my dad or not…all I remember for sure is I missed church that day (which was HUGE!), though I’m pretty sure I went to Sunday School.

My dad was true to his word...he talked to my mother. And we got to keep Muffin. She never tried to run away again. She learned her place in the house (like Peggy)…she didn’t try and go into rooms that were off limits (so my mother liked that). I remember I used to ride her around town in my bike basket…until I got a ten-speed bike. Then I didn’t have a basket anymore…so my mother started riding Muffin around in HER bike basket. Muffin never once jumped out of the basket…she loved riding in the basket. She'd get really excited if you'd say to her, "you wanna go for a bike ride?"

Muffin was a great little dog. Even my mother would agree (as long as we’re not talking about that day in the bean field). And she lived to be a pretty old dog (19 or 20!)…I was well out of the house when she died. In fact, I remember making a big production of “giving her” to my little brother on my wedding night.

Muffin is the dog I've measured every other dog in my life against.

muffin and me

Dogs I have known...part 2


This is me with Ginger (and a couple of rabbit friends...I always wanted a rabbit when I was a kid, but this was as close as I ever got to owning one). Don’t hold those pants against me…it was the 70s.

me and Ginger

I don't know what kind of dog Ginger was, but we got her soon after Peggy (see previous post) died. I LOVED Ginger! She was a playful pup who never had to be taught to fetch a ball. She just did it instinctively. I don’t remember her ever growling or biting…though if given half a chance, she might have licked you to death. But it's not the licking I think of when I think of Ginger. It's her tail…it was always wagging! Oh, I loved that dog!

Unfortunately, my mother DIDN'T love her. Ginger was a puppy, so she chewed. In fact, she chewed up her bed (which used to be Peggy’s bed)…she chewed the rug and the woodwork in our back hall…basically anything that came in contact with her mouth, she chewed. My mother also had rules about where a dog could be in our house. Dogs were only allowed in the kitchen, the back hall and the basement. (Unless it was Christmas…THEN the dog was allowed in the living room.) Peggy knew and understood these rules. Ginger didn’t. But what really did my mother in was the fact that Ginger got big. (Well, "big" is relative...Ginger was small in comparison to the dog I have now!) And eventually my mother placed one of those free-to-a-good-home ads in the newspaper.

My mother doesn’t read my blog…so unless my brother or my kids decide to rat on me, it's probably safe to let you in on a 36-year secret: after that ad ran, I used to grab the phone as soon as it rang and if the person was calling about the ad, I’d tell them we just gave the dog away. I’d have them off the phone before my mother ever got to the phone. And if she asked about the call, I told her the person wanted a small dog. This actually worked. The ad ran out and we still had Ginger!

Then my mother placed another ad. This time someone called while I was at school. And they wanted Ginger. Fortunately, they waited until I got home from school to come and get her, so I got to say good bye. Okay, that part is sad (Sorry, Sarah), but at least this isn’t a dead dog story. Ginger ISN’T dead, right? She’s 36 years old (252 in dog years?) and still romping around on some farm in southern Minnesota.

I may as well add Heidi to this post because her story is the same as Ginger’s. We got her as a puppy, too (soon after we gave Ginger away). Puppies chew…they don’t like to stay confined to the kitchen, the back hall and the basement…they grow big…and if the kid wants the dog and the mom doesn’t, the mom wins.

Heidi

So what did I learn from Ginger and Heidi? I guess I learned how to say good bye to someone I loved.

This would not have occurred to me as a kid, but as an adult (an adult who has had several dogs)…I wonder if maybe we got those puppies too soon for my mother? She was pretty attached to Peggy…and Pomeranians tend to bond to just one human. Maybe she wasn’t ready to have another dog yet? People grieve the loss of a pet differently. Some people want to get a new dog right away…other people need some time. Ginger and Heidi were NOTHING like Peggy…maybe that was part of the problem, too?

I did eventually get another dog when I was a kid…one that we actually got to keep. I’ll blog about that next Monday.

Launch day!


Today is launch day! Which means the first three books in my Buddy Files series are out. The Buddy Files is a series for beginning chapter book readers. It’s about a school therapy dog (well, he doesn’t actually become a therapy dog until the end of book 3…and he doesn’t actually go to school until book 4…but this is how I pitched the series: “a school therapy dog who solves mysteries”). Each one is a stand-alone mystery, told from the dog’s point of view. But then there’s another mystery that continues through the first three books.

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Anyway…in honor of launch day, I’m also “launching” a new series here on my blog. Yes, despite the fact that I have only blogged about five times in the last two months, I’m going to attempt a blog series…about dogs I have known.

I’ll start with Peggy, the first dog to enter my life.

me and Peggy2

I don’t know if Peggy was the “trial kid” for my parents or what…but Peggy was in the house a good two years before I was. Peggy was not impressed when my parents brought me home. In fact, she was so unimpressed, it’s amazing I grew up liking dogs at all.

This dog growled at me whenever I crawled or walked into a room. (My mother doesn’t remember this, but I do!) If I sat down to pet her, she might randomly bite me. Really! This dog did not like me.

My mother swears Peggy only bit me that one time when I was about 18 months old and I crawled over to her bowl and ate her dog food. But I’m telling you, it was more than “that one time.”

My friends all had dogs that chased balls and sticks, did tricks and cuddled with them. Peggy could shake hands, but she didn’t chase balls. She didn’t do any other tricks. And she was not a cuddler. Except with my mother.

Despite the fact that she might randomly bite me, I actually liked sitting next to her and petting her while I read a book. And as I got older, she allowed me to pet her more and more often. I think it’s even fair to say that we eventually became friends.

Here we are before the 4th of July kids parade when I was 7.

me and Peggy 4th of July

Don't misunderstand...I was NOT into this kind of stuff as a kid. I did not want to march in this parade. I especially did not want to wear that goofy costume (the dog has a matching cape…I’m not sure you can tell that from the picture.). I was afraid people would laugh at me. I was afraid Peggy would get away from me. I was afraid the crepe paper capes that my mother made would get torn and she’d get mad.

But this is how my childhood went: my mother decided I was going to do something…and I did it. So we marched in the parade. We even won first place. I’m sure my mother still has the ribbon somewhere.

Peggy died when I was 8. And that was my first experience with death. I remember I came home from school one day (she’d already had the tumor for a while) and my mother told me Peggy wasn’t going to last much longer. I went to sit with her and…she was already gone.

I promise these are not all going to be sad, dead dog stories. Every dog I've ever owned has taught me something...and I'm going to try and articulate that in each post.

When I think about Peggy, I think of her bark first. I still hear that sharp bark in my head after all these years. And then I think about how we came to like each other…in time.

I’ve known people like Peggy through the years, too. People who bark and even bite (well, metaphorically speaking)…I think Peggy taught me how to handle people like that. Take it slow…be nice (even if they aren’t being nice to you) and in time, things will usually work out.

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