Monday, May 19, 2008

A Short History of My Dogs

I am a dog person. I live with two cats and I was the driving force behind getting them as pets ten years ago. And don't get me wrong, they can be very entertaining, and even slightly comforting at times. But for genuine happy to see you, let's go out and smell the flowers, let's romp and enjoy the world, your pain is my pain, mutual admiration society, nothing beats a dog.

I have been trying to think objectively recently about why I want another dog. Actually saying that I want another dog is an understatement of cosmic proportions. I spend at least an hour per week looking at dogs on I think about dogs a lot. When I have a few spare minutes at home, I am more likely to look at or read excerpts from How to Adopt the Perfect Dog than pretty much any other activity. If I wasn't married to someone who is not super excited to have another needy being in our lives, I would already have a dog, right here on the couch next to me.

The part about having a husband who isn't too keen on getting another dog right now is the part that is driving me to think seriously about why I want another dog. That and the fact that I have two small children and I know several small children who have been bitten by dogs. I haven't come up with any answers about why I want another dog but I thought I would write a little bit about dogs here since they are so much on my mind recently.

Somehow, for me, family just doesn't feel complete without a dog. I grew up with an awesome black lab named Suey (we got her as a two year old named Sue which we changed to Suey like chop suey). She was the most tolerant dog ever. I used to lay with my head on her stomach for hours. She often slept on my bed, along with our three cats. She liked to lay in our front yard and watch the day go by. She was also a great swimmer and once jumped off the end of the dock and swam out to our sailboat so that she wouldn't get left behind. She was such a mellow, calm, loving presence in the Brigham house. My brother and I used to try to see which of us she loved best by putting her between us and then calling her desperately with treats. She used to just lay there and look at us like we were crazy. Suey was my big black rock of unconditional love as a kid.

Suey died of cancer when I was eleven. We went abroad when I was twelve and it took me a year after we got back to convince my mom to let us get another dog. We adopted Miya, a one year old sheltie border collie cross from the local animal shelter. She was a bundle of energy. We used to go jogging together, hike along the railroad tracks, and having chewing sessions together (Miya would eat rawhide and I would eat jawbreakers). She had this wonderful curly tail and upright ears, soft fur, and she was super smart. She liked to herd people and had a lot of personal dignity. People who aren't dog people will think I am insane for describing her that way but dog people know what I am talking about. I wrote poems about her, did my dissertation field work with her, and converted a lot of non-dog people to dog people by having them hang out with her. She died of old age at 16.

I made it about 6 months after Miya died before I couldn't stand it any longer and went to the animal shelter and adopted Cleo, our crazy Egyptian Pharoah Hound-German Shepard Mix. Cleo was the best and deserves an entire essay to herself. She was quirky, soulful, loved me the best, and could run faster than a speeding train. She got mast cell cancer and despite chemo and surgery, died at the very young age of nine. I miss her still. She did several interviews for my print version of Boomvang. I will dig them up soon and post them here so you can read them. She was a great family dog and was one of Lucy's favorite beings, ever.

All this to say, that despite a house full of chaos, two small kids, two cats, mess, mess, and more mess, my life just doesn't feel right without a dog. I miss the tail wagging, the crazy enthusiasms, the particularly dog-centric chaos. I miss the good dog therapy petting, the forced dog walking, the tail thumping. I know getting a dog will make life harder in many ways. Who needs one more needy animal in a house full of needy animals? I don't know why, but the answer is me.

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