Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Dogs Affect Life

It all started with Terry, my wire fox terrier. I got him for Christmas the year I was 11. My parents and grandparents took me to a shop that was half pet store and half florist under the ruse of buying a poinsettia. The man in the shop yelled, "You are now the proud owner of a wire fox terrier" and I thought he was talking to the other girl. But he meant me!! This little white fluff came tear-assing out of the back of the shop and straight into my heart. Life was never quite the same.

Terry had to be put to sleep when I was 19. He was bitten by a pit bull and developed crippling arthritis at the puncture site. In hindsight, my parents were waiting for a cue from me that it was time to say goodbye. One morning, Terry was struggling to eat. I had to put his food bowl on an inverted soup pot so it was level with his mouth. I looked at my mom and said, "Tonight, we need to talk about this." When I came home that night, my parents weren't home and neither was Terry. I cried in private. He was the one I told all my secrets to and he never once betrayed me. He was silly and patient and obedient and proud and brave and even a little cuddly and affectionate when it was just me and him.

There were other dogs, but none affected me the way Terry did.

That is, until Rosie, The Wonder Poodle.

I adopted Rosie on January 31, 2009, when she was 16 months old. She was rescued from a livestock farm where the owner didn't feed any of his animals. Rosie was definitely neglected, and I convinced she was abused too. It took months before she would fathom the concept of trust. It took a full 18 months before any stranger on the street could touch her without her freaking out.

She's become playful and happy. Once in a while, I see the dark clouds in her eyes, but it's been happening less and less frequently.

Terry was aloof and majestic and Rosie is just trying to understand when love means. We got Terry when he was a puppy and he only knew love and having plenty of food and toys. Rosie was sold to that farmer when she was 5 months old and was confiscated when she was 16 months old. For that  11 months, she knew no love, no scratches on her chin (which she loves), not enough to eat, no grooming and no socialization.

Now, I hate to leave the house without my dog. I hate when the summer comes and she chooses to sleep on the cold bathroom floor and not on the end of my bed where I can feel the weight of her on my feet.. I never take her food away, even if she doesn't finish dinner until the next morning. I give her a piece of roast beef whenever I make a sandwich. I play "Go Get It," our version of fetch, long after my arm grows numb. When I go to the house of family members without her, they always ask me to bring her next time. I have friends who aren't necessarily fans of pets/animals say she's a nice, calm dog. I've had other friends photograph her and when they send me the pictures, they are just beautiful.

I tell my secrets to Rosie and she looks at me like she understands. She rests her head on my knee and lets me know that all will be well again in due time. When the pressures of being a single parent with a full-time job and an ass for an ex get to be too much, I cry on Rosie and she lets me. And when I pull myself together again, she nudges me hand for some scratches. Eye for an eye, dog version.

I grew up with mostly terriers because I can't have anything that sheds. I don't think I'd ever get a terrier again. I'd get another poodle, but I know I'll never get another Rosie.

Is this true canine love? I think it is...

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